Private Stafford Woods O'Neill

 

 

Stafford Woods O'Neill (seated above) was born on 10 December 1896 at Ballyclare, County Antrim, the second of five children of labourer Joseph Craig O'Neill and his wife, Glasgow-born Agnes O'Neill (nee Woods). By 1901 the family had moved to Belfast, where Joseph worked as a shipyard labourer. Ten years later they were living in Main Street, Ballyclare, where the 14 year-old Stafford worked as a doffer at a mill.

O'Neill enlisted in the North Irish Horse between mid-April and 3 May 1917 – he was issued a regimental number between 2430 and 2436 (later Corps of Hussars No.71824).

In 1917 or 1918 he embarked for France, where he was posted to one of the three squadrons of the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment (A, D or E).

In February and March 1918 the 1st Regiment was dismounted and converted to a cyclist regiment, serving as corps cyclists to V Corps for the remainder of the war. They saw action during the German offensive in March 1918 and the Advance to Victory offensive from August to November that year.

O'Neill was wounded during this period. The picture above, taken in Sheffield and dated 11 September 1918, shows him in 'hospital blues' recovering from an arm injury with an unidentified pal. On 19 November 1918 he was discharged, being 'no longer physically fit for war service' (Paragraph 392 xvi King's Regulations).

On 25 December 1919 he married Louisa Robb at St Anne's in Belfast.

 

O'Neill's older brother William Woods O'Neill also served during the war, in the 12th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. Captured at St Quentin on 21 March 1918, he died of a lung infection at Stendal Prisoner of War Camp three months later.

William Woods O'Neill

 

Images kindly provided by Gordon Finlay.