Private Hugh Kerr


Hugh Kerr was born on 8 June 1896 at Straidballymorris, near Dunadry, Templepatrick, County Antrim, the fifth or sixth child of engineman and linen beetler Robert Kerr and his wife Sarah Jane (née Hollis). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at Straidballymorris with his parents and four of his five surviving siblings.

Kerr enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 20 or 21 April 1915 (No.1491). On 23 September that year he embarked for France with a reinforcement draft for A, C and D Squadrons – he was probably posted to C Squadron.

In June 1916 C Squadron combined with 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 September 1917, when the regiment was disbanded and its men transferred to the infantry. Kerr was one of 70 men given the job of conducting the regiment's horses to Egypt, to be handed over for use by mounted units there. 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, and after just a few days were posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – which had been renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt on 12 October. Kerr was issued regimental number 41590 and posted to D Company.

He probably saw action with the battalion at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

Kerr was one of the many posted as missing following the 9th (NIH) Battalion's fighting withdrawal from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918 during the German spring offensive. It was later learned that he had been captured, unwounded, though whether near St Quentin on 24 March or at Erches three days later is not clear. He remained a prisoner until the end of the war, held in camps in Stendal, Sagan, Zwickau and Chemnitz.

Following his release at the end of the war, Kerr returned to the UK, where, on 15 April 1919 he was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve. He lived at Clady, Dunadry, and on 26 December 1923 married Mary McClure.

On 4 April 1925 Kerr emigrated to Melbourne, Australia. His wife and their first child followed two years later. The family remained in Melbourne, where Kerr died on 13 February 1957.


Note: The War Office Daily Casualty Lists of 11 June 1918 and 21 January 1919 incorrectly stated that Kerr was from Portaferry, County Down.