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The forgotten Irish soldiers who fought for Britain in the first world


trajan

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Hey, wake-up call needed there! All articles (and even replies on GWF!) tend to be one sided!!! But they should nonetheless be accepted as the author's own view. No matter the one-sidedness (and my granddad was Irish), the story highlights the tragic destiny and fate of many who fought in the Great War. My own granddad's war experiences were far less traumatic, but even so, he found himself back at the starting point when he got back to the UK and then his marriage dissolved, then the arson attempt on his own flesh and blood, the sense of guilt in surviving...

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Sorry I was not clear. Every story is one sided as it written by the person to show the views held. I would then call this article, selective. I just do not like the article a lot missing from it.

The Irish had a rough time post both wars, there is no doubt in that.

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Most men that returned hoped it was to a better world....for most it was not

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Most men that returned hoped it was to a better world....for most it was not

How do you know what they hoped? I suspect that an awful lot, English, Irish, Welsh, Scots were simply glad to be out of it in one piece and the same old world was no more or less than they had wanted to come back to.

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Interesting article, but some inaccuracies, I see the 50,000 Irish war dead figure is still being bandied about when all authorities accept a 35,000 figure is more accurate.The history of the Great war was certainly taught in Irish schools in the 70's,and 80's when I went to school though not in any great depth,but Irish participation was noted.

It's a poor article and I suspect its for British consumption, the author overlooks the many ex British service men who were quite active for the IRA in the War of Independence and no mention is made of the many who joined the Irish Free State army during the civil war.

While many Ex service men emigrated(just like the rest of the population) many also stayed and and contributed greatly to the establishment of the new state, unfortunately these facts do not fit onto the authors narrative.

The author Miss Byrne is greatly missed on Irish TV ( I believe she took up a post overseas) for her contrarian views on all Irish political parties with the exception of the far left parties.

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I suspect that an awful lot, English, Irish, Welsh, Scots were simply glad to be out of it in one piece and the same old world was no more or less than they had wanted to come back to. Q Centurian.

A lot did not come back in one piece. Many were disabled for the rest of their lives. Not a lot of help for them. Jobs taken by women. A lot less then they had wanted to come back to.

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Is everything to do with the Great War forgotten, lost or unknown? You could be forgiven from believing that if you went by the titles of articles, TV and radio programmes, books etc being published at present.

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Another documentary something on the same theme as above , scheduled to be shown on Irish television within the next few weeks. It is interesting to note the comments following the article !.

Mick

http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/gay-byrne-reveals-his-father-s-trauma-from-first-world-war-1.1750850?fb_action_ids=707947422591366&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_ref=.U0B8hk8bCNY.like

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Yes Mick, the comments are most illuminating. :wacko:

Derek, the author Gay Byrne is a highly divisive figure in the Irish media and there are many who will always have a pop at him.He however,does himself no favours,he has in the recent past made some very disparaging remarks about the Irish participants in the War of Independence.I daresay , some of the comments are retaliation for his past utterings.

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Is everything to do with the Great War forgotten, lost or unknown? You could be forgiven from believing that if you went by the titles of articles, TV and radio programmes, books etc being published at present.

I agree with Chris' general observation about "forgotten, lost and unknown." However, the two extracts below from my book illustrates that there used to be issues in Ireland about remembering their participation in the Great War. (The year Lt Gen Gerry McMahon began his career in the Irish Defence Forces was 1953 and he was from Limerick.)

Gerry McMahon, began a forty-five year career with the Irish Defence Forces, rising to the rank of Lieutenant General and becoming Chief of Staff. He later had this to say about his education and the existence of War Memorials commemorating the dead of the First World War:

“Growing up I was never aware of the sacrifices of so many Irishmen in the Great War. It received little time in the history I learned in school except as a backdrop to the 1916 Rising and its aftermath. I was aware that there was a War Memorial in my native city but I never attended a service there. That was something British ex-servicemen sometimes did. Later on as an officer in the Defence Forces I studied the Great War from a military history perspective and although I was examining the conflict in order to extract lessons appropriate to my profession, I must admit that for the first time the enormous Irish involvement started to get through to me.”23

