Private Albert Spence


Albert Spence (originally Oliver Spence and later known as Alf) was born on 20 March 1899 at Ballynaris, Dromore, County Down, the fourth or fifth of nine children of labourer Oliver Spence and his wife Ellen (née Clarke). At the time of the 1911 Census he was living at Ballyskeagh, Drumbeg, County Down, with his parents and his six surviving siblings.

In 1916 or 1917 Spence enlisted in the Royal Irish Rifles. Posted to the 18th (Reserve) Battalion at Clandeboye Camp, he soon deserted. On 29 May 1917, however, he enlisted at Belfast in the Hussars of the Line (omitting to mention his previous record). He was described as being 5' 5" tall, and gave his occupation as a labourer.

Spence was posted to the No.2 Cavalry Depot at Dublin on 30 May and, the next day, to the 2nd Reserve Cavalry Regiment at Newbridge. He was issued regimental number 35884. Soon after, on 2 July 1917, he was transferred to the North Irish Horse (No.2568), reporting for duty at the regimental reserve camp at Antrim.

On 11 July 1917 Spence again deserted, but returned on 10 August. The inquiries that this led to revealed his earlier desertion, and on 21 September he faced a district court martial, charged with:

Absenting himself without leave [from the] 18th (R) Bn RIR until he enlisted in 2nd RCR at Belfast 29 5 17, losing by neglect his arms, equipment, clothing and Regimental necessaries, fraudulent enlistment, desertion [from the North Irish Horse], losing by neglect his equipment, clothing and regimental necessaries.

Found guilty, he was ordered to undergo detention for nine calendar months and to be put under stoppages of pay until he had made good the value of articles, worth £3.17.10, plus one full kit value £2.8.2¾ .

Sent to the Detention Barracks at Kilmainham, Spence was released on 4 February 1918, returning to duty at Antrim. His poor disciplinary record continued, however, with seven further offences between June and October, including being absent without leave (twice), neglect of duty, neglecting to obey an order, having a dirty rifle while on guard, insolence to an NCO, and being improperly dressed in the town of Antrim.

On 5 November 1918 Spence embarked for France with a reinforcement draft for the North Irish Horse Cyclist Regiment, joining it in the field later that month. On 24 February 1919 at Vignacourt he was awarded seven days Field Punishment No.2 for 'hesitating to obey an order'.

On 7 June that year, with around twenty other North Irish Horsemen, he was transferred to the Army Cyclist Corps (No.23919) and was posted to IV Corps Cyclist Regiment, part of the Army of Occupation based in Rolsdorf, Germany. He returned to England in October, where he was confined to barracks at Codford for 'having an untidy bed and breaking out of camp'.

On 10 November 1919 Spence was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve.


This page last updated 23 January 2024.