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Desmond7

Memorial Records fiasco - thoughts please

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Desmond7
I am quite annoyed about this - have written this basic summation. Can I have checks for accuracy? Would this be a fair assessment of how the people who follow Irish military history are thinking about this issue? Bear in mind I could write an article four times as long, but this has to get past a bored sub with a template to fill.
Governments get it wrong on Great War - at the very first attempt

The latest stage of Ireland's plan to mark the so-called 'decade of centenaries' was rolled out last week with a high profile launch to publicise the digitisation of 'Ireland's Memorial Records', which supposedly lists every Irishman - north and south - who lost their lives in the 1914-18 war.

According to the wordy press release from the office of the Taoiseach, the details of some 49,000 Irishmen who were killed in the war are contained in the records, first compiled in the 1920s.
Northern Ireland's deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness was given these figures for his speech and, understandably, he duly trotted out the lines provided for him by civil servants.
The only problem is that anyone with a basic interest in Ireland's history during the Great War could have pointed out before this process started that 'Ireland's War Memorial Records' is a document littered with errors, double entries and, most embarrassingly, lays claim to thousands of men who had no Irish connections beyond being drafted into Irish Regiments to replace casualties.
Most scholars have agreed for a considerable period that a more accurate figure for Ireland's war dead would be around 30,000. So where do the extra 19,000 names come from?
Basically, with conscription - enforced recruitment - being ruled out in Ireland for very obvious political reasons, the primary source of manpower for Irish regiments was volunteers.
And in the early months of the war, Ireland did provide enough troops to create three Divisions of 'Kitchener's Army' - the 10th (Irish), the 16th (Irish) and the 36th (Ulster) Divisions.
However, as the war continued it became harder and harder to 're-stock' these units with voluntary recruits and in the wake of the Easter Rising in 1916, the recruitment to the 'southern' Divisions was little more than a weak trickle.
The 36th (Ulster) fared better but even in the Unionist north finding men to replace those already lost to the meatgrinder of the western front became harder and harder.
To make up the numbers the British staff simply boosted the ranks with soldiers who had previously served in other regiments and corps. This was more or less common policy right across the army.
Thus men from Yorkshire who were superfluous to requirements in, for example, the Royal Army Service Corps, were 're-badged', re-numbered and herded off by the army equivalent of the human resources department to Irish regiments. When these men fell in battle they were recorded in 'Ireland's Memorial Records' as 'Irishmen', although everyone knew then - and most certainly should have known now - that they had the most tenuous link to the emerald isle imaginable!
There are many thousands of such examples in the records and with their 'loose' definition of 'Irishness' being well known in Irish military history circles, it is surprising, if not embarrassing that Dublin and Stormont have both failed at the first hurdle of their Great War commemoration and learning programmes.

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chrisharley9

One case is this chap

PORTER, STANLEY Rank: Rifleman Service No: 42133 Date of Death: 07/06/1917 Age: 19 Regiment/Service: Royal Irish Rifles 8th Bn. Grave Reference I. B. 6. Cemetery LONE TREE CEMETERY Additional Information:

Son of Elizabeth Porter, of Grass Oar Cottage, West End, March, Cambs., and the late John Porter.

Formerly Suffolk Regiment

Absolutely no connection with Ireland other than he served in an Irish Regiment

At least another 2 cases on my town war memorial alone

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centurion

And my Great Uncle born in Ireland was serving in an very English Territorial btn when he died in Macedonia and I'm sure he wasn't the only Irishman serving in an English (or even Scottish and possibly Australian or Canadian etc ) unit when they died. When all were regarded as British (and many Irishmen lived and worked all over the Empire) - very difficult to determine who was Irish and who wasn't

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Desmond7

I think the key issue has to be the 'worthiness' of this much vaunted digitisation as a project? In my opinion, this looks like another 'lip service' offering. Just cram a lot of info onto the web .. 'sure it'll do rightly' (as they say in this part of the world). I dread to think what is coming down the road as the govts. leap on to the 14-18 commemorations.

Entirely correct that Irish born soldiers serving with whatever formation (including Canadian, Australian etc etc) are recorded in IWMR ... but surely time has come to concede that the original recording was just a big net which trawled in thousands with no true connection to Ireland. This is not a denigration of these men, just a matter of accuracy as to birthplace, actual place of residence etc

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hen190782

Des

I feel that that is a well-written and cogent assessment, but I would be inclined to add that the IMR excludes men born in Ireland who enlisted with other British or Dominion regiments/forces. There are men on my Belfast Presbyterians research list who were working in Liverpool, Glasgow, Tyneside when war broke out and enlisted in local regiments - some but not all were recorded in IMR.

Also, the IMR only covered fatalities for the period 1914-1918 whereas CWGC covers fatalities up to 31/08/1921 - so the IMR excludes some Irish fatalities.

I think that it would be worth highlighting the ommisions as well as the errors/duplications.

That and the fact that the search facility on the digitised version is abysmal!!!

Nigel

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hen190782

Des

I think the project has been rushed through to tick a box in the "cross-community activity" box without much consideration of accuracy, validity or usability for the enquirer.

Nigel

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Desmond7

Nigel - having rarely worked with the records - are we talking blanket omissions or shoddy 'hit and miss' recording?

And as for search facility? Less than useless.


Re tick box. Agree. And it is shameful.

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depaor01

100% agree with your summary Desmond7. This is a "to be seen to do something" sham.

PM sent

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Don

I wonder how much it has cost the tax payer for this project.

There is an avenue that could be explored and in this format, a TD (Member of Parliament) could be persuaded to ask a Parliament Question (PQ) to ascertain the cost of the project.

Also to confirm if the Rolls were simply scanned and digitised without any research or correction and if so, can the details to be released for research scrutiny.

It’s just a thought of mine and may never come about. I have a feeling that they won’t revisit the project, the money is spent and that’s that, plus the fact that it may be near impossible to ascertain who was Irish and who wasn’t.

Gerry

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museumtom

I know I said this before on the same topic but here it is again anyway;

A quick search for;
Tipperary casualties gives 951, actual (at the moment) stands at 1487.
Carlow casualties gives 319, actual (at the moment) stands at 561.
Clare casualties gives 416, actual (at the moment) stands at 667.
Cork casualties gives 2204, actual (at the moment) stands at 4249.
Kilkenny casualties gives 464, actual (at the moment) stands at 785.
King's County (Offaly) Is not in it yet for some reason but stands at 650.
Queen's County (Laois) Is not in it yet for some reason but stands at 565.
Limerick casualties gives 810, actual (at the moment) stands at 1288..
Longford casualties gives 206, actual (at the moment) stands at 321.
Roscommon casualties gives 318, actual (at the moment) stands at 518.
Waterford casualties gives 630, actual (at the moment) stands at 1134.
Westmeath casualties gives 346, actual (at the moment) stands at 725.
Wexford casualties gives 510, actual (at the moment) stands at 877.
Wicklow casualties gives 407, actual (at the moment) stands at 748.
Dublin casualties 8050 (but this included every soldier casualty of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers) gives 8050. Dublin currently being compiled stands at the moment at 8062.

IMR is not accurate and never was. It is now given by Google, In Flanders Fields Museum and Eamon Gilmore that the men and women listed in it are the only ones that gave their lives based on a 'study' done 90 years ago. How disappointing to those relatives of the fallen who are listed in other databases, Newspapers, and updated lists. They are ignored. By cross referencing, the final number and their names will be established. This has been done in the lists above and shows how inaccurate IMR is.

When it is done right it only has to be done once.

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Desmond7

Tom's figures illustrate the other side of the coin. Hundreds of men who SHOULD be on the records missed out.

I sincerely thought we would see some meaningful projects come to fruition in 2014-2018. This, as I have said before, is an ill omen.

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hen190782

Des

Hit and miss recording.

The best part of IMR is, in my opinion, the illustrated border !

Nigel

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KGB

When I wrote "Recruitment and Nationalism in Irish regiments 1899-1921" I gave the figure of 49.490, current at the time (1985). Subtract the English, Scots, Welsh who served with the 10th, 16th & 36th Divisions. Now add Irish diaspora in Liverpool, Tyneside, et al. 50,000 is a good round sum. All I will say is that the Irish government (home of nepotism) don't really mind about 1914-2014 beyond having some gombeen man give a sound bite in Flanders. Free trips to Gallipoli! G'wan now.

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archangel9

Got to say I am 100% behind all 13 posts so far. Hope this gets published Desmond and perhaps add in a line about the Irishmen omitted who served in non Irish regiments.

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Airshipped

From the flying services angle it is disappointing to see them not even try to take on board the many decades of research. (I know it's a tiny figure in the context of the overall numbers but even these figures should've raised an eyebrow somewhere and given rise to at least a token effort to correct the data).

Of the 280 or so listed in IMR who served with the RNAS, RFC and RAF there are duplications (e.g. Robert Gregory, a fourth Cruess-Callaghan brother etc) among these.

Of the 270 or so unique names there are dozens who have no connection to Ireland other than having served with an Irish regiment, e.g. Edward John Brabrook of Brighton had once served with the London Irish, James Robert Dennistoun (a well-known Kiwi from Scott's Antarctic expeditions) had service with the North Irish Horse, Lewis Mogridge from Devon had served with the King's Liverpool Irish before joining 5 Squadron etc etc.

On the other hand there are dozens of Irish ancestry who served with Irish regiments and so it is something of a grey area, e.g. Barrington Quinan was Calcutta-born but members of that family regarded themselves as Irish. Similarly, Hubert Dunsterville Harvey-Kelly is another non-Irish-born Irishman. Similarly John Raymond Boscawen Savage is from an Irish family that were two generations on from being resident in Ireland but still associated with the Ards peninsula: http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1916/1916%20-%200680.html?search=boscawen

Overall I'd be a little cautious about disowning all of those who weren't Irish-born.

Having said that I find only about 200 Irish dead for the flying services from this source. On the other hand I've 200+ from other sources who served with the RFC, RNAS, RAF. Even the Australian Flying Corps had Irish-born casualties that are missed by IMR, e.g. David Curran from Downpatrick was taken POW in the Kut debacle and died in Turkish custody. (He's commemorated on the Baghdad (North Gate) Memorial).

The situation is a missed opportunity, but it's very much in character with the gesture politics we have at present, e.g. so long as the appearance is given of being respectful and commemorating the Irish war dead then they don't have to actually bother making an effort to do a proper job, let alone fund any serious scholarship on the subject.

However, if they're this thoughtless and cynical at this point in time then how are they seriously going to manage the 1916 situation, when there are going to be some quite divergent views on how the Easter and the July/Somme events are to be handled?

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rob elliott

Des & all,

This is only going to get worse as we approach 2016. I'm not sure if many of you have seen the little booklet 'From home to foreign fields'. A combined effort from Donegal, Omagh and Derry City Councils covering the 3 districts and amounting to 42 pages of A5.

Typical of what we are going to get, might be useful as an introduction for primary school children, other than that one of the many wastes of tax payers money that we'll be seeing pop up.

I understand Derry City council has already put out it's gravy train tender to the usual suspects to get 'some-sort' of bigger project bungled together. Then these guys along with all the local councillors will be on their jollies to France to pay lip service.

Surely someone preparing the records could have at least had the gumption to google 'WW1 Irish' to see what was going on and make contact with the likes of you guys. Even if they had added as many names as possible as a supplement to the original. I know they ask you to contact them with any additional info but that's just a cop out.

I have four Irish born men missing & ironically one Scottish born [of Irish family working there] included.

Basically Des what you have written needs to be said, with the addition as pointed out by Nigel a few basic facts. The number of Irish born missing from the list being the most important, but on another point you've raised and one I was looking into recently is the number of men of Irish regiments who were wounded and not returned to an Irish regiment, thus reducing the available Irish pool of recruits even further.

I believe the Ulster Division could have lost nearly 1000 men as non returned.

One other is the slight increase in Irish volunteers for the forces in late 1918.

