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Desmond7

Memorial Records fiasco - thoughts please

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Airshipped

Welcome on board Ronan,

I've tended towards the figure of 240,000 and given the sheer volume of material that has become electronically searchable in recent years this has not just validated the previously-used smaller samples of data relating to the American, Canadian and ANZAC figures but has shown some of the numbers to be serious underestimates.

Taking a simple example of the surname McGreevy from among the Canadian attestation papers we find one Irish-born from the eight enlistments:

http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/first-world-war-1914-1918-cef/Pages/list.aspx?k=Surname%3a%22mcgreevy%22

One in eight (12.5%) might sound high, but I've picked broad samples of "Irish" surnames and have come up with a figure of 7-19% Irish-born previous research.

NB: from the foregoing you'll have noted that the Irish-born chap (John McGreevy) had a US address, i.e. if one goes back to the 1911 Census he was probably one of the 1,352,251 Irish-born in the USA rather than being from the 92,874 Irish-born Canadians.

That's always been a tricky subject, as the Canadians tend to take pride in the enlistment rates, and when one looks at the enlistment rates of other nationalities in the Canadian forces it seems to be broadly in line with the population and so not the subject of adverse comment, but the Irish-born figure in the Canadian forces is always going to be the subject of some distortion by the huge number of US-based Irishmen.

Some genealogical websites have now included digitised servicemen's records as part of their packages, to drum up further interest in other products. I'm currently examining some of the recently-released material relating to the 8,200+ Irish-born "other ranks" of the RAF. NB: many of these Air Ministry (AIR 79) files already had a matching Admiralty (ADM 188) file if the chap had served in the RNAS. Similarly, the figure will include enlistments in the 1920s and 1930s pre-WWII (notwithstanding the massive reduction in the size of the RAF post-WWI and the fall-off in Irish enlistment). At present, a rough estimate is suggesting that 6,500 of the 8,200 joined pre-Nov 1918. Adding the RFC, RNAS and RAF officers to the mix (mostly Air Ministry AIR 76 files but also some War Office WO 374 and 339 files), and then eliminating warrant officers etc in the RNAS who had an ADM 273 file in addition to an ADM 188 file, it would appear that the Irish-born figure in the RNAS, RFC and RAF will have exceeded 7,250. This is vastly in excess of the 6,000 figure that I'd estimated previously and is almost double the 4,000 figure you see in many accounts of Irish enlistment in WW1. //This of course excludes all the non-Irish-born prominent Irishmen in the flying services such as Corbett Wilson, Corballis, Harvey-Kelly, Halahan, Smith-Barry etc. Similarly Indian-born Irishmen such as Air Vice Marshal Eric Betts and his brother Conrad (on the Dalkey War Memorials), Frederick Reilly-Minchin etc or the Uruguayan-born Fitzherbert of Ballintyre etc etc.//

The CWGC has recently revamped its search facilities, which alas broke some other search engines that had provided various mechanisms for querying the data. However, it'll take a lot of time and money for researchers to divert scarce resources into providing the "primary documentary evidence" the CWGC need if they're to consider recording an Irish next-of-kin address against a casualty. I can't see anyone doing it: more likely the casualty lists will continue to be produced on a county by county basis, but perhaps at some distant stage in the future the CWGC will accept data and thus help inform the Australian, British, Canadian, Irish, Kiwi and South African public of the diversity of the fallen.

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depaor01

Hi Ronan,

During research on the statistics of Catholic and Protestant enlistment I came across a mention in the The Irish Times in October 1916 (I didn't record the date unfortunately) which gave all-Ireland figures of 92,405 Catholics and 62,392 Protestants.

There were other stats there but these may be of limited value in your Q&A as this is only up to October 1916.

Looking forward to seeing the article.

David Power

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Ronan McGreevy

Thank you so much Tom for your dedicated work. I'd be grateful if you could call me when you get a chance on 085 7288553. Regards, Ronan

When you refer to casualties, I take it you don't mean deaths?

Regards,

Ronan

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museumtom

I do mean deaths.

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Ronan McGreevy

Gentlemen, thanks again for your help. I rang up the Canadian archives people and asked them for the number of Irish-born soldiers who served in the CEF in the war. They have given me a figure of 19,327. Is that figure correct? Has anybody seen it before?

Also, I contacted the First World War museum in Kansas to ask about Irish enlistment in the AEF. I received this back.

Mr. McGreevy:

This is from Report of the Provost Marshal General to the Secretary of War on the first draft under the Selective Service Act, 1917 Washington, 1918

Nationality of Aliens—from Ireland

20,840 registered with selective service

7,238 were drafted

2,201 were drafted and accepted for service

The figure of 2,201 sounds very low. Can anybody help? Regards, Ronan

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museumtom

No comment.

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Guest

Surely this question can not be answered until a definition has been agreed. This is unlikely as defining a person's nationality is not an accurate science. What defines a person's nationality is essentially a cultural factor: what nationality the individual thinks they are. Given the recruits were not asked their nationality and they are all dead, it is impossible to explore the grey areas of this question. I have explored this thematic with the SDGW data in minute detail - birth, residence, parent's home, place of enlistment, Irish regiments etc. I have done the same with the Scottish National War Memorial data. The problem always comes back to two central thematics

1. 'what defines a man's nationality?'

2. the data is far from complete.

Put simply, data on men was not gathered in a way that can answer the question. The attestation form simply asked if the person was a British subject, not if they were English, Irish, Scots or Welsh. Place of birth, residence and enlistment might correlate with nationality, but we don't know to what extent - and this falls to pieces when we look at the 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation diaspora.. Additionally there is a large gap in the data of Service and Pension Records. Even the SDGW and CWGC data - arguably a statistically relevant sample - had enormous gaps in place of birth, residence and enlistment, parents' address etc so it is impossible to back-fit.

At one extreme is a reasonable assumption that most men born in Ireland, of Irish parents, and grandparents, enlisting in Ireland into an Irish Regiment should be considered Irish. All these factors are claimed to be 'qualifiers' to varying degrees. At the other extreme a man born in England, of English parents, English grandparents, residing in England, enlisting in England into his local English County Regiment and subsequently transferred into an Irish Regiment cannot be assumed to be Irish. He might be (4th generation Irish) but we simply don't know without researching his forbears. It then quickly morphs into another question of how far back one can go to 'prove' the slimmest of connections to a particular nation.

Between these two extremes are scores of permutations and combinations of 'qualifiers' that allegedly make someone Irish. There is also the challenge of double counting. A man with one Irish Grandparent and three Scottish Grandparents who was born, resided and enlisted in Scotland into a Scottish Regiment might 'qualify' in some eyes as an Irishman, but is clearly more Scottish than Irish to others. ...and if he died he will be on the SNWM database to boot.

The more one explores this thematic the more complex it becomes. Personally I think it is intractable. The definitions become so long and complex that they undermine what essentially is a romantic ideal.

MG

P.S. One only has to look at the desperate measures and rule-bending of modern national sports teams to understand the complexities of this question. Some years ago there was a standing joke on the English Cricket Team:

Q: Where do the English players stay when on tour in South Africa?

A: With their parents.

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Murrough

No comment.

Tom, I can understand your frustration. Why do they have to go to Ypres to update the records?Are there not records in Ireland? They should have given you the finances to let you complete the work you started.

Martin G.

You have hit the nail on the head. They do not even have the correct and complete numbers for those born on the island of Ireland, this at the very least should be their starting point.Establish the accurate numbers of those born on the Island and then they can introduce more definitions into the equation.

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museumtom

Thank you Murrough.

'A bursary scheme is being set up to allow Irish history students to spend time at the In Flanders Fields museum where the records are kept.'

Junkets for students now. They are still not taking this seriously, are they?

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depaor01

Thank you Murrough.

'A bursary scheme is being set up to allow Irish history students to spend time at the In Flanders Fields museum where the records are kept.'

Junkets for students now. They are still not taking this seriously, are they?

My thoughts exactly. A trip to the book rooms in Islandbridge would be cheaper.

Dave

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Guest

This subject always fascinates me. The lack of conscription must certainly tell us that Ireland was under-represented when measured against head of population. If English, Scots and Welsh had to be forced through conscription to join up from Jan 1916, it is a fair bet that Irish recruitment did not keep pace with the other nations of the British Isles. Many Irish formations lost their Irish identity due to their inability to recruit sufficient numbers. This is well documented and there are a few threads on this.

There always seems to be a strong undercurrent that the Irish or Scottish 'official' numbers must in some way be under-stated and in fact the 'real' number must be much higher. The usual conjecture is that the non-Irish in Irish Regiments were offset by Irishmen in non-Irish regiments, part of the huge expatriate Irish population. There is not a shred of evidence to support this idea. If one is inclined to wade through the available data, it is extremely difficult to come to any conclusion other than the data quoted by lazy journalists is probably inflated. There are a few limiting factors such as population, population growth, recruiting trends pre-war*, population diaspora and laws (i.e. conscription or lack of it) and questions in Parliament on why English conscripts were filling Irish Regiments rather than disbanding these units - things that can not be explained away very easily.

None of this should detract from the immense contribution of the Irish during the Great War. In fact one might argue that their contribution was even more remarkable given the lack of conscription. It does not need any exaggeration by journalists, or politicians looking for headlines. MG

*in 1911 the Irish population was 9.69% of the UK's population. In the same year Irish born recruits represented 9.12% of the Army's 234,000 NCOs and Men. Irish born recruiting had been in a 20 year decline in the pre-war period.

Sources:

1911 Census

Army Returns 1912.

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Airshipped

As far as I recall, the RMA at Woolwich and the RMC Sandhurst used to not just ask for parental occupation but also family nationality. This gave rise to some "Irish" families that may not have even set foot in the country for a generation (apart from the occasional grouse or pheasant shoot).

For what it's worth here's an example of a chap who falls in and out of the category "Irish", depending upon records examined. For example, Ireland's Memorial Records states that PJ Nolan was born in Ireland, when in fact he was Indian-born. The CWGC entry provides an English next-of-kin address. However, the English address only reflects the fact that his widowed mother resided there.

At the time he entered Woolwich, PJ Nolan's family had an Irish next-of-kin address (albeit not necessarily a civilian one) and he described himself as being from an "Irish" family in his application.

post-88270-0-03761000-1414523105_thumb.j

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Murrough

This subject always fascinates me. The lack of conscription must certainly tell us that Ireland was under-represented when measured against head of population. If English, Scots and Welsh had to be forced through conscription to join up from Jan 1916, it is a fair bet that Irish recruitment did not keep pace with the other nations of the British Isles. Many Irish formations lost their Irish identity due to their inability to recruit sufficient numbers. This is well documented and there are a few threads on this.

There always seems to be a strong undercurrent that the Irish or Scottish 'official' numbers must in some way be under-stated and in fact the 'real' number must be much higher. The usual conjecture is that the non-Irish in Irish Regiments were offset by Irishmen in non-Irish regiments, part of the huge expatriate Irish population. There is not a shred of evidence to support this idea. If one is inclined to wade through the available data, it is extremely difficult to come to any conclusion other than the data quoted by lazy journalists is probably inflated. There are a few limiting factors such as population, population growth, recruiting trends pre-war*, population diaspora and laws (i.e. conscription or lack of it) and questions in Parliament on why English conscripts were filling Irish Regiments rather than disbanding these units - things that can not be explained away very easily.

None of this should detract from the immense contribution of the Irish during the Great War. In fact one might argue that their contribution was even more remarkable given the lack of conscription. It does not need any exaggeration by journalists, or politicians looking for headlines. MG

*in 1911 the Irish population was 9.69% of the UK's population. In the same year Irish born recruits represented 9.12% of the Army's 234,000 NCOs and Men. Irish born recruiting had been in a 20 year decline in the pre-war period.

Sources:

1911 Census

Army Returns 1912.

Martin, the problem we have is the figure of c.49,000 from the Irish War Memorial Records, this is also the figure oft quoted by lazy journalists, but more recent research has indicated a figure of c.35,000, a figure accepted by noted historians, but this figure may also be too low.

The following figures are from the same source ie.IWMR

Of the total of 49,200 in the records,30,987 are recorded as having been born in Ireland.

No place of birth was recorded for 7,405.

11,255 were recorded as born outside Ireland,These include 9,162 in England,1,357 in Scotland, 314 in Wales, and 165 in the Channel Islands.30 other countries are represented with much lesser numbers.

The research was conducted by genealogy company Eneclann using the IWMR as the source.

The Irish in non Irish regiments need to be cross referenced with the IWMR to make sure all are included ,but as far as I can see the IWMR already include the Irish in non Irish regiments.Any omissions can now be included.One avenue they should look at is the 7000 with no country of birth, maybe a country of birth can now be ascertained. I,for one,am not trying to overstate the numbers of Irish casualties, I am just seeking clarity and accuracy.

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Guest

One of the posts suggested that Irishmen might be represented in numbers in the Other Arms such as the RFA etc. If we look at the Army pre-war, the Irish born were significantly under-represented in these Arms with just one small exception - the RGA. In the arms that had national identifiers at regimental level, the Irish born were slightly over represented. Across the whole Army the Irish-born were under-represented.

