The 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 Army.
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 1914.
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).


1914 Star
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.

British War Medal
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.

Victory Medal
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 medal.


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 officer.
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 Two..
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] and [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.