A number of years ago, when I was putting together Blacker’s Boys, I began to share information with Phillip Tardif, an Australian whose grandfather, Frank McMahon, and my great-grandfather, William Neill, served together during the First World War. No-one knows more about the actions of the North Irish Horse or the men who served in its ranks and I am very pleased that Phillip has written this unique history of the Regiment. This short essay by Phillip is a super introduction to an excellent piece of work that will contribute much to the bibliography of work about Ireland in the Great War.
In his account of the British Army’s role in the first months of the Great War, Sir John French, its former Commander-in-Chief, praised ‘the fine work done by the Oxfordshire Hussars and the London Scottish‘ as the first non-regular army units ‘to enter the line of battle‘ in the Great War. He added, by way of a footnote: ‘The North and South Irish Horse went to France much earlier than these troops but were employed as special escort to GHQ.’ In other words, these Irish units could not claim the distinction of being the first non-regulars involved in the fighting in the First World War. That would have been news to the families of North Irish Horsemen Private William Moore of Balteagh, County Londonderry, Private Henry St George Scott of Carndonagh, County Donegal, and Lieutenant Samuel Barbour Combe of Donaghcloney, County Down, whose deaths in September and October of 1914 were so far into the ‘line of battle’ that their bodies were never recovered. Continue reading