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Private Samuel Thomas Sheils




Samuel Thomas Sheils (named Thomas Samuel on his birth record) was born on 22 February 1892 at Corraskea, Cootehill, County Monaghan, the third of six children of farmer Andrew Sheils and his wife Mary (nee Henderson). At the outbreak of war in 1914 he was living in the same district and working as a labourer.

Sheils enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Cavan on 1 March 1915 (No.1459). He embarked for France on 17 November 1915 with F Squadron.

In June 1916 F Squadron came together with C Squadron and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps. At the beginning of August 1917 Sheils was disciplined for being absent off pass for two days, escaping with the relatively mild penalty of loss of three days pay.

Later that month orders came that the 2nd NIH Regiment would be dismounted and its men transferred to the infantry. Sheils was one of 70 men given the job of conducting the regiment's horses to Egypt. They embarked from Marseilles on board HMT Bohemian on 25 August. After a month at Alexandria they returned to France, via Italy. On 5 October 1917 they arrived at the 36th (Ulster) Division Infantry Base Depot at Harfleur for infantry training. After just a few days they were posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt on 12 October. Sheils was issued regimental number 41622.

Sheils saw action with the battalion during the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917. On 16 December while they held the line south of Marcoing he received a shrapnel wound to his back. It was a month before he was well enough to be evacuated to the UK, where he was treated at the 1st Southern General Hospital, Birmingham, then St Stephen's Hospital in Dublin  When he recovered Sheils joined the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion on 9 March. He was absent without leave between 11 and 15 May 1918, for which he lost eight days pay.

At the end of May he returned to France, joining the 9th (NIH) Battalion in the field at Proven on 8 June. After seeing action in the following months, on 2 September Sheils again returned to the UK for a hernia operation. 

On 10 October, with 770 others, Sheils boarded the mail ship RMS Leinster as it sailed from Kingstown, Dublin, for Holyhead, on his way back to his regiment in France. An hour out of Dublin the Leinster was hit by two torpedoes fired by a German U-boat. The vessel sank and 529 people, including Private Sheils, lost their lives.

Sheils’s body was recovered and he was laid to rest in the Ballybay First Presbyterian Churchyard, Ireland, the grave in the north-east part of grounds. His gravestone inscription reads:

10TH OCTOBER 1918 AGE 26



Sheils' medals, recently sold


Private Sheils' older brother William Andrew had died in April 1912 from a compound fracture to the skull. His brother Robert John, serving in the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, was killed in action on the Somme on 1 July 1916. Another brother, James, died of influenza on 25 October 1918.


Note: Most army records and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission spell his name as 'Shiels'. This is incorrect.


Image kindly provided by and © copyright of Kieran Campbell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.