The 9th (Service) Battalion, Princess Victoria's (Royal Irish Fusiliers) (County Armagh) began recruiting in September 1914. On 1st July 1916 it attacked at Hamel on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Over 500 officers and men were killed and wounded.

The scale of the casualties was such that, for many, particularly in Ulster, the history of 36th (Ulster) Division ended there. It was really only the beginning.

Blacker's Boys tells the full story

  • The situation in Ireland and the emergence of the Ulster Volunteer Force prior to the war.
  • The raising and training of the Battalion, where its first recruits came from and their route from Clandeboye in County Down, to Seaford in Sussex, where they completed their training, and to France in October 1915.
  • Early experiences in the front line.
  • The attack at Hamel on 1 July 1916 and its immediate aftermath.
  • The arrival of the first drafts of English soldiers in the autumn of 1916 that irrevocably changed the make-up of the Battalion.
  • The fighting at Messines in June 1917 and the near destruction of the Battalion on 16th August 1917 in the Battle of Langemarck.
  • The amalgamation with the 2nd North Irish Horse in September 1917 to become the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion, Princess Victoria's (Royal Irish Fusiliers).
  • The attack on the town of Moeuvres during the offensive at Cambrai in November 1917.
  • Detailed descriptions of trench raids conducted in 1917 and 1918.
  • The amalgamation with the disbanded 7th/8th (Service) Battalion, Princess Victoria's (Royal Irish Fusiliers) from 16th (Irish) Division.
  • The valiant rear-guard action in the long retreat from St Quentin in March 1918, when nearly 350 men were captured, and the bitter fighting at Kemmel Hill, south of Ypres in April 1918; actions that left it little more than a cadre.
  • Its third reconstitution and the actions in the Advance to Victory when the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion was in action almost continuously from 24th August to 26th October 1918.
  • Blacker's Boys concludes with an examination of the experience of some of those who were captured, the commemoration of those who had died and a look at the post-war lives of some of those who served in its ranks.

Blacker's Boys: a memorial to those who served

That service is recorded in seven detailed appendices that support the main text:

  • A short history of Princess Victoria's (Royal Irish Fusiliers) and the other battalions that were raised during the First World War.
  • The Roll of Honour - 820 men who served at some time with the 9th (Service) Battalion or the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion were killed in action, died of wounds or died of other causes before 31 August 1921. Men previously not commemorated are identified.
  • Honours and Awards - the most complete list of honours and awards compiled for any battalion of Princess Victoria's (Royal Irish Fusiliers). It lists over 280 awards, many with citations, and including awards made in the previous or subsequent careers. These include the award of a posthumous Victoria Cross to the Adjutant, Lieutenant Geoffrey Cather.
  • The Officers - biographical summaries of more than 250 officers who served with the 9th (Service) Battalion/9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion.
  • Nominal Roll and Service Records - details of over 3,400 men who served in the ranks of the 9th (Service) Battalion/9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion. This appendix explains in detail the change in the make-up of the Battalion from one that was wholly Ulster Protestant in 1914 to the mix in 1918 of Protestant and Catholic, Irish and English, regular soldier, war-time volunteer and conscript.
  • Discipline - the 9th Irish Fusiliers had a very good reputation for discipline. This appendix examines its court martial record.
  • The Football Team - it won 30 out of its 39 matches and was a source of real pride to the men of the 9th (Service) Battalion/9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion.

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