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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

MARTIN DOYLE VC MM


Ken Devitt

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We know he was a war hero. We are told he was an intellegence officer for the IRA and yet he is buried in a British Military Cemetery. Could he have been a double agent? Does anyone have any hard facts on this enigamitic Wexford man.

Your ever informed contributions would be much appreciated.

Ken Devitt

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I don't know a great deal about him to be honest, but I doubt very much he was a double agent.

I'm surprised to see his old rank and unit mentioned on his headstone as, after being an intelligence officer for the West Clare Brigade of the IRA, he became a commissioned officer in the new Irish Army. I'd have thought it was this that would have been listed.

Dave.

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This link says a little about him and another I found does confirm he was an Intel officer the the West Clare brigade, IRA

As Dave says this does seem strange that he he is buired under his old army designation!

regards

Arm.

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I don't know a great deal about him to be honest, but I doubt very much he was a double agent.

I'm surprised to see his old rank and unit mentioned on his headstone as, after being an intelligence officer for the West Clare Brigade of the IRA, he became a commissioned officer in the new Irish Army. I'd have thought it was this that would have been listed.

Dave.

Yes Dave, thats what confuses me. Perhaps he missed the excitement of war and wanted a little more action? He was recognised by the Irish Government as being an IRA man. Perhaps, like a large number of men who became involved in the "struggle" became dissilusioned at a later stage. It still does not answer the question as to why a man so committed to a cause, for no apparent reason totally renages upon it.

ken

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If he took a commission in the new Free State army, then he would have been one of the more "moderate" faction who accepted the partition agreement and, basically, the leadership of Michael Collins, rather than the faction committed to a 32 country republic who bore arms against the Free State government in the civil war following partition.

He died in 1940 and, as far as I know by then the CWGC was not burying WWI veterans and the British Army was certainly not conducting military funerals in the Free State!

I would say that either he or his family elected to have a headstone made in the style of a CWGC headstone. It may be uncommon for a former IRA man, but there are plenty of other examples of this elsewhere.

One oddity is that the stone shows a standard large cross containing the Munsters badge, rather than a VC emblem in place of the standard cross, as you would expect via the CWGC.

Why? Without research, we can only speculate.

See:

http://www.homeusers.prestel.co.uk/stewart/dublin.htm

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If he took a commission in the new Free State army, then he would have been one of the more "moderate" faction who accepted the partition agreement and, basically, the leadership of Michael Collins, rather than the faction committed to a 32 country republic who bore arms against the Free State government in the civil war following partition.

He died in 1940 and, as far as I know by then the CWGC was not burying WWI veterans and the British Army was certainly not conducting military funerals in the Free State!

I would say that either he or his family elected to have a headstone made in the style of a CWGC headstone. It may be uncommon for a former IRA man, but there are plenty of other examples of this elsewhere.

One oddity is that the stone shows a standard large cross containing the Munsters badge, rather than a VC emblem in place of the standard cross, as you would expect via the CWGC.

Why? Without research, we can only speculate.

Thanks Angie,

The headstone was erected by his comrades in the regiment. Knowing the thinking of the "lads" in the volunteers, it is more than surprising that "one of their own" was not buried in a republican plot. One could speculate to ones heart content, however, many ex servicemen were -at least- intimidated after the war. Perhaps Martin was being sensible in his actions. I think he deserves further research.

Ken

See:

http://www.homeusers.prestel.co.uk/stewart/dublin.htm

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Martin Doyle attended the VC renuinon dinner 9.11.29 in the Royal Gallery, House of Lords, Palace of Westminister.

Now if he was an intellegence officer for the IRA, what the hell was he doing at such a reception?

Perhaps he was infiltrating the menu for Lobster Thermodore for the Irish Free State!

Ken

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Old adversaries new friends?

Look at the NI situation now.

regards

Arm

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Old adversaries new friends?

Look at the NI situation now.

regards

Arm

Old friends, new adversaries and old friends again. Now that is my problem.

Look beyond what seems the obvious. Therin lies a little bit of truth.

Ken

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Martin Doyle attended the VC renuinon dinner 9.11.29 in the Royal Gallery, House of Lords, Palace of Westminister.

Now if he was an intellegence officer for the IRA, what the hell was he doing at such a reception?

Perhaps he was infiltrating the menu for Lobster Thermodore for the Irish Free State!

Ken

I think you are missing the point. As I read it, he would only have been an IRA member in the period before the treaty, because he was then commissioned in the Free State army. Thus, he became one of the "good guys", just like Michael Collins, whose final incarnation was as a Free State general.

Or are you suggesting that he was an agent for the repiublican faction which opposed the Free State government? In other words, a spy? If so, he would hardly have had this printed on his calling cards!

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Take another look at the headstone, especially the shape of the top of the stone, it is curved. It is not a standard CWGC shape, and being 1940 is well outside their remit for Great War.

It would therefore appear to be reasonable to consider that the stone was requested by the family, and as he was awarded the VC & MM when with the Munsters, then that was the crest to be used, why the VC crest was not used is another issue.

Also, dont forget many Irishmen answered the call to help "poor little Belgium" a prime example being Willie Redmond.

As for attending a VC reunion, why not, be it in the Palace of Westminster or the Palace Chipshop. These men were in a class of their own, and would have a feeling of belonging, that we cannot, and I suspect never will, fathom.

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I think you are missing the point. As I read it, he would only have been an IRA member in the period before the treaty, because he was then commissioned in the Free State army. Thus, he became one of the "good guys", just like Michael Collins, whose final incarnation was as a Free State general.

Or are you suggesting that he was an agent for the repiublican faction which opposed the Free State government? In other words, a spy? If so, he would hardly have had this printed on his calling cards!

There was no Free State Army prior to 1922, just IRA. And what I was suggesting was that he was still working for the British Army, despite the fact that he was supposed to be an intelligence officer for the IRA. When ex army men such as Tom Barry and Emmet Dalton turned, they remained so and were rewarded with legend, but not so in this case.

Thanks for the interest,

Ken

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Take another look at the headstone, especially the shape of the top of the stone, it is curved.  It is not a standard CWGC shape, and being 1940 is well outside their remit for Great War.

It would therefore appear to be reasonable to consider that the stone was requested by the family, and as he was awarded the VC & MM when with the Munsters, then that was the crest to be used, why the VC crest was not used is another issue.

Also, dont forget many Irishmen answered the call to help "poor little Belgium" a prime example being Willie Redmond.

As for attending a VC reunion, why not, be it in the Palace of Westminster or the Palace Chipshop.  These men were in a class of their own, and would have a feeling of belonging, that we cannot, and I suspect never will, fathom.

Bear in mind Martin Doyle was a volunteer as were all Irishmen. His reason for doing so is neither here nor there. There are too many reasons why they did so.

If as you state they would have had a feeling of belonging, then why on earth would a man of his standing have betrayed men;possibly of his own regiment and then return to the fold. Propaganda is nothing new to the IRA and I am certain they would have made the most of the name Martin Doyle, and yet so little is about him. If you look at the botom of the headstone you will see it was erected by his old comrades in the regiment.

Thanks for the interest,

Ken

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Perhaps his old comrades did not care what he did in the IRA, all they cared was how he was when he stood shoulder to shoulder in the trnches with them?

Cant buy a double agent type scenario.

I am not sure the IRA or perhaps the Frre state may not have wanted to make much of a 'British' hero. The VC would have been to the IRA an enemy decoration.

regards

Arm

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Perhaps his old comrades did not care what he did in the IRA, all they cared was how he was when he stood shoulder to shoulder in the trnches with them?

Cant buy a double agent type scenario.

I am not sure the IRA or perhaps the Frre state may not have wanted to make much of a 'British' hero. The VC would have been to the IRA an enemy decoration.

regards

Arm

They were not just "British" heroes, they were Irish heroes in the minds of the Irish. This was reflected in his homecoming in New Ross.

I suppose ending up as a security man in the Guinness Brewery he felt somewhat disillusioned, which would concur with your initial statement. Many ex servicemen worked for Guinness after the war.

Ken

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They were not just "British" heroes, they were Irish heroes in the minds of the Irish. This was reflected in his homecoming in New Ross.

I suppose ending up as a security man in the Guinness Brewery he felt somewhat disillusioned, which would concur with your initial statement. Many ex servicemen worked for Guinness after the war.

Ken

Would after all the troubles and the rise of the IRA still have been looked upon as Irish heroes. How were returning Irish soldiers looked upon by those that had opposed the British from say 1916? It is something I have always wondered.

regards

Arm

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Would after all the troubles and the rise of the IRA still have been looked upon as Irish heroes. How were returning Irish soldiers looked upon by those that had opposed the British from say 1916? It is something I have always wondered.

regards

Arm

Very good question and I'm glad you asked me that.

Yes, they were initially considered national heroes. However, as with most new regiemes, most if not all, were simply forgotten. And so my initial enquiry.

In 1917 my grandfather James Keogh (6th Dublin Fusiliers) walked behind his young wife's coffin, holding my mother's and uncle's hands into the local parish church. The priest refused him entry because he was in British Army uniform. The executions of 1916 had taken place and attitudes amongst some of the population had changed.

The next time he entered a church was 1957, the day of his funeral.

Thanks for your interest,

Ken

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He won the VC. He IS a hero. I do not give a toss how the IRA, (Official or Provisional or Real), Irish Free State or indeed the British think of him.

Courage is independant of the motive which inspires it.