Rob

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hen190782

Eddie Connolly (Eddies Extracts) has just sent this to me from the Irish Times (Tuesday 12th January 2014);

Sir, – The importance of the digitisation of Ireland’s Memorial Records of the first World War is somewhat overstated (Home News, January 11th).
The volumes of names have been available for many years on Ancestry’s genealogy website, and on CD from Trinity College’s Eneclann. It can therefore hardly be described as a “new archive” as your article states.
Another issue is the fact that the original 1923 project’s methodology included the assumption that all men in Irish regiments were Irishmen. In reality, especially as the war went on, a huge percentage of “Irish” regiments were made up of non-Irish soldiers. A cursory examination of the “Place of Birth” information in the records will confirm this.
If this is an indication of the level of Government engagement in the commemoration of the Irish dead of the Great War, I am deeply saddened.
This exercise is a cut-and-paste copy of an already flawed set of documents, dressed up and wheeled out to provide a photo opportunity for politicians who have no real interest in investing any money or resources into compiling a properly accurate memorial list of Irishmen who never came home.
Our dead of the Great War deserve better than this. – Yours, etc,
DAVID POWER,
The Drive,
Grange Manor,
Lucan, Co Dublin.

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KGB

From the flying services angle it is disappointing to see them not even try to take on board the many decades of research. (I know it's a tiny figure in the context of the overall numbers but even these figures should've raised an eyebrow somewhere and given rise to at least a token effort to correct the data).

Of the 280 or so listed in IMR who served with the RNAS, RFC and RAF there are duplications (e.g. Robert Gregory, a fourth Cruess-Callaghan brother etc) among these.

Of the 270 or so unique names there are dozens who have no connection to Ireland other than having served with an Irish regiment, e.g. Edward John Brabrook of Brighton had once served with the London Irish, James Robert Dennistoun (a well-known Kiwi from Scott's Antarctic expeditions) had service with the North Irish Horse, Lewis Mogridge from Devon had served with the King's Liverpool Irish before joining 5 Squadron etc etc.

On the other hand there are dozens of Irish ancestry who served with Irish regiments and so it is something of a grey area, e.g. Barrington Quinan was Calcutta-born but members of that family regarded themselves as Irish. Similarly, Hubert Dunsterville Harvey-Kelly is another non-Irish-born Irishman. Similarly John Raymond Boscawen Savage is from an Irish family that were two generations on from being resident in Ireland but still associated with the Ards peninsula: http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1916/1916%20-%200680.html?search=boscawen

Overall I'd be a little cautious about disowning all of those who weren't Irish-born.

Having said that I find only about 200 Irish dead for the flying services from this source. On the other hand I've 200+ from other sources who served with the RFC, RNAS, RAF. Even the Australian Flying Corps had Irish-born casualties that are missed by IMR, e.g. David Curran from Downpatrick was taken POW in the Kut debacle and died in Turkish custody. (He's commemorated on the Baghdad (North Gate) Memorial).

The situation is a missed opportunity, but it's very much in character with the gesture politics we have at present, e.g. so long as the appearance is given of being respectful and commemorating the Irish war dead then they don't have to actually bother making an effort to do a proper job, let alone fund any serious scholarship on the subject.

However, if they're this thoughtless and cynical at this point in time then how are they seriously going to manage the 1916 situation, when there are going to be some quite divergent views on how the Easter and the July/Somme events are to be handled?

From what I can gather it is "in step" to 1916 then each side has their own take on Easter, Dublin, then back together for 17 and 18.

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Desmond7

All very well made points. Rob and various others have pressed all my buttons on the bandwagon/politicians/jolly boys outings issue!!

I would like to see if we can come up with a figure (which will obviously not be completely accurate) for Irish war dead (as we understand it). I have slotted in the figure 30,000 because I have seen it mentioned many times. Others (KGB) have a higher figure (around 49,000).

Is it better to avoid the 'points total' entirely and simply point out the lack of credibility in this exercise based on what we all seem to agree is a flawed document?

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depaor01

Eddie Connolly (Eddies Extracts) has just sent this to me from the Irish Times (Tuesday 12th January 2014);

Sir, The importance of the digitisation of Irelands Memorial Records of the first World War is somewhat overstated (Home News, January 11th).

The volumes of names have been available for many years on Ancestrys genealogy website, and on CD from Trinity Colleges Eneclann. It can therefore hardly be described as a new archive as your article states.

