Second Lieutenant William Robert McConnell

 

William Robert McConnell was born on 10 April 1893 at 14 Kingscourt Street, Belfast, the youngest of four children of RIC constable Henry Horace French McConnell and his wife Sarah Jane (nee Lewis). His mother died when he was just eleven years old. By 1911 he was living with his father and two of his siblings at 193 Templemore Avenue, Belfast, and working as an apprentice in the timber trade.

McConnell enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 20 or 21 January 1915 (No.1414 – later Corps of Hussars No.71379).

In the first half of 1915 he embarked for England with F Squadron, where they awaited orders for France. On 12 July, however, McConnell was one of about two dozen men of the squadron who volunteered for service as Military Mounted Police with the 54th (East Anglian) Division, which was under orders to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. They sailed from Devonport on HMT Manitou on 29 July 1915, joining the landing at Suvla Bay between 10 and 16 August.

At the end of the year the Gallipoli campaign was abandoned and the North Irish Horse military policemen moved with the 54th Division to Egypt.

Later in the war McConnell applied for a commission and underwent training at an officer cadet battalion in the UK. On 25 September 1918 he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Following his demobilisation, on 13 September 1920 McConnell joined the Auxiliary Division, Royal Irish Constabulary (No.632). He was posted to J Company in Macroom, County Cork. He worked there as intelligence officer and on 19 November was promoted to DI 3. On 25 February 1921 he was with a 70-man convoy of the Auxiliaries ambushed by an IRA flying column at Coolavokig. During the four-hour fight the commanding officer was killed and McConnell took command.

 

Northern Whig and Belfast Post, 26 February 1921

 

He later served as intelligence officer in N and H Companies. He was probably discharged on the Division's demobilisation on 17 January 1922.

McConnell emigrated to Canada in October 1926. He married Anais (Annie) McRae Stephen at Welland, Ontario, on 17 October 1927.

 

McConnell may be among the men in this image of J Company Auxiliaries

 

Image above and information about the Auxiliaries sourced from the website The Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary.