Richard Nynian Irwin came from Gloucestershire and arrived at Sidney House in 1911. He played for the U16 school rugby team but left Oundle in 1914. At the age of 16 he took a commission in the Gloucestershire Regiment. After training in England, he was sent to France in September 1915 and was then transferred to Salonica two months later. By early 1917, his battalion was facing Austrian troops on the Greece/Macedonia border. At 2.30 on the morning of 6th March, Lieutenant Irwin was in a raiding party which cut through the enemy wire, only to find an enemy force of about 300 men advancing from Krstali. As there was a danger of being surrounded, Captain Ashmead gave the order to withdraw.
With supporting fire from our artillery most of the party made it back to the British lines but Richard Irwin and four of his men were killed. One of his superior officers wrote: “He was so capable and manly, so industrious and intelligent, and always thinking of his men first of all, that all of them, I know, loved him – as I did myself.”
Another officer wrote to Richard’s older brother John, also a Sidney boy, who was wounded in the war but survived. “From what I have heard, your brother behaved in a most gallant manner after he had been wounded the first time. It was only through him insisting on being the last to go through the wire on the way back that he was killed.”
Richard Irwin was just 19 years old at the time of his death.