Letters from the Front

Letters from our Grandfather 1914-1919

JohnAdamsSnr1John Adams (Army No. 13971) fought with the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers in the Great War, and this site records his letters home over the period 1914-1919.

The site also tells the story of Willie Lockhart from Co. Armagh who was taken POW in Spring 1918.

You can follow the trip that John, Roger and Mark made to Flanders and the Somme in May 2014.

Read letters written 100 years ago this month

John Adams' Story

John Adams was born and grew up in South Armagh, in the towland of Lisadian near Kingsmills, Whitecross and Bessbrook. In 1913-14 he was a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force, set up in Unionist communities to oppose Irish Home Rule, and along with other members of the U.V.F. volunteered to join Kitchener’s New Army in September 1914. He joined the 36th Ulster Division, starting training near Newtownards, moved to Sussex for further training, and was deployed to the Western Front in October 1915.

He spent the winter of 1915-16 in the trenches near the Somme valley, and was wounded 2 months before the Battle of the Somme (a fact that probably saved his life). He spent Christmas 1916 in a camp in Tipperary, and returned to the Western Front in early 1917, in time to be involved in the Battle of Messines and further fighting in the Ypres Salient (Passchendaele).

He was seriously wounded in October 1918, a few weeks before the end of the War.

The following is an extract from the Ulster Gazette January 1971, on his death:

“For his bravery at Passchendaele he received the Military Medal and for courageous deeds the following year he also got a bar for his medal. He was twice wounded and once gassed and the only battle he did not take part in with his famous Ulster Division was that of the Somme on July 1st 1916, for he had been wounded in May of that year. He was discharged in 1919 when he had attained the rank of Acting Company Sergeant-Major and he was suffering from his war injuries.”

John Adams in 1960sHe later went on to serve in the Ulster Special Constabulary in Co. Armagh from 1922 until retirement in 1952, and was awarded the MBE in 1952.

He was awarded eight medals, ranging in date from 1914 to 1952.

Main Events

We can trace John Adams’ story of the Great War through the following main events.


Listen to the letters 100 years after they were written

We are podcasting the letters each month, 100 years after they were written. In the podcasts, the letters are read by John Adams’ grandchildren and narrated by his great-grandchildren.

Go to Podcasts

History of the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers

Blacker's Boys

This 914 page book by Nick Metcalfe tells the remarkable story of the 9th R.I.F. throughout the Great War.

You can read more about the book on the Blacker’s Boys website.