Lieutenant George Halpin Coleman


George Halpin Coleman was born on 26 March 1898 at Mohill, County Leitrim, the sixth of nine children of clerk of petty sessions and land agent Edward Johns Coleman and his wife Annie Caroline (nee Thorpe). He was educated at Mohill National School.

Coleman enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim on 2 January 1915 (No.1372 – later Corps of Hussars No.71359). He was aged just 16 years and 9 months at the time, but claimed to be 19 and working as a clerk.

While at Antrim he was twice disciplined. On 18 August 1915 he was absent from his post whilst line guard from 10.50 am till 3.50 pm, for which he was awarded 10 days' confined to camp; the following month he was absent without leave from watchsetting on the 9th until midnight on the 24th, for which he was admonished and fined six days' pay.

Coleman embarked for France with E Squadron on 11 January 1916. In April he was admitted to hospital in Wimereux suffering from 'somnambulism' – sleepwalking. He returned to E Squadron a month later.

On 26 July while at Pommera, France, he faced a Field General Court Martial charged with 'behaviour to the prejudice of good order and military discipline' (s.40 of the Army Act). He was found not guilty.

On 1 October Coleman was sent to the 3rd Army Infantry School, but five days later was admitted to No.26 General Hospital at Etaples suffering from a nervous breakdown. Two months later he was discharged to base details at Etaples with a recommendation that he be classed as 'permanent base'. He was posted to the 16th Division Infantry Base Depot and given a training role.

Coleman's mother had written to the authorities requesting that "he be transferred to Home Establishment on account of his age". On 5 January 1917 she was sent the following response:

With reference to your letter dated 4-11-16, regarding No 1372 Pte G H Coleman, North Irish Horse, I have to inform you that instructions have been issued for your son to be withdrawn from the firing line in accordance with orders issued by the Army Council.

It appears that Coleman's condition improved, for on 26 August 1917 he was transferred to the 36th Division Infantry Base Depot for transfer to the infantry. While there he was made acting sergeant. On 20 August he had applied for a commission in the infantry. Supporting the application, the Brigade Major (Training) Commanding the Central Training School at Havre wrote:

... he has a good knowledge of drill, is capable of commanding men, and is I think a suitable candidate for a commission.

On 18 October 1917 Coleman returned to the UK and after a period of leave, on 7 December reported for duty at No.16 Officer Cadet Battalion at Rhyl. After training there his education was assessed as satisfactory, military knowledge and powers of command and leadership average, and qualifications in riding and sniping. "[He] should make an efficient Officer."

On 29 May 1918 he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Later that year Coleman embarked for France, where he was attached to the 7/8 Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He remained with the battalion until 8 July 1919, when he was admitted to No.56 General Hospital at Etaples. Two days later he was evacuated to England, where he was admitted to the Tooting Grove Military Hospital in London. Following a series of medical board, on 2 December 1919 Coleman was assessed as fit for service and ordered to report to his reserve unit at Chatham.

Coleman was promoted to lieutenant on 29 November 1919. He was demobilised on 7 December that year, and relinquished his commission on 1 April 1920.