5th Royal Irish Lancers
Trooper Patrick Emerson
Corporal Patrick Emerson, taken sometime
during his service in France during World War One.
Patrick Emerson was born in The Liberties,
South Dublin in 1890, the second youngest of four sons
named William, James and John (who would later serve with
The Royal Irish Rifles during World War One). He lived
in Meath Street for the first 18 years of his life, and
after a nominal education in Dublin, went on to take employment
as a butcher’s porter. This trade does not seem
to have been particularly appealing to him and as a result
decided to take the Kings shilling and joined the British
On the 5th May 1908 he joined the army reserve, his army
number being Private 1474. He would only serve for 192
days with the 6th Reserve Cavalry Regiment which at the
time based in Marlborough barracks (this regiment later
went on to fight against Irish insurgents during the Easter
Rising in 1916).
During his time as part of the reserve he is noted as
having committed the odd misdemeanor which earned him
a few days punishment. In Dundalk on 19th July 1908 he
was reported by a Corporal Batsow for “…irregular
conduct in barracks at 10.25pm” and was awarded
two days confined to barracks as punishment by Major R.A.
Smith. One month later on 29th August 1908 he was in trouble
again, this time being reported by Regimental Sergeant
Major Bell for “…disobedience of camp standing
orders”. Major R.A. Smith would again give him two
days confined to barracks as punishment. More than likely
this was for gambling as he and his brothers were notoruous
gamblers. After the war they were renowned for gambling
away three butchers shops in card games with fellow Dubliners.
Despite these misdemeanors, life in the reserves spurred
him on to join the regulars within the ranks of the British
Army and on 13th November 1908 he enlisted with the Corps
of Lancers of the Line with his chosen regiment being
the 5th Royal Irish Lancers.
At the time, The 5th Royal Irish Lancers were based at
Marlborough Barracks in Dublin, not far from his civilian
home in The Liberties. This seems a strange time for a
Roman Catholic Irishman to enlist with the British Army
for at this time, the idea of Home Rule was being toyed
with in Parliament and Irish nationalism was on the rise.
Patrick was 18 years and 6 months of age when he enlisted
on that November day which contradicts the date of birth
stated on his enlistment papers.
He was a small, compact fellow being five foot five inches
in height and weighing only 132lbs, slightly underweight
but ideal for the cavalry. His enlisting officer, a Captain
L. J. Browley described him as "...having a fresh
complexion with dark brown hair, hazel eyes and having
a scar running down the left side of his nose". He
was also described as being “an intelligent looking
fellow, very anxious to join the 5th Lancers".
He signed up for seven years with the colours and for
five years in the reserve or, if he completed his seven
years service overseas he would only need to serve one
year in the reserve. This was according to the military
law at the time and was made clear to him when he signed
up. In all a term of service lasting seven years.
During his time with the 5th Royal Irish Lancers, Private
No.3733 Patrick Emerson (his army number presumably changed
when he joined the regulars) is listed as remaining as
serving as a groom and batman to an officer. The officer
is not listed on his records but from reports from his
family, the officer in question was Lord Moyne who was
part of the Guinness family famous for brewing stout at
their Dublin brewery in James' Street. Lord Moyne however
never served with the 5th Royal Irish Lancers so this
would appear to be inaccaurate and the officer in question
remains a mystery.
On 4th April 1911, Patrick was admitted to military hospital
suffering from pneumonia and spent almost a month recovering
from this affliction. He was not released from hospital
however because on 1st May 1911 he was diagnosed with
having a problem with his appendix. He was operated on
by Captain W. D. Kelly who states in his report that “…abscess,
cut off from general peritoneal cavity by adhesions, appendix
not removed, was lying in front of thesis, slightly to
the left of middle line healed without complications after
the methods of Fowler and Murphy”. This was quite
serious according to relations who claim that he almost
died but Patrick appears to have been made from stern
stuff and was released on 20th June 1911, fit for service.
After seven years perfect service, he was discharged from
the army to the reserve, gaining kudos from his commanding
officer (a Captain V.M. Vallance) who described him as
having a very good military character, being honest, trustworthy
and a very good groom. It is also noted on his discharge
papers that he was never guilty of “…drunkenness
on duty or ordinary drunkenness (!).
On 14th January 1914 after serving for five years and
63 days, he was officially discharged to the reserve as
Private No. 311786 where he would serve for five years.
His pay grade was Class III @ 3d (shillings) and having
earned a Good Conduct Badge and Sobriety Certificate denoting
his “…having never been under the influence
of liquor during the last three years of his service”
(signed by Lt. Colonel Arthur Parker – Commanding
Officer 5th Royal Irish Lancers) was officially signed
off by Capt A.M MacDougall (5th Royal Irish Lancers).
