Poppy In memoriam Poppy

Private Francis James Best



Francis James Best was born on 8 April 1895 at Richhill, County Armagh, the fourth of six children of farmer and poor rate collector William Best and his wife Charlotte Smyth Best (nee Bradshaw). He grew up and worked on the family farm at Richhill.

Best enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Portadown on 3 September 1914 (No.1115). He embarked for France on 1 May 1915 with D Squadron. In May 1916 D Squadron joined with A and E Squadrons of the North Irish Horse to form the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to VII, XIX and then V Corps.

In September 1917 the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment was dismounted and most of its men, together with some surplus from the 1st Regiment, were trained as infantrymen and transferred to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion. Best, like most of the men, was formally transferred on 20 September. He was issued regimental number 41396. After joining the battalion in the field at Ruyaulcourt at the beginning of October he was posted to D Company.

Best probably saw action with the battalion at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917, and he was posted as missing following the retreat from St Quentin during the German offensive from 21 March 1918. (He rejoined his battalion soon after.)

On 30 September 1918 the 9th Battalion was ordered to advance on the Belgian village of Vijfwegen. The fighting centred on a small rise, Hill 41, which had been well fortified by the Germans and afforded a wide field of fire on troops attempting to move past it. During this and the following day they sustained numerous casualties – eight officers and 139 other ranks, including 29 killed in action and seven more who would die of their wounds.

Private Best was one of the men wounded at this time, either on 30 September or 1 October. He died on 3 October and was buried just east of the village of Molenhoek (map reference S28.K.7.c.8.7), the location marked with a cross. After the war his body was exhumed and re-buried in the Dadizeele New British Cemetery, Moorslede, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, grave II.D.4. His gravestone inscription reads:




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