Poppy In memoriam Poppy

Private Robert Heathwood



Robert Heathwood was born at 58 Seaview Street, Belfast, on 18 October 1894, third of five children of fireman Robert Heathwood and his wife Annie (nee Hughes). Annie died of tuberculosis in 1901. Robert remarried eight years later but died soon after, leaving his widow Elizabeth to raise her five step-children.

By 1911 Robert Heathwood, aged 16, was working as a yarn carrier and living with his step-mother, four siblings and a half-sister at Glencollyer Street, Belfast.

Heathwood enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Belfast on 7 September 1914 (No.1135). He embarked for France on 18 January 1915 with a small draft of reinforcements for A and C Squadrons – he was probably posted to the latter.

In June 1916 C Squadron joined F Squadron and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps until August 1917. The following month saw the regiment dismounted and most of its officers and men transferred to the 9th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers. Heathwood, like most of the regiment, joined the battalion on 20 September. He was issued a new number – 41285 – and posted to C Company.

On the night of 3 November 1917 C Company mounted a major raid on the German trenches near Havrincourt on the Cambrai front. Heathwood was one of a number killed during the raid. The battalion war diary for that day states:

At 4.30 p.m. 'C' Coy left Ruyaulcourt and marched up to the line to carry out a raid. The enemy's front line was successfully penetrated, from the Canal ... to about 150 [yards] E of it. The fighting was very severe as the enemy refused to surrender. Our men stayed in the enemy trenches for twenty min. and bayonetted and shot at least forty Germans. We suffered some casualties, mostly from bombs:- 1 officer severely wounded; 1 officer slightly wounded; 1 N.C.O. killed; 3 O.R. missing, believed killed; 13 O.R. wounded; 1 R.E. (N.C.O.) severely wounded.

Initially listed as missing, Heathwood's death was later officially accepted. He has no known grave, but may be buried in the Cambrai East Military Cemetery, where the Germans buried the others killed in the raid. He is commemorated on Pier and Face 15.A of the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.



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