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WWI “On War Service" lapel badges in Dublin


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Hi Folks

 

Below is a query I have received from a chap on the above subject, being a fairly recent blowin, I'm not able to help and just wondered if anyone on here had any knowledge/info on the subject?

 

I am enquiring whether someone in Dublin Western Front Association might be a position to give me a steer me on the use of “On War Service" lapel badges in Dublin during World War One. I am a local historian in Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin and I am carrying out a piece of research on the use of these badges in Dublin during this period.

 

The background to my enquiry is that I am doing some local history research on the Soldiers' and Sailors' Refreshment Buffet at Kingstown Harbour (now Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin) during WWI and arising from this the use of "On War Service" lapel badges generally in Dublin at the time. The Buffet was established by volunteers from the Irish Automobile Club and in the photographs of the buffet many of the volunteers are wearing lapel badges. The Imperial War Museum in London has in its collection a lapel badge which says “Soldiers and Sailors Refreshment Buffet - Irish Automobile Club”. I have been in contact with the Archivist of the Royal Irish Automobile Club who informs me that the club does have not this badge in its archive. Interestingly the club received the Royal designation after WWI arising from the contribution of its volunteers during the war.

 

I have an interest in "On War Service" badges generally since a visit to the Imperial War Museum earlier this year. In the UK they were issued initially by employers and subsequently by the Ministry of Munitions to eligible men who had not volunteered for military service as they were in protected civilian occupations necessary for the war effort. The purpose of the badges was deflect any public animosity to them for not volunteering by those who might call them “shirkers and slackers” and in particular from the “White Feather” movement. The issue lessened after the introduction of conscription in 1916. On the UK mainland, over 1.3 million "On War Service" lapel badges were issued

 

"On War Service" lapel badges were also issued in Dublin during WWI and a member of my historical society has a photocopy of badges issued in connection with the soldiers' and sailors' recreation clubs and refreshment buffets which existed at the time. These badges are very rare as the same member who has been going to auctions in connection with historical material for over forty years has never seen one for sale as he would have bought it! 

 

The question arises for me as to what was the motivation to issue and wear these badges in Dublin. Did it have its origins for the same reason in the UK - indicating serving the war effort through working in protected civilian occupations and a counter to the “White Feather” movement, if such existed in Dublin at the time? Or maybe there was a different motivation because as far as I can establish these badges were issued in Dublin in connection with soldiers’ and sailors’ recreation clubs and refreshment buffets which existed around the city during WWI rather than for protected occupations? Perhaps the volunteers were saying to each other and others I am doing my bit for the war effort and less about having to justify why they had not signed up to serve? Interestingly the photographs I have seen of the volunteers at the Kingstown buffet would suggest that their age would have made them ineligible to sign up for military service, never mind be conscripted if it had been introduced in Ireland during WWI.

 

 

Regards

 

IanC

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Ian, British/Irish relations are obviously a somewhat sensitive topic, however you make several references to the UK as if this didn't (at the time) include Ireland. You are surely aware that hundreds of thousands of Irishmen volunteered to serve in the Irish regiments of the British army at the outbreak of the Great War, and the general feeling of the population (up until the time of the Easter Rising) was hugely supportive of the war against Germany and the central powers (e.g. John. Redmond's call). Obviously attitudes changed during the course of the war, but during 1914 to 1916 period many/most citizens would have been pround to wear the 'on war srvice badge'.

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Hi KizmeRD

As an Englishman married into an Irish family and now living in Ireland, and Chairman of the Dublin WFA, I am aware of all you say. However, if you read my post you will see in the first paragraph I say that below is a query I have received, the following five paragraphs are the query exactly as I received it and not my words.

 

Regards

 

IanC

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Sorry Ian, I wasn't trying to make a political point or trying to teach you how to suck eggs - only trying to say that we need to judge people's actions and motivations according to the conditions and influences that were real to them at the time that they were alive. Atempting to understand anying that hapened in the past according to the prevailing attitudes of our own times is unhelpful,and unsatisfactry. Indeed, questions of identity and loyalty are complex issues and shifts in political thinking can occur quite suddenly (as Brexit proves).

Irish home rule was only put on pause because of the onset of the war. Even moderate Irish nationalists in 1914 were happy to lend support to a Continental war in aid of a small and relatively young independent country, such as Belgium was, in the face of aggression from a larger and more powerful country having Imperialist ambitions, such as Germany was (at that particular time). The cause of the war, as put forwad in the press, was fairly easy for any Irishman to get behind. In fact even some extreme republicans, such as Erskine Childers, were not slow in joining-up.

Therefore, as far as I can tell, there doesn't appear to have been a reluctance (or a lack of pride) to be involved in war service in general (whether this was young Irishmen actively serving in the army or the navy, or others doing their bit in a civilian capacity). As you know, the hey-day of the appeal of the 'on war service' badges lasted up until the introduction of compulsory conscription on the UK mainland in 1916 (which incidently also coincided with other highly significant events happening in Ireland - and those events probably lead to a diminuation of the attractiveness of wearing such badges on the part of some, but not all) 

In conclusion therefore, I believe that the motivation for people wearing 'on war service' badges at the time were broadly similar, whether they were living on the island of Ireland, or on the UK mainland. Unfortunately we can no longer quiz any of our living relatives concerning their personal motivation and feelings, so therefore we are forced to to rely on secondary sources (which tend to be better at describing events than what was actually going on inside people's minds).

 

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Just a follow-up point, Ian, you might want to point out too to your local historian that it wasn't just a few dozen well minded individuals dishing out refreshments who could claim they were involved in war service. Many thousands of Irish people (mostly women) were also working in the munitions factories and therefore very actively engaged in essential war service.

Michael

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The Soldiers and Sailors (Free) Refreshment Buffet provided sustenance to millions of servicemen and needed donations from private firms and the general public to keep going.

 

The badge would have shown that the wearer was a member of a legitimate organisation when he/she was out and about fundraising.

 

The following may be of interest:

1.  https://blog.maryevans.com/2015/12/buffets-for-the-buffeted-tea-trains-comfort-for-soldiers-sailors-a-century-ago.html

2.  https://preston1914.wordpress.com/the-soldiers-and-sailors-free-buffet-a-pamphlet-2/

 

JP

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  • 1 month later...

Supposedly a pic of ladies at the Parkgate National Shell Factory, Dublin with On War Service badges. Date 1914 added but the Shell Factory didn't open until 1916.

 

OnWarService.jpg.19508faaed03301aaa8c0ef886a0e67d.jpg 

 

 

the book "The Impact of World War One on Limerick" suggests that factories involved in war production were issued badges by the Ministry of Munitions to give to their employees, to be returned if they left that employment. Reference NAI CSORP 6450, 1916 suggesting there is some documentation in the Chief Secretary papers with the National Archives Ireland.

 

 

 

 

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