“I of course now also know that my loyalist equivalents in Northern Ireland had a similarly flawed educational base. They concentrated on British History and largely ignored ‘On Island’ developments except where they affected the North such as the 1641 rebellion, the Jacobite Wars and 1798. As far as the Great War was concerned it was the sons of Ulster who fought on the Somme. The majority of those who fought there and who were Catholic nationalists were conveniently forgotten as they undermined the concept of the purely loyalist sacrifice.”28

Carole

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Hi guys, I wrote the article about Gay Byrne in Saturday's Irish Times which can be read here

http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/gay-byrne-reveals-his-father-s-trauma-from-first-world-war-1.1750850 and http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/gay-byrne-my-father-and-the-first-world-war-1.1750684

Predictable reactions from the usual sources. I have seen the documentary and it's a great piece of television.

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Hi guys, I wrote the article about Gay Byrne in Saturday's Irish Times which can be read here

http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/gay-byrne-reveals-his-father-s-trauma-from-first-world-war-1.1750850 and http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/gay-byrne-my-father-and-the-first-world-war-1.1750684

Predictable reactions from the usual sources. I have seen the documentary and it's a great piece of television.

Looking forward to the programme, Gay did a great interview in the 80/90's with a veteran of the Dublin Fusiliers. link here

http://www.rte.ie/archives/exhibitions/1011-ireland-and-the-great-war/1014-trench-life/315259-jack-campbell-life-in-the-trench/

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It's a poor article and I suspect its for British consumption, the author overlooks the many ex British service men who were quite active for the IRA in the War of Independence and no mention is made of the many who joined the Irish Free State army during the civil war.

Murrough - It is interesting that there are such different perspectives. My interpretation of the article was that it emphasised how Irishmen who fought in the Great War were 'forgotten' by their own Government rather than the British Government. It may have been targeted at a British audience (having been written in a British national newspaper) but I cant help think that the 'story' of the 'forgotten' was equally directed at an Irish audience too. The author has been rather selective with the facts (as already pointed out).

There seems to be a genre of authors (publishers?) who seem to feel it is necessary to sensationalise rather normal stories from the Great War. Journalists appear to be no exception. Sadly many of these articles provide little context or balance so we are left with the impression these stories were exceptional within the framework of the Great War. The layperson reading this article would be forgiven from thinking the Irish contribution was disproportionately large, the Irish Div casualties were exceptionally large and Irish soldiery 'forgotten' more than others. If they were 'forgotten' I wonder why there are at least a dozen books on the Irish in the Great War. They are all fascinating reads and reasonably well researched which might suggest the idea they have been 'forgotten' is itself a myth. The experiences of Irishmen in the Great War most certainly has not been forgotten.

It seems that people are generally surprised that the Great War did not carry as much emphasis as the Easter Rising and the post-war creation of the Irish Free State in Irish history lessons. As an outsider looking in, it would seem completely appropriate that a nation would concentrate on the history of its own creation breaking free from British dominance rather than its contribution to the Great War. For reasons that are well understood the catch-all 'Irish contribution' largely skates over the fact that there were two polarised communities in pre War Ireland whose motivation during the Great War were rather different.

MG

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As part of a particular project I am involved in, every casualty in Ruvigny's Roll of Honour was to be scanned for an Irish connection. I expected there to be a huge Irish count. In the end there was only 902 Irishmen in it. However, one thing became crystal clear, for every Irishman in it there were 20 times more Scottish lads. I was expecting a much higher Irish count, even against the Scots but it is what it is. It would be interesting to see the exact numbers if De Ruvigny's was scanned for the Scots lads and compare against the Irish.

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Murrough - It is interesting that there are such different perspectives. My interpretation of the article was that it emphasised how Irishmen who fought in the Great War were 'forgotten' by their own Government rather than the British Government. It may have been targeted at a British audience (having been written in a British national newspaper) but I cant help think that the 'story' of the 'forgotten' was equally directed at an Irish audience too. The author has been rather selective with the facts (as already pointed out).

