Poppy In memoriam Poppy

Private John Donaldson King



King 1


John Donaldson King was born on 17 October 1892 at Lurganah House, Whitecross, County Armagh, the second child of farmer John King and his wife Mary Jane (nee Jenkins).

King enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Newry between 25 August and 17 October 1913 (No.864). He embarked for France on 20 August 1914 with C Squadron, seeing action in the Retreat from Mons and Advance to the Aisne.

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. King, like most of the regiment, joined the battalion on 20 September. He was issued a new number – 41302 – and posted to C Company.

Soon after the transfer King wrote home to his mother:

Just a few lines to let you know that we have joined our Battalion nearly a week ago but I had not much time to write but we are all settled now and I think we will get on all right … The only thing we can complain of is rations – they have been very low these last few days but they are beginning to improve again but it is a queer change from our own Regiment.

On 19 October he wrote his mother another letter:

Just a few lines in answer to your very welcome letter and cigs … We are having very nice weather now and a fairly good time. We got our first turn in the trenches over[,] very soft, but this is a very quiet part of the line and to tell you the truth I am far more content here than in the cavalry and I never felt in better health and you need not be afraid of me going into danger except I can’t help it, and as for putting in for my commission I won’t do it. I will just finish it the way I started. I am not afraid to soldier it out as a private as some of the boys are. It was easy in the North Irish Horse but it is not so easy in the infantry.

On the night of 3 November 1917 C Company mounted a major raid on the German trenches near Havrincourt on the Cambrai front. King 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, his death was later officially accepted. In fact his body had been recovered and laid to rest by the Germans. He is buried in the Cambrai East Military Cemetery, Nord, France, grave VII.B.2. His gravestone inscription reads:




Private King's older brother, William Alexander, served in the 6th Battalion, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). He was killed on the Somme on 7 July 1916, and is buried in the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval.


King 2


Memorial to the King brothers in Kingsmill Church, Whitecross, County Armagh


Gravestone images Copyright © Phillip Tardif with all rights reserved as set out in this Use of Material policy. Letters from King sourced from Nick Metcalfe, Blacker's Boys. Image from Kingsmill Church courtesy of Nigel Henderson, Great War Researcher at History Hub Ulster. Image of King sourced from the History of Kingsmills Presbyterian Church, via John Adams.