Private James William Britton


James William Britton was born on 11 April 1877 at Tullyholvin, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, the first of five children of farmer and ex-RIC sergeant James Britton and his wife Eliza Anne (née Buchannan). His father died when he was just thirteen years old and his mother the following year.

The children continued farming at Tullyholvin, but during the 1890s James enlisted in the Royal Horse Guards (regimental number 739), serving in South Africa during the Boer War from late 1899.

On 13 February 1908 he married Margaret Jane Reid in the Boho Church of Ireland Parish Church, County Fermanagh. The couple had seven children over the next eleven years. At the time of the 1911 Census they were farming at Moylehid, Lisbofin.

Britton was a troop leader in A Squadron of the UVF cavalry squadron, the Enniskillen Horse.

On 2 October 1914 at Enniskillen, following the outbreak of war, he was one of the first to enlist in the newly-formed 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron (No.UD/6).

The squadron embarked for France in October 1915 as divisional cavalry to the 36th (Ulster) Division. Britton initially remained at Enniskillen, but joined the squadron in the field in late 1916 or the first half of 1917.

In June 1916 the Inniskilling squadron had joined with C and F Squadrons of the North Irish Horse to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps until September 1917, when the regiment was disbanded and most of its officers and men were transferred to the infantry. Britton was one of 70 men given the job of conducting the regiment's horses to Egypt, to be handed over for use by mounted units there. They embarked from Marseilles on board HMT Bohemian on 25 August. After a month at Alexandria they returned to France, via Italy. On 5 October 1917 they arrived at the 36th (Ulster) Division Infantry Base Depot at Harfleur for infantry training, and after just a few days were posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – which had been renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt on 12 October. Britton was issued regimental number 41601 and posted to C Company.

He probably saw action with the battalion in the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

Britton was one of the many posted as missing following the 9th (NIH) Battalion's fighting withdrawal from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918 during the German spring offensive. It was later learned that he had been captured, unwounded, on 27 March at Erches, near Roye, when much of the battalion had been overwhelmed by the fast-moving German advance. He remained a prisoner until the end of the war, being held at Bohain, France, then Giessen and Limburg in Germany.

He was released soon after the Armistice and arrived at Dover on 2 December 1918, before returning to Ireland for demobilisation.

After the war he returned to farming in County Fermanagh. He died at Drummee, Enniskillen, on 16 February 1955.


Two of Britton's sons served during the Second World War: Loftus Britton as a captain in the Indian Army, and George Britton as a corporal in the 3rd Battalion, Irish Guards. George was killed in action in Normandy on 11 August 1944.


This page last updated 5 October 2023.