Poppy In memoriam Poppy

Private William John Donnelly


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William John Donnelly was born on 25 September 1896 at Locan Street, Broadway, Belfast, the first of seven children of gas stoker Alexander Donnelly and his wife Ellen Catherine (nee Brown).

He enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim between 13 and 19 May 1915 (No.1543 - later Corps of Hussars No.71431). In 1916 or 1917 he embarked for France as a reinforcement for the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment.

On 7 January 1918 he and twelve others of the regiment transferred to the Tank Corps – Donnelly was issued regimental number 305510. He was posted to the 7th Battalion.

At the time of the German spring offensive Donnelly's battalion was based at Bouvigny, west of Lens. On 12 April they received orders to provide 36 Lewis gun teams to assist XI Corps hold back the German advance. They were sent to man a line running from the Lys Canal near St Floris, south to the Noc River at Robecq. The battalion diary records that they lost seven men killed and a few others wounded by shellfire on the following day. Donnelly was one of those killed. He was aged 21.

Private Donnelly thus became the first North Irish Horseman killed while serving in a tank regiment.

Initially reported as missing, his death later accepted. As he has no known grave, Private Donnelly is commemorated at the Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, France, Memorial Panel 136.


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Image kindly provided by Steve Rogers, Project Co-ordinator of the The War Graves Photographic Project, www.twgpp.org.