Storm clouds were looming however and before the end of
the year he would be back on active service with the 5th
Royal Irish Lancers. At the outbreak of World War One
the 5th Royal Irish Lancers were mobilised as part of
the British Expeditionary Force, belonging to 3rd Cavalry
Brigade. Patrick was part of this force. According to
his war record he left Southampton on 12th November 1914
and disembarked in Rouen two days later. This would suggest
that he lamnded at Le Havre and made their way inland..
According to his records, he would spend the entire duration
of the war overseas in Belgium and France. There are no
written records of the exact locations where he served
but he would have missed the action in Solesmes, Mons
(where 5th Royal Irish Lancers were the last cavalry regiment
to leave the town), Le Cateau, retreat from Mons, Marne
, Aisne and Messines. He would however have action at
Ypres 1914 '15, Gheluvelt, St. Julien, Bellewaarde, Arras
1917, ÉLOUGES. Scarpe 1917, Cambrai 1917, St. Quentin
and the Pursuit to Mons in 1918 where they were the first
to enter the town, as they were last to leave there in
Private Patrick Emerson served for four years and 96 days
on active service in France and did not suffer any wounds
which is no mean feat when one considers the casualties
sustained by the BEF during the opening months of the
war. He also had the honour of re-entering Mons after
their heroic defence of the Belgian town in which many
of his comrades would have perished. There were very few
of the original lancers who defended this town left when
they re-entered the town in November 1918. Patrick was
given two weeks leave on 26th August 1918, returning to
active service on the 8th September 1918.
Remarkably he escaped injury during the hostilities, his
only entries on his medical records being the odd day
reporting sick. He ended the war having earned three medals,
The 1914 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Patrick was the recipient of the three medals above.
The 1914 Star, British War Medal and the Victory
Medal. (these are not his actual medals).
This medal was awarded to those who served in France
and Belgium between August 1914 and November 1914.
The medal bears the date 1914 in the centre of the
wreath together with the dates "Aug" and
"Nov" above and below. The medal ribbon
is red, white and blue.
The medal is named on the plain reverse. A bar for
those under fire between August and November was
issued, the "Mons Clasp".
This medal is commonly referred to as the Mons Star,
since the majority of the recipients took part in
the retreat from Mons.
This medal was awarded to record the end of the
First World War, however this was extended to
cover operations upto 1920 which included mine
clearance. The medal ribbon bears stripes of blue,
black, white and orange. The medal is normally
named . No bars were issued with this medal. Over
6 million of these were issued and as such it
is a fairly common medal, however medals issued
to certain regiments etc., may command more interest.
This medal bears the same basic design which was
adopted by a number of other Allied nations. The
medal ribbon bears multiple stripes of various
colour . The medal is normally named . No bars
were issued with this medal and over 6 million
of these were issued making it a fairly common
He finally arrived home on 13th February 1919 and remained
in the army reserve from 15th March, 1919 until 12th November
1919. He was finally discharged from the army on 12th
November 1920 having served for over 11 years in the service
of the King.
Patrick was quite an oppurtunist and when the chance of
joining the fledgling Irish Army arose Patrick jumped
at the chance. There is little doubt that this was probably
not to do with any patriotic fervor, more appealing was
the chance of gaining a house in the married quarters
of the old Marlborough Barracks (which was no renamed
McKee Barracks). He attained the rank of Sergeant and
remained in the Irish Army until 1929 when he was released
from army service, supposedly for insubordination to an
After this setback, Patrick lived in England for many
years in Preston, Lancashire where he ran a club. Prior
to this he served in the merchant navy during World War
It was whilst in the Merchant Navy that Pat had a very
lucky escape. He contracted measles whilst serving aboard
the armed merchant liner SS Jervis Bay in 1940 and was
not allowed to rejoin the ship until cured. Fortunately
for him the ship sailed without him and was subsequently
sunk by the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer off
Newfoundland. Only 65 sailors survived the sinking.
His second eldest son, also name Patrick was not so fortunate.
He had joined the Royal Navy and was serving aboard the
“E” Class Destroyer HMS Escapade. In September
1943 this ship was on Escort duty in the North Atlantic
and during the night of the 19th / 20th it had a contact
with two German U-boats. HMS Escapade had already dropped
depth-charges and a few salvos of “hedgehog”
mines when disaster struck. One of the hedgehog mines
exploded on deck, killing 3 officers and 16 ratings. Among
the dead was Patrick Emerson Jr.
He had three brothers, one of whom, John, served in the
Royal Irish Rifles during World War One. He also had seven
sons, some of whom also served with the British Army.
Mick, Brian and Frank who were born in Ireland but spent
most of their life in Rochdale, Nothern England. They
went onto serve in the British Army during their terms
of National Service. Mick Emerson served in Palestine
with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Enigneers (R.E.M.E.)
and is pictured serving there [here]
Frank Emerson served with the South Lancashire Regiment
in Germany, and Brian served with the Royal Artillery
in Egypt shortly after World War Two.