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

Books covering the history of the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers

Further reading

Blacker’s Boys – Nick Metcalfe

This 914 page book by Nick Metcalfe tells the remarkable story of the 9th R.I.F. throughout the Great War. The book features quotes and extracts from John Adams’ letters.

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

Blacker’s LETTERS “With the ‘Ninth’ in France” – Nick Metcalfe

While in command of 9th (Service) Battalion, Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers), Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Blacker wrote to his wife almost every day. The letters were relatively uncensored and provide a fascinating insight into the life of a commanding officer in the front line and of the actions of his Battalion. Between 1921 and 1924 extracts from his letters were reproduced in the magazine of Seagoe Parish Church, Portadown in chapters titled ‘With The ‘Ninth’ In France‘.

These letters, with added explanatory footnotes and illustrations, will be published 100 years after they were first written.

The North Irish Horse in the Great War – Phillip Tardif

The 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers were merged with the 2nd North Irish Horse in 1917, and many NIH men fought in 9RIF during Passchendale. This book tells the story of this Irish Yeomanry regiment throughout the War.

The book briefly mentions Johnny (Jack) Reid of Searce, Co. Armagh who was John’s future brother-in-law. There are also quotes from William Lockhart, whose POW story is told here.

Letters from the trenches – Jacqueline Wadsworth

Letters from back home were a vital part of maintaining connections with loved ones and local communities, reminding soldiers that normality existed somewhere. The impact of receiving (or not receiving) letters is shown in a number of places in John Adams’ time in France.