There is PURE courage

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He won the VC. He IS a hero. I do not give a toss how the IRA, (Official or Provisional or Real), Irish Free State or indeed the British think of him.

Courage is independant of the motive which inspires it.

There is PURE courage

Yes Chris, I agree totally with your sentiments. But I do give a toss and that is why I am asking the questions. After all this time of amnesia, the Irish are now only asking the questions.

Ken

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There was no Free State Army prior to 1922, just IRA. And what I was suggesting was that he was still working for the British Army, despite the fact that he was supposed to be an intelligence officer for the IRA. When ex army men such as Tom Barry and Emmet Dalton turned, they remained so and were rewarded with legend, but not so in this case.

Thanks for the interest,

Ken

I know there was no Free State army before 1922, but my point is that once he joined it he effectively broke with the rump IRA which remained in being as treaty opponents.

If he was working for the British before 1922 while passing intelligence to the IRA, then he was obviously an effectice intelligence officer.

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He won the VC. He IS a hero. I do not give a toss how the IRA, (Official or Provisional or Real), Irish Free State or indeed the British think of him.

Courage is independant of the motive which inspires it.

I agree that Doyle was a hero and that nothing he did or believed later in life detracts from that.

But I would dispute that courage is independent of motives. Courage has to exist in a moral framework. Otherwise you could say that today's suicide bombers are heroes, whereas most Muslims would say they are motivated by hatred, and possibly by a selfish desire to fast-track to some paradise. I can't think of an occasion where a VC was awarded to someone who merely wanted to kill as many enemy as possible; they were [are] awarded for an attempt to turn round a difficult situation in a battle vital to the Cause, or to rescue or support comrades. In the case of the Germans, even if we believe their Cause was wrong, they saw themselves as fighting for their country or supporting their comrades, which gives the moral framework necessary to say it was possible for a German to be a hero.

Doyle would have risked the disapproval of his former comrades by associating with the IRA, and the disapproval of the IRA by associating with the Free State: this took moral courage (and physical courage also judging by what happened to Collins).

Adrian

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Courage is no recogniser of sides. One man terrorist is another mans freedom fighter.

The dictum, history is written by the victor is very true

regards

Arm

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  • 2 years later...

I know this is an old thread but I thought the following from one of the Irish Genealogy lists might be of interest :

Martin DOYLE, an Irish soldier who won the Victoria Cross, the

highest British award for gallantry in battle, is unlikely to be remembered

with total pride in British military annuals. After returning home a hero

from the Great War in France, where he also won the Military Medal, he threw

in his lot with the national struggle for freedom in 1920 and spent the next

few years fighting the Crown forces in Ireland. With the ending of the War

of Independence he signed up with the new Free State army and saw more

action in the Civil war that followed the treaty. When peace came again he

continued to serve in the Irish army, ending his career in Dublin's McKee

Barracks in 1937.

Per article by Hilary MURPHY (with photo of Martin DOYLE w/ King George V

and Queen Mary at Buckingham Palace) in the 1994 #4 issue of "Irish Roots"

magazine published in Cork, the man with this distinguished and chequered

military career was born in Gusserane, in the New Ross District of Co.

Wexford. His father, Larry DOYLE, worked on the land to make a modest

living. When Martin was a boy the family moved into New Ross town. After

leaving school, he worked with a local farmer, but on St. Stephen's Day 1909

he went to Kilkenny and joined the Royal Irish Regiment largely

recruited from Cos. Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford and Tipperary - claiming to

be 17 though two years younger. Showing a propensity for soldiering, after

an initial stint of home service he was drafted to India where he advanced

himself, attending night classes and courses whenever possible. Good at

sports, he became the Regimental novice lightweight champion in 1913.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 DOYLE was called home with his regiment. In

December (now serving with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers), he was posted in

France and was soon in the thick of the fighting. His leadership was soon

recognised and he was promoted to Sergeant in 1915. He was one of the lucky

ones to survive the slaughter at Mons. Martin rose though the ranks to

Company Sergeant-Major, and transferred to the 1st Battalion, Royal Munster

Fusiliers CSM DOYLE won his first medal for bravery, the Military Medal, 24

March 1918, while serving at Hattenfield in France.

His unit was in reserve when the front-line troops were driven back by the

Germans. Called in to restore the situation, the Munsters recaptured

Hattenfield and then advanced towards the trenches outside the town.

Skirmishing with the enemy they soon came under sustained, deadly

machine-gun fire from a derelict barn situated in a 'no-man's-land' between

them and the Germans, a mere 40 yards away. Calling for volunteers, DOYLE

led a bayonet charge on the barn. Reaching it alone, he routed the Germans,

seized the machine-gun and took possession of the barn. Some time later he

was captured by the enemy - although roughly treated, he was released by a

successful counter-attack by his regiment.

The Wexford soldier was to display even greater bravery six months later.