There seems to be a genre of authors (publishers?) who seem to feel it is necessary to sensationalise rather normal stories from the Great War. Journalists appear to be no exception. Sadly many of these articles provide little context or balance so we are left with the impression these stories were exceptional within the framework of the Great War. The layperson reading this article would be forgiven from thinking the Irish contribution was disproportionately large, the Irish Div casualties were exceptionally large and Irish soldiery 'forgotten' more than others. If they were 'forgotten' I wonder why there are at least a dozen books on the Irish in the Great War. They are all fascinating reads and reasonably well researched which might suggest the idea they have been 'forgotten' is itself a myth. The experiences of Irishmen in the Great War most certainly has not been forgotten.

It is seems that people are generally surprised that the Great War did not carry as much emphasis as the Easter Rising and the post-war creation of the Irish Free State in Irish history lessons. As an outsider looking in, it would seem completely appropriate that a nation would concentrate on the history of its own creation breaking free from British dominance rather than its contribution to the Great War. For reasons that are well understood the catch-all 'Irish contribution' largely skates over the fact that there were two polarised communities in pre War Ireland whose motivation during the Great War were rather different.

MG

A very balanced and insightful analysis.

Over the past few years I don't think the Irish Great War contribution is as "forgotten" as many media reports imply. It's a journalistic trope that's regularly wheeled out to fill a paragraph.

Having serveral times attended the Islandbridge commemoration in Dublin, I can attest to the huge numbers there - of all faiths and traditions.

Dave

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What has been forgotten is the large scale manning of the munitions factories by itinerant Irish labour. In its most distilled form, warfare is a process of two groups harnessing vast amounts of energy and delivering it to each other for free. This process required the ability to harness energy (factories) and then deliver (Armed Forces) the energy. Without the former the latter would be rather inert. For parts of the Great War it really didn't matter how many Divisions the British put in the line as there simply was not enough ammunition to keep them supplied. Irishmen were free to fill the void in the ranks of factory workers left behind by volunteers and (later) conscripts in Britain's industrial heartlands. This was discussed in Parliament in 1916 when it became particularly sensitive after conscription was introduced which exempted Irishmen.

Unfortunately the idea of Irishmen working in their tens of thousands in British factories supplying the means to conduct warfare does not exactly fit the media's hero-romantic agenda. In the eyes of the media an Irishman working double shifts in a shell-factory appears to have a different value for myth-builders than a dead Irish soldier. The media seems obsessed with fatal casualties as the only way of measuring a nation's contribution viz the stats on the 16th Irish Div*. When the stats don't quite fit the agenda the default position appears to be to make them up.

MG

* To illustrate just how this journalist has carefully positioned facts in isolation in order to fit an agenda consider this: Of the 30 New Army Divisions in the Great War the 16th Irish Div had less than average losses measured as total losses and casualties per month on active service. Both the 16th Irish and 10th Irish Divs were in the lower third of the casualties by Division. When one considers the massive dilution of the Irish national characteristics of both Divisions and their manning in significant proportions by non-Irish, particularly in 1917 and 1918 this rather undermines some of the mythology. [source for stats: Official Histories: Order of Battle]

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There seems to be a genre of authors (publishers?) who seem to feel it is necessary to sensationalise rather normal stories from the Great War. Journalists appear to be no exception. Sadly many of these articles provide little context or balance so we are left with the impression these stories were exceptional within the framework of the Great War. The layperson reading this article would be forgiven from thinking the Irish contribution was disproportionately large, the Irish Div casualties were exceptionally large and Irish soldiery 'forgotten' more than others. If they were 'forgotten' I wonder why there are at least a dozen books on the Irish in the Great War. They are all fascinating reads and reasonably well researched which might suggest the idea they have been 'forgotten' is itself a myth. The experiences of Irishmen in the Great War most certainly has not been forgotten.

I

MG

Very true Martin,and in these years of Centenary,we can expect more of the same, the authors narrative concerning her G/F should not be seen as a definitve template that encompasses the Irish soldiers experience,during and after the Great War.

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