Another issue is the fact that the original 1923 projects methodology included the assumption that all men in Irish regiments were Irishmen. In reality, especially as the war went on, a huge percentage of Irish regiments were made up of non-Irish soldiers. A cursory examination of the Place of Birth information in the records will confirm this.

If this is an indication of the level of Government engagement in the commemoration of the Irish dead of the Great War, I am deeply saddened.

This exercise is a cut-and-paste copy of an already flawed set of documents, dressed up and wheeled out to provide a photo opportunity for politicians who have no real interest in investing any money or resources into compiling a properly accurate memorial list of Irishmen who never came home.

Our dead of the Great War deserve better than this. Yours, etc,

DAVID POWER,

The Drive,

Grange Manor,

Lucan, Co Dublin.

My letter :)

Dave.

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corisande

The problem I have is in how you determine who is "Irish"

I am struggling with this in defining who is Irish in the Auxiliary Division of the RIC, and that is after considerable research on each man. It is not as clear as you may think at first glance, as to who is Irish.

Consider a list of possible options (this is not a full list but indicates the problem) and decide if they are Irish

Born Ireland of 2 Irish born parents, but left when say 3 years old and lived his life in another country

Born Ireland of 2 foreign born parents, but lived in Ireland all his life

Born Ireland of 2 foreign born parents, but left Ireland when under 3 years old.

Born outside Ireland of Irish born parents, but lived from say the age of 3 in Ireland

Born outside Ireland of Irish born parents, but never lived in Ireland

So you have to make definitions, that will be flawed/debatable, then research each man to see "who" he is. If you take 2 hours to get through Birth records, and censuses and military records you will be doing well. On that basis it takes 1 man year to research 1000 men. So 50000 men would take 50 man years to research and "label" as Irish or not

It is doable (just) with 2000 ADRIC men, but not with Irish war dead

Researchers take various paths to determine "Irishness", the crudest being their surname, then you have place of birth or regiment. All flawed. But before you get to even first base, you have to agree on who is "Irish". It is not simple!

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depaor01

The problem I have is in how you determine who is "Irish"

I am struggling with this in defining who is Irish in the Auxiliary Division of the RIC, and that is after considerable research on each man. It is not as clear as you may think at first glance, as to who is Irish.

Consider a list of possible options (this is not a full list but indicates the problem) and decide if they are Irish

Born Ireland of 2 Irish born parents, but left when say 3 years old and lived his life in another country

Born Ireland of 2 foreign born parents, but lived in Ireland all his life

Born Ireland of 2 foreign born parents, but left Ireland when under 3 years old.

Born outside Ireland of Irish born parents, but lived from say the age of 3 in Ireland

Born outside Ireland of Irish born parents, but never lived in Ireland

So you have to make definitions, that will be flawed/debatable, then research each man to see "who" he is. If you take 2 hours to get through Birth records, and censuses and military records you will be doing well. On that basis it takes 1 man year to research 1000 men. So 50000 men would take 50 man years to research and "label" as Irish or not

It is doable (just) with 2000 ADRIC men, but not with Irish war dead

Researchers take various paths to determine "Irishness", the crudest being their surname, then you have place of birth or regiment. All flawed. But before you get to even first base, you have to agree on who is "Irish". It is not simple!

This may be simplistic, but what's so wrong with using Irish born, and/or resident in Ireland at time of enlistment?

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Desmond7

I'm pretty much with Depar on this one ...

I would rule out a man born of two Irish parents who was born in Glasgow and who never lived in Ireland (for example).

But I would count in (for example) punters who were born Scotland but grew up in Ireland were residing in Ireland when they joined up.

Birthplace/Residence would be my main qualifications?

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museumtom

Proud of you Dave,

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centurion

I'm pretty much with Depar on this one ...

I would rule out a man born of two Irish parents who was born in Glasgow and who never lived in Ireland (for example).

But I would count in (for example) punters who were born Scotland but grew up in Ireland were residing in Ireland when they joined up.

Birthplace/Residence would be my main qualifications?

Which would rule out some Doughboys who considered themselves Irish. I guess there has to be some criteria but it may be difficult establishing common ones everyone would sign up to. Would you include a Wexford born man whose parents emigrated with him when he was an infant for example? Or the man born on the Irish estate owned by his English parents?

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