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The Catholic Irish Soldier in the First World War

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For anyone interested in the Irish and the Great War this is an interesting read.

 

The Catholic Irish Soldier in the First World War: the Racial Environment

 

The author is Terence Denham who wrote Ireland's Unknown Soldiers: the 16th (Irish) Division in the Great War, probaly one of the best books on the Irish in the Great War. The link is to the Cambridge Univ website and is a free download.The final paragraph from the article::

 

"The Irish soldier, particularly the Catholic Irish soldier, came from a society very different in social, religious and economic terms from the rest of the British Isles, and one with a unique historical development and culture. It would be surprising, therefore, if there were not particular characteristics which distinguished Catholic Irish soldiers. However, out of a variety of motives, these differences were drawn attention to and exaggerated in a way that usually reflected badly on the Irish soldier. Feilding observed that 'people are apt to criticise Irish troops perhaps more than others'. The Irish soldier was too frequently portrayed as excitable, gullible and incorrigibly ill-disciplined. This contributed to the patronising or hostile attitudes which formations such as the 16th Division met on the western front. Sadly, it was often Irish writers who helped cultivate this image. As John Staniforth wrote on Saint Patrick's day 1918 of MacDonagh: 'The Irish on the Somme is a silly book. He tries to keep up the old stage-Irish tradition. Where would we be if we were really fire-eating mountebanks like that?' The Catholic Irish soldier in the First World War clearly deserved better, both from his countrymen and the army he served so well."

 

Staniforth's reference to The Irish on the Somme can be followed up here: The Irish on The Somme from Archive.org.

Edited by Guest

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hazelclark

Thanks for this.  I have been very busy of late and have not been on the Forum but have been reading about the Irish situation and have been trying to understand it all.

Hazel C.

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