Second Lieutenant William Lyttle Harcourt, MC



William Lyttle Harcourt was born on 6 September 1894 at 38 Kilronan Street, Belfast, the second of four children of merchantile clerk Samuel James Harcourt and his wife Margaret (nee McCullough).

By 1911 the 16 year-old was living with his family at 64 Cavehill Road, Belfast. Following an apprenticeship as an insurance clerk, he worked on the staff of the Ocean Accident and Guarantee Corporation.

Harcourt enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 7 September 1914 (No.1136). He embarked for France with D Squadron on 1 May the following year.

In late 1916 or early 1917 he applied for a commission and was sent to the UK for officer training. On 29 August 1917 he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the 18th (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. Soon after he was sent to France where he was posted to the 12th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles.

Harcourt saw action during the retreat from St Quentin during the German Spring Offensive of 1918, during which he earned a Military Cross. His citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion, to duty. This officer brought up rations and small arm ammunition for an infantry brigade through heavy shelling, delivering it when it was urgently required. The troops were thus enabled to hold out considerably longer than would otherwise have been possible.

On 24 October 1918 he was wounded as the 12th Battalion advanced through Belgium. The battalion war diary for the day reads:

1st R. Irish Fus. got in touch with the French about Heirweg. Battalion relieved 1st R. Irish Fus in front line J.20.b. J.21a and 15 d. 'B' Company on right 'C' on left. Fairly heavy shelling, direct hit on Battalion Hdqrs. Heavy Gas shelling, on Battalion Sector during whole night.

Harcourt relinquished his commission on completion of his service on 1 September 1921.


William Harcourt's older brother, Samuel James Harcourt, also served in the North Irish Horse. He was discharged due to illness in May 1917.


Image from Our Heroes, website of the South Dublin Libraries.