Private James McGaffin


James McGaffin was born around 1891 in the United States, the third of six children of farmer James McGaffin and his wife Lily (née Walshe). His parents had emigrated there from Ireland in the late 1880s, but returned in August 1899 to resume farming at Cloghskelt, Drumgooland, County Down. By the time of the 1911 Census, James was living at Cloghskelt with his parents and four of his siblings, and working as a book-keeper.

McGaffin enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 2 June 1915 (No.1653). He trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve depot before embarking for France in 1916 or the first half of 1917, where he was posted to one of the squadrons of the 1st or 2nd North Irish Horse Regiments.

In August-September 1917 the 2nd NIH Regiment was disbanded and its men, together with some surplus to the needs of the 1st NIH Regiment, were transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an infantry regiment. McGaffin 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. McGaffin was issued regimental number 41599 and posted to D Company.

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

McGaffin was wounded during the German offensive in spring 1918, either during the 9th (NIH) Battalion's fighting withdrawal from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918, or in the fighting around Wulverghem and Mt Kemmel that April. He later rejoined his battalion and saw action in the Advance to Victory offensive from August to November 1918, during which he was again wounded.