Near Riencourt on 2 Sept. 1918, he became a select band of Irishmen (29 in

the course of WWI) to merit the Victoria cross for 'conspicuous bravery.'

The official announcement: 'When command of the company devolved upon him

consequent upon officer casualties, and observing that some of his men were

surrounded the enemy, he led a party to their assistance, and by skilled

leadership worked his way along the trenches, killed several of the enemy

and extricated the party and carried back, under heavy fire, a wounded

officer to a place of safey. Later seeing a tank in difficulties, he rushed

forward again under intense fire, routed the German troops, who were

attempting to commandeer it, and prevented the advance of another German

party. A German machine gun now opened fire on the tank at close range,

rendering it impossible to get the wounded away, whereupon DOYLE, with great

gallantry, rushed forward, and single-handed silenced the machine gun,

capturing it with three prisoners. He then carried a wounded man to safety

under very heavy fire. Later in the day when the enemy counterattacked his

position, he showed great power of command, driving back the enemy and

capturing many prisoners. Throughout the whole of these operations, DOYLE

set the very highest example to all ranks by his courage and total disregard

of danger.'

After the war ended, Martin DOYLE was welcomed on his arrival in his home

town of New Ross in March 1919. His proud parents and a large crowd of

soldiers, townspeople greeted him at the railway station: The local

newspaper reported - 'The meeting between the young hero and his aged

parents was very touching: going straight to his mother and father he

embraced them. He was escorted to his home in Mary Street amidst a scene of

great enthusiasm. As they approached the Royal Hotel a trumpeter standing on

the steps sounded a stirring bugle call which evoked ringing cheers. There

was a profusion of decorations in the town along with scrolls bearing words

of welcome to the New Ross hero.'

Then came the day when Martin went to Buckingham Palace in London to be

decorated with the Victoria Cross and Military Medal by King George V. He

was the only Irishman among the five recipients of the VC that day, together

with two Englishmen and two Scotsmen. A bright future lay ahead of him in

the British army with the promise of a commission but the Wexford man had

very different ideas that would have been anathema to the King and his

military authorities. He retired from the British army in July 1919 and

joined the IRA when the Irish War of Independence was at its height. He

became an intelligence officer in the Mid-Clare Brigade, and was active

throughout 1920 and 1921 in Ennis. On at least one occasion he was under

such suspicion that he considered taking to the hills with his rifle. On

another occasion he went to Kilrush on a mission and, due to faulty

information, he almost fell into a trap. During the Civil War he served with

the Free State Army in Waterford, Kilkenny and South Tipperary. He was

wounded in the left arm in Limerick in early 1923. After the Civil War ended

he was posted back to his home town of New Ross for a spell. When he retired

from the Irish army in 1937, now married with three daughters, he took up

pensionable employment in the Guinness Brewery as a security officer. The

army authorities were very reluctant to let him go. He was described as 'an

excellent NCO, a very good Vickers machine gun and rifle instructor, and

someone who could not be replaced without serious inconvenience to the

service.' Not totally severing his army links, he spent a further year and a

half in the 2nd Batallion Regiment of Dublin Army Reserve. Having spent 9

years 5 months in the British army service, 2 years in the Old IRA, 15 years

5 months in the regular Irish army, he hung up his uniform on 25 Jan 1939,

just as new war clouds were threatening. Sadly, he was not destined to enjoy

his hard-earned retirement. Stricken with polio, he died 20 Nov 1940, in Sir

Patrick Dun's Hospital, Dublin, at 46. This great but little remembered

Irish soldier rests in peace in Grangegorman British military burial place,

off Blackhorse Ave., near McKee Barracks, Dublin, under a headstone erected

by his old comrades in the regiment.

Additional Info :

VC winners including CSM Doyle were to form an Honour Guard for the Unknown Soldier in 1920

http://www.victoriacross.org.uk/aaunksol.htm

A photo of CSM Doyle is online at

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?p...mp;GRid=7746082

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Very good question and I'm glad you asked me that.

Yes, they were initially considered national heroes. However, as with most new regiemes, most if not all, were simply forgotten. And so my initial enquiry.

In 1917 my grandfather James Keogh (6th Dublin Fusiliers) walked behind his young wife's coffin, holding my mother's and uncle's hands into the local parish church. The priest refused him entry because he was in British Army uniform. The executions of 1916 had taken place and attitudes amongst some of the population had changed.

The next time he entered a church was 1957, the day of his funeral.

Thanks for your interest,

Ken

ken, reading your posts with interest. i actually viewed martin doyles grave while i was in dublin in march for my own grandfathers 50th annerversary. he was also in the 6th batt rdf. he was cqms william mangan. do you have any war diary information that i could read up on. by the way whats the idea of the cordon off / fence area in grangegorman in which martin doyles grave is situated in, anything special or just extra space being used . cheers, mike.

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