Poppy In memoriam Poppy

Captain David McCausland





David McCausland was born on 21 July 1879 at Kinnycally, St Johnston, County Donegal, son of farmer David McCausland and his wife Jane (nee Wilson).

He served during the Boer War in the 133rd (Ulster) Squadron, 29th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry (No.42931). He was discharged at his own request on 24 November 1902. According to the Lisburn Standard, McCausland "was so pleased with South Africa that he settled down in business there when peace was declared." There he worked as a commercial traveller, and served in the Duke of Edinburgh's Volunteer Rifles from 1905 to 1906.

A year after the outbreak of war he left South Africa for England, just after marrying Jane Morgan at Blomfontein on 23 August 1915.

On 25 November he enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim (No.1968). He was made acting lance corporal on 10 December and acting corporal a month later.

When he enlisted McCausland had immediately applied for a commission in the North Irish Horse, or "failing that any Infantry Corps having a vacancy, Irish preferred." On 18 February 1916 he was made a 2nd lieutenant in the 19th (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, and was sent for a course of instruction at the regiment's depot in Cork. Soon after he was posted to the 12th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, and in June 1916 embarked for France, where he reported for duty at his new battalion on the Somme front.

In February 1917 McCausland was hospitalised at St Omer with severe influenza.

On 22 March he was promoted to lieutenant.

On 20 May 1917 the 12th Battalion was in the trenches at Kemmel on the Ypres front. Its war diary for the day records:

1.50 AM 2 enemy Raiding Parties of about 15 strong each attempted to enter our trenches at the 'Bull Ring' bombing their way as they approached. We opened heavy Lewis Gun fire on the Party also bombs which forced the enemy to withdraw. Loud groans were heard from the enemy's wounded. 2.30 AM Enemy attempted another attack on the same Post. He was met with bombs and Lewis Gun fire & again forced to withdraw, leaving two of his dead close to our parapet. 2nd Lt. D. McCausland was O.C. Bull Ring on both occasions and handled the situation in a cool & creditable manner.

The battalion saw action in the Battle of Messines on 7 June 1917. McCausland was wounded slightly but was able to return to duty after treatment at a dressing station.

On 20 July he was given the rank of acting captain.

In November and December 1917 the 12th Battalion played a role in the Battle of Cambrai, first going into action in the attack on the village of Moeuvres on 22 November. The battalion war diary for that day reads as follows:

Bn marched from the Hindenburg Line north of Hermies to relieve the 109th Inf Brig south of Moeuvres in order to attack and take the village. The 9th NIH R. Ir. Rif. In support. The Bn. HQ were near Canal du Nord on the Bapuame/Cambrai Road. Our forward command post under Capt. A. H. Hall was established at E2C.6.2.

10.30am – Under cover of artillery barrage, the Bn attacked the village of Moeuvres. ... All coys reached the northern edge of the village successfully. A Coy suffered the heaviest casualties as the 107th Brig. were unable to reach the objective on the eastern side of the Canal Du Nord and therefore the enemy brought heavy machine gun fire to bear on this coy.

3.30pm – Enemy was seen massing thickly for a counter attack north of Moeuvres.

4.30pm – Enemy counter attack commenced but was met with such stubborn resistance from A, D and C coys holding the front line that enemy only succeeded in driving us back over part of the ground which we had already taken. In this counter attack both officers and men fought gallantly, fighting every inch of ground which they were forced to yield. Two Coy commanders were killed during this counter attack (Capt. W. B. Stuart and Capt. D. McCausland). Capt. Stuart with his men refused to retire. He was shot in the throat but carried on giving our orders to his coy until he was again shot in the head and died. Capt. D. McCausland in a similar manner got out in front of his men and showed great courage until he was unfortunately killed.

Letters home from McCausland's battalion describing how he died were later published in the Belfast News-Letter (4 January 1918):

Tributes to the Late Captain McCausland.

Details regarding the death in action on the 22nd November of Captain David McCausland, R.I.R., son of the late Mr. David McCausland, St. Johnston, Londonderry, and brother-in-law of Mr. T.M. Wilson, town clerk, Lisburn, are now to hand.

The commanding officer says – "I regret to say that poor McCausland's body was not recovered by us, as he was killed in the fighting in the village of ____, which was not held by us. The only hope is that the Germans, who must have found his body, have buried him in a separate grave. This has been done by them before. As regards the way he was killed, I can only speak in the highest terms of his courage and (coolness?) in leading his men. He was first hit in the hand, losing a finger, but continued until later on in the afternoon, when he fell victim to a sniper's bullet. He was a very brave fellow, and I need hardly tell you that (?) a very great loss to his battalion and company. He was respected and liked by all, and I personally was extremely fond of him, and feel his loss most keenly. I miss his good-natured laugh. You all have my sincerest sympathy in your sorrow."

Rev. Robert Kelso, C.P., in a letter to deceased's brother, Rev. Joseph McCausland, Kilmacrenan, County Donegal, states:- "Your brother was counted one of the best and bravest of soldiers in the battalion, and was held in the highest esteem by all officers and men. He was as brave as a lion, did not know what fear was, and in the hottest corner kept a cool head and a steady hand. All are loud in praise of his work before he fell. He was wounded in the hand early in the day, and refused to go back. He carried on leading his men to the capture of a village which was their objective, and it was when he was engaged in clearing the village that he fell mortally wounded by a sniper's bullet through the head. Death must have been instantaneous, and it is some consolation to think that he escaped the suffering which is the lot of many. His men were furious at the death of their captain; they carried on the fight like lions, and his brave and manly leadership inspired them with the spirit of victory. Personally I feel that I have lost one of my best friends in the battalion. He was so cheery and happy that it did one good to be in his company. I was with him as we marched into action, and he was giving his orders and arranging his men as cooly as if on parade-ground. We can ill afford to lose such heroes, but such must needs be in the great struggle for victory."

According to a report in the Lisburn Standard, McCausland had been "recommended for a Military Cross for gallantry and devotion to duty." However the award did not eventuate.

As Captain McCausland has no known grave he is commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial, Louverval, France, Panel 10. If his body was recovered by the Germans after the battle, it was probably buried in the German extension to the Moeuvres Communal Cemetery, and after the war re-interred in the British extension, in which lie 263 unidentified casualties.


Memorial image kindly provided by Steve Rogers, Project Co-ordinator of the The War Graves Photographic Project. Image of McCausland from the Lisburn Standard kindly provided by Nigel Henderson, Researcher at History Hub Ulster.