Regimental Sergeant Major William Alderton Sewell, MSM



William Alderton Sewell was born in Stepney, London, on 26 July 1870, son of Joseph Sewell and his wife Hannah Sewell (nee Benton).

A musician, he enlisted in the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers at Brighton on 9 April 1886 (No.3027). He served with the regiment in India from November 1888 to January 1897, and then in the Boer War from October 1899 to August 1902. On 2 August 1901 he was severely wounded in the upper right arm at Zuurfontein. Initially serving as a trumpeter, Sewell had risen to the rank of sergeant by the time he was discharged from the Lancers on 31 August 1909.


A young Sewell in his 5th Lancers dress uniform


Soon after he retired from the Lancers Sewell moved with his family to Belfast. The 1911 Census shows him living at 21 Frederick Street with his wife and four children and employed as a musician. It appears that he joined the North Irish Horse around this time, for he appears as trumpet major in an image of regimental sergeants in mid-1912 (here). Prior to mid-1914 he left the regiment.

By 1914 Sewell was working in the surveyor’s department of the Belfast Corporation, spending his spare time as a member of the Belfast Philharmonic Society orchestra.

On 14 August 1914 he re-enlisted in the North Irish Horse (No.993) and was immediately made a sergeant. Just six days later he embarked for France with C Squadron, seeing action in the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne. He was promoted to squadron sergeant major on 16 December 1914, and Mentioned in Despatches the following June.

Sewell returned home in October 1915 but in December 1916 rejoined the regiment in France, where he was promoted to the rank of regimental sergeant major. He was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal on 1 January 1918.




He returned home again on 3 June 1918, serving there with the regiment until he was discharged on 18 December 1922, when the following note was added to his service record:

Exemplary. Thoroughly trustworthy and honest, conscientious and hardworking with plenty of initiative and tact. He has carried out the staff work of the Regiment entirely by himself for the last three years, and besides being an excellent clerk has shown himself able to come to correct decisions and to frame good letters. He is also a good musician and was Band Sergt of the Regiment before the war.

He died at Belfast on 18 November 1946.

RSM Sewell’s son, Horace Alderton Sewell, also served in the North Irish Horse.


Larne Times and Weekly Telegraph, 31 May 1924



First three and sixth images kindly provided by Bracken Anderson. Fourth image, from Belfast Evening Telegraph, January-March 1918, kindly provided by Nigel Henderson, Researcher at History Hub Ulster (