Within the Army, only the Line cavalry, Line Infantry and Foot Guards had Regiments that had national identities. Fortunately the Army recorded the country of birth for its recruits and tabulated them. The table below shows the numbers for 1911. I have chosen this year as we can compare the data to the 1911 Census. A few points worth noting for the Army prior to the Great War:

  • Ireland's population was roughly 4.4 million of 9.7% of the UK's population in 1911.
  • Irish born Rank and File in the Regular Army was 9.1% of All Arms - so Irish born men were slightly under-represented in the British Army
  • Breaking out the Line Cav, Line Inf and Foot Guards - regiments which have national identity - Irish born men represented 9.8% of this group i.e they were slightly over represented.
    • Note the Irish-born were under-represented within the Line Cavalry (6.1%). The over-representation was concentrated in the Line Infantry (10.2%) and Foot Guards (12.8%)
  • The Irish regiments accounted for 10.8% of all Line Cav, Line Infantry and Foot Guards by number - which mostly explains why the Irish were slightly over-represented in these Arms.
    • 17 of the 158 regular infantry battalions were Irish, representing 10.8% by number 1
    • 4 of the 28 line cavalry regiments were Irish representing 14.3% by number 2 (edited)
  • Other Arms: The Irish born were significantly under-represented in aggregate within the other Arms, however they were slightly over-represented in the RGA (11.5%) although the total numbers are less than 2,000 men.

Clearly none of this tells us anything about the expansion of the Army during the Great War or the number of 'Irish' born outside Ireland. The former is fairly easy to approximate, and the latter is simply subjective. I think it would be fair to say that pre-war the number of Irish-born in the Army fairly reflected population distribution in the UK. We know that during the expansion phase, this was not sustained. MG

1. Irish Guards (1 Battalion), Royal Irish Regiment (2), R Inniskilling Fus (2), R Irish Rifles(2), R Irish Fus(2), Leinster Regt (2), Connaught Rangers (2), R Dublin Fus (2), R Munster Fus (2). - total 17 battalions

2. 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards, 5th (IRoyal rish) Lancers, 5th (Inniskilling) Dragoons8th King's Royal Irish Hussars - total 4 Regiments

Table shows numbers by Country of Birth for the NCOs and Men on the Regimental Strength of the Regular Army in 1911. (Source: Annual Returns of the British Army)

post-55873-0-10712500-1414582849_thumb.j

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Michael Pegum

I take it that the ultimate aim of all this discussion is to come to figures for the numbers of Irish who served, and who died, in the war.

Why is it thought to be important? It will be impossible to arrive at an agreed figure, because it all stems, as several contributors have said, on what you mean by 'Irish'.

Many who live in Northern Ireland today, no matter how long their families have been there, would say that they were British, not Irish. On the other hand, many of those who served and died in the Great War, especially from the landed gentry and aristocracy in Ireland, are not considered to have been Irish by many in the south, any more than British Army children who were born in India are regarded as Indians.

This is all before the calculations about someone born in England of Irish parents, or with one Irish grandparent, or with English parents but born in Ireland, and so on and so on!

It therefore seems pointless to try to come to a figure. And if you do, so what?

Michael

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Murrough

Sorry I don't agree, any research into Ireland's involvement in the Great War is to be welcomed,further investigations may uncover previously unknown casualties,which is surely a good thing.

A more precise figure should also curb the hyperbole surrounding the figure of 49,000 which is currently wheeled out by the media ad nauseam.

I feel we would be guilty of doing a disservice to the narrative of Irish history if we did not seek to correct this confusion in the records.

As to who was Irish,surely the vast majority of people on the island would have been described as British and Irish pre 1922.

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Michael Pegum

Sorry I don't agree, any research into Ireland's involvement in the Great War is to be welcomed,further investigations may uncover previously unknown casualties,which is surely a good thing.

Of course it's a good thing, but I think that this line of research, to establish a number, is pointless.

As to who was Irish,surely the vast majority of people on the island would have been described as British and Irish pre 1922.

Described by whom? Many of the upper-class Unionists in the south of Ireland would have been described by the Nationalists as English, not Irish.

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Murrough

Sorry I don't agree, any research into Ireland's involvement in the Great War is to be welcomed,further investigations may uncover previously unknown casualties,which is surely a good thing.

Of course it's a good thing, but I think that this line of research, to establish a number, is pointless.

As to who was Irish,surely the vast majority of people on the island would have been described as British and Irish pre 1922.

Described by whom? Many of the upper-class Unionists in the south of Ireland would have been described by the Nationalists as English, not Irish.

Hardly pointless, counting casualties,tasteless as it may seem, is an important tool in further research, it is an accepted practice to count casualties to assess the impact of a conflict on a country,nation, or military unit.

Described by themselves, an Anglo/ Irish or Irish aristocrat/gentry would not describe themselves as English,(how others describe them is immaterial).

Indeed many Unionists described themselves as Irish(eg.Carson)and had no problem doing so, they joined Irish regiments in their droves, the move to identify themselves as something different came post 1922 and was accelerated by more recent history.

