Lieutenant James Arthur O'Neill


James Arthur O'Neill of Cumberstown House, Collinstown, County Westmeath, was born on 6 July 1894, son of grazier Samuel O'Neill and his wife Lillian Mary O'Neill. He was educated at Mountjoy School and Dublin University.

At Dublin University O'Neill served as a cadet in the Army Service Corps Unit of the Officer Training Corps. He had previously (in July 1915) applied for a commission in the ASC.

On 10 April 1916 O'Neill enlisted in the 5th Dragoon Guards (No.25031) and four days later applied for a commission in the cavalry. He was posted to the No.2 Cavalry Cadet Squadron at Kildare on 1 September 1916.

On 28 January 1917 he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the North Irish Horse, joining the reserve regiment at Antrim on 20 February. He remained there until the end of the year.

On 22 December 1917 he embarked for France, joining the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment in the field at Sarton on 6 January.

In March 1918 O'Neill attended a course of instruction at the V Corps Gas School. During that month the regiment was converted to a corps cyclist regiment, and played a role during the retreat in the face of the German spring offensive.

O'Neill was promoted to lieutenant on 28 July 1918.

On 21 or 22 August, at the beginning of the Allied Advance to Victory offensive on the Somme Front, O'Neill was wounded by a rifle bullet that passed through his neck, fortunately without doing serious damage. He was evacuated to England where he was sent to the 2nd Western General Hospital at Manchester. O'Neill recovered quickly and on 29 November, following a bout of influenza, he reported for duty at the North Irish Horse reserve depot at Antrim. Medical Boards on 7 January and 3 March 1919 marked his fitness for duty as B1.

On 7 May 1919 O'Neill sought a wound gratuity:

I was severely wounded on the Somme Front on 22nd August 1918 in the neck & shoulder. ... As a result of my wound I am unable to take part in games that require use of right arm as it is still very weak. I am almost continually under treatment of the Regimental Doctor for neuralgiac pains in my neck and shoulder, which at times become chronic.

The request was refused as the wound was considered to be not very serious.

Lieutenant O'Neill was demobilised on 7 July 1919 and resigned his commission on 25 March 1920.

He died on 27 July 1987.

It appears that at some point there had been a change of heart in relation to O'Neill's wound, for when he died he was in receipt of a 20 per cent disablement pension.