Despard DSO MC, Charles Beauclerk

Despard, Charles Beauclerk (Charles)

Distinguished Service Order

Military Cross


6th Inniskilling Dragoons attached

9th Battalion Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers)

Killed in action on Thursday 18 April 1918 (aged 37)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium (Panel 3)

Bangor and District War Memorial

Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI) War Memorial

 Lloydminster War Memorial in Saskatchewan


Charles Beauclerk Despard was born at Woodleigh, Cultra, Holywood on 31 December 1880 and he was the youngest child of William Francis and Mary Despard (nee Hunt) who were married by special licence on 14 January 1875 in Hampton, Belfast, according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of Ireland.  William Francis Despard, a widower, was a son of William Francis Despard, a military officer.  Mary Hunt, a spinster, was a daughter of Colonel Arthur Hunt, Royal Artillery)

William Francis Despard (born in Dorset, England) was a land and estate agent and he and Mary (born in County Armagh) had at least four children:

Mary Louisa (born 24 February 1876 at Woodleigh, Cultra)

Charlotte Alicia (born 25 November 1877 at Woodleigh, Cultra)

William Arthur Edwin (born 20 January 1879 at Woodleigh, Cultra)

Charles Beauclerk (born 31 December 1880 at Woodleigh, Cultra)

Charles Beauclerk Despard was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI) and in 1899 he enlisted and joined the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry where he served as a Private, then Corporal.  He then joined the Imperial Yeomanry (Corporal, No. 9364) for service in the South African War.  He served with 46th Company, 13th Battalion.  He was commissioned on 1 April 1900 and served with the 74th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry.

In 1901 he was Mentioned in Despatches by Colonel Parris ‘For gallantry while serving as a Subaltern with the 74th Imperial Yeomanry during the extraction of a convoy from a difficult situation near Griquatown, Cape Colony on 24 August 1901 during the South African War’.  He was also awarded the Queen’s and King’s Medals during this time.

In 1901 Charles Beauclerk Despard’s parents were living at Sheelagh, Malone Park, Belfast and it was there that his father died on 17 April 1904 (aged 79).

Charles Beauclerk Despard went to Canada in 1909 and settled at Lloydminster, Saskatchewan to work as a rancher.  He returned to England on the outbreak of war in August 1914 and volunteered for active service. He was commissioned into the Service Squadron of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons as a Lieutenant on 19 October 1914 and he was appointed Captain on 30 October 1915.  He served in the 36th (Ulster) Division until June 1916 and then in the North Irish Horse in X Corps Cavalry Regiment.

Earlier that year, on 20 February 1915, Lieutenant Charles Beauclerk Despard and Josephine Madden were married in the Church of Ireland Parish Church, Leixlip, Co Kildare.  Josephine was a daughter of the Rev Robert Madden MA, Marshfield House, Leixlip, Co Kildare, retired Rector of Kilmoganny, Co Kilkenny.  The ceremony was performed by Josephine’s brother, the Rev J. Howard Madden BA.  At the time of the wedding Charles Despard’s mother was living at 3 Effra Road, Rathmines, Dublin.

Charles Beauclerk Despard was transferred to the 9th (North Irish Horse) Royal Irish Fusiliers on 17 October 1917, being appointed Officer in Command of ‘D’ Company. He took part in the fighting near Cambrai in November 1917 and in the retreat from St Quentin in March 1918.  During this time he was awarded both the Military Cross and the Distinguished Service Order. The citations for these read as follows:

Military Cross – Moeuvres, 23 November 1917:  For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During the attack he commanded his company with the greatest skill and gallantry, clearing a portion of the village on the flank of the battalion. At dusk, seeing that he was in danger of being cut off, he withdrew his own and two other companies, evacuated all the wounded, and held a line south of the village. During all this time he moved about under very heavy machine-gun fire, regardless of personal danger, and displayed the greatest coolness and courage.

Distinguished Service Order – Withdrawal from St Quentin from 22 – 27 March 1918:  For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During five days of retirement, while as second-in-command of the battalion, he throughout displayed very high qualities as a leader. While in command of the rear-guard the gallantry and determination with which he disputed the ground was largely responsible for the safe withdrawal of the rest of the main body.

Captain Charles Beauclerk Despard was 37 when he was killed in action by shellfire at Kemmel Hill on 18 April 1918 and it was reported at that time that he was the last surviving Captain in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division.  Captain Charles Beauclerk Despard was buried in Kemmel Cemetery but his grave was subsequently lost and so he is commemorated on Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.  At the time of his death his wife was living at The Acacias, Portarlington, Queen’s County (now County Laois).

Captain Charles Despard is commemorated on Bangor and District War Memorial; on the RBAI War Memorial and on Lloydminster War Memorial in Saskatchewan.