Lieutenant John McKinstry

 

John McKinstry was born on 20 October 1890 at Tandragee, County Armagh, son of flax spinning mill manager Robert McKinstry and his wife Annie (formerly Smith).

By 1911 he was living at Cloughurivan, Camlough, County Armagh, with his widowed mother, four brothers and a sister, and employed as an apprentice manager (weaving). Of his brothers, William was a divinity student, Thomas Stanley a mill manager (spinning), Robert Noel a medical student, and James McNeill a linen trade apprentice. Just prior to the outbreak of war John was manager of the Ivy Weaving Company's factory at Dollingstown, Lurgan.

McKinstry enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Belfast on 8 August 1914 (No.971), just four days after war was declared. Twelve days later he embarked for France as part of C Squadron, seeing action in the Retreat from Mons and Advance to the Aisne.

 

Newry Reporter 8 June 1915

 

On 6 January 1916 he was posted to the 1st Gordon Highlanders on probation for a commission, but it appears the posting did not proceed. Just over five months later he was sent to the Officer Cadet School at Arque, France.

On 31 July 1916 he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the 11th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. He was promoted to lieutenant eighteen months later.

On the night of 2/3 September 1917, while the 11th Battalion was in the line at Havrincourt, near Cambrai, a raid was attempted on the German trenches. According to the battalion war diary:

A patrol of 1 Officer and 10 men, with covering party of 1 Officer & 10 men attempted to rush enemy post at K.33.d.7.2. The wire was blown up by Bangalore Torpedo but the enemy was about and opened hot fire with rifles and grenades, and our party could not get in. Casualties 1 Off. 6 O.R. Wounded.

McKinstry was the officer casualty, sustaining a grenade wound to his shoulder. Twenty days later he was evacuated to England, where he was sent to the 2nd Southern General Hospital at Bristol. The wound was not severe, and by 2 October he was found fit for home service, joining the 18th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles at Clandeboye, Belfast, later that month. By 22 December he had completely recovered and was pronounced fit for general service.

McKinstry was posted to the 12th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, in April 1918, joining it in the field in Belgium (his old battalion the 11th had been disbanded). He saw action with the battalion during the Adance to Victory Offensive from August to November 1918. On 16 October while attempting to establish a bridgehead across the Lys at Courtrai, he earned a Military Cross. His citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and good leadership in action on October 16th, 1918, at Courtrai. When in command of a company he rushed forward with a platoon along a street swept by machine-gun fire, and seized the bank of the Lys. It was entirely due to his personal example that the bank of the river was secured and an enemy machine gun knocked out. He showed marked courage and determined leadership.

McKinstry was released from service on 31 January 1919.


Two of Lieutenant McKinstry's brothers also served in the war. Second Lieutenant James McNeill McKinstry of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died in France on 2 December 1916. John McKinstry served in the Royal Navy as a surgeon.

 

Clipping from the Newry Reporter kindly provided by Joe Center.