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Guest

Nicholas Perry wrote a lovely article; "Nationality and in the Irish Infantry Regiments in the First World War". It is a very thorough study. Published in War and Society in May 1994. For anyone interested in this subject it is essential reading. MG

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staunton

A fascinating subject on which I have some thoughts but would need to research a bit more before making definitive statements;

but for the moment; defintion of Irishness;

Ireland's Memorial records cited 49k names but listed all dead of Irish regiments and Irish born from non-Irish regiments. The Irish total is of course inflated by those non-Irish born who died serving with Irish regiments and these should be deducted from the 49k total.

The 35k total cited by Kevin Myers may be more credible and Patrick Casey's analysis of Soldiers Died in the Great War in the Irish Sword (Military History Society of Ireland) Journal also needs to be examined.

Another issue is that the source document for Officers, Officers died in the Great War does not include basic biographical data (unlike Soldiers Died in the the Great War published 2 years later in 1921). The Irish element needs to be identified - CW War Graves Commission is the easiest starting point but a defintive answer can only be provided by going through the WWI officer files at TNA Kew

Mention has also been made of the concept of Irishness, the easiest measure is of course to record whether Irish born or not but regarding the national affiliation of Irish by religious identity, compared to the situation today, in pre-partition Ireland, Protestants would have been far more likely to identify themselves as Irish (yes, even in Ulster) and Catholics would have recognised a British identity in tandem with an Irish one. I am often struck by the IRISH ethos of the Royal Irish Rifles regiment which recruited from the 2 most Protestant counties of Ireland, Antrim and Down, which were 80% Protestant in the 1911 census (eg see RIR Corkman John Lucy Devil in the Drum) I also recognise the R Inniskilling Fusiliers had a more Unionist ethos although their recruiting district was only 40% Protestant (reflecting more of a feeling of the local Protestant community being under siege as suggested by Fox's history ?)

Mention is also made of higher Irish representation in the RGA - I would suggest this is due to the presence of Special Reserve status RGA units in Cork and Antrim from which the regular establishment would have drawn recruits.

Finally, on the whole Irish Protestant-Catholic issue, it is interesting to note that while Protestants were 26% of the Irish population in 1911 Census, in 1914, they were 32% of the Irish in the British Army and therefore over represented. It would be interesting to identify where this over representation was present; as noted, the strong Irish ethos of the RIR is of interest and the issue of the Inniskillings has also been mentioned. One has to take note that the recruiting district of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers was 20% Protestant in 1911 census, partially reflecting in particular a working class element of local society which largely emigrated post Irish Free State 1922 but I suspect that this Irish Protestant over representation was reflected at the officer level and in the non Infantry arms such as cavalry...a subject well worthy of further study...

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Guest

Ireland's Memorial records cited 49k names but listed all dead of Irish regiments and Irish born from non-Irish regiments. The Irish total is of course inflated by those non-Irish born who died serving with Irish regiments and these should be deducted from the 49k total.

The 35k total cited by Kevin Myers may be more credible and Patrick Casey's analysis of Soldiers Died in the Great War in the Irish Sword (Military History Society of Ireland) Journal also needs to be examined.

Martin

Thanks for this. Do you know when the articles were published and do they have a sub-title? I see one can buy old articles.and I would like to get copies.

MG

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pgis

Hi, just a thought.

I have been reading this thread. My great uncle, Dennis Cannon, died on 21st January 1915 while serving with the Mercantile Marine. He is recorded on the CWGC website and has a CWGC headstone. He was Donegal born and bred and was returned to his townland for burial, yet he is not included in the 49,000 records. If his details were missed, goodness knows how many other Irish deaths are not recorded.

Paul.

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Murrough

Hi, just a thought.

I have been reading this thread. My great uncle, Dennis Cannon, died on 21st January 1915 while serving with the Mercantile Marine. He is recorded on the CWGC website and has a CWGC headstone. He was Donegal born and bred and was returned to his townland for burial, yet he is not included in the 49,000 records. If his details were missed, goodness knows how many other Irish deaths are not recorded.

Paul.

Hi Paul,there are probably quite a few men who are not recorded, a reexamination of the records may uncover examples like your G/U.

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staunton
Irish casualties in the first world war (Illustrated) Patrick Casey Page 193

http://www.mhsi.ie/indexes/contents_Vol20.htm Contents Vol. XX

The article appeared in The Irish Sword Summer 1997 issue number 81 - I can scan and e-mail a copy unless one can post a .pdf file here....

This was a manual hand analysis of SDGW - Kevin Myers did a similar exercise with Ireland's Memorial Records - would need to root that article out or could just put you in contact

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