On Anzac Day on 25 April last, and I went along to the annual Anzac Dawn Service in Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin hosted by the Australian Embassy in Ireland.
The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) troops first landed on the beaches of the Gallipoli Peninsula, in Turkey on 25 April 1915. This was the first significant military action undertaken by ANZACs. They suffered heavy casualties in a campaign that overall cost the lives of 131,000, with 11,488 being ANZAC. On this date each year Australia and New Zealand remember all those who died in the service of their countries in all wars and in peacetime. This remembrance traditionally takes place at dawn.
It was an early rise to be at Grangegorman Military Cemetery by 6.20. A.M. The weather forecast promised low temperatures and rain, but it turned out to be a relatively balmy, dry morning! On arrival, we were presented with a programme and a sprig of Rosemary. Rosemary grows wild all over Gallipoli, it is a symbol of remembrance. and is traditionally worn for Anzac Day.
An introduction was given by the Australian Ambassador Mr Richard Andrews. The service was lead by Father Séamus Madigan, the head chaplain of the Irish Defence Forces. The newly arrived New Zealand Ambassador, Mr Brad Burgess, remembered those brutally murdered in Christchurch, and read from Homecoming – Te Hokinga Mai by New Zealand poet, Vincent O’Sullivan. (His father was born in Tralee Co.Kerry) Atatürk’s Epilogue was read by the Turkish Ambassador to Ireland, Mr Levent Murat Burhan. Such poignant words, penned by the former Field Marshall who masterminded the Ottoman Turkish victory at Gallipoli. (He later went on to become the first President of the Republic of Turkey.)
Wreaths were laid by the Ambassadors, Representatives of the Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces and members of the Diplomatic Corps and others. It was hard to keep a dry eye as the harpist, Ms Anne Tuite, played the air of ‘The Green Fields of France‘ during the wreath laying.
Ten WW1 ANZACs are buried here in Grangegorman Military Cemetery. Astonishingly, six of them were returning from leave in Ireland aboard the mailboat, RMS Leinster, when she was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-Boat on October 10 1918. The remainder were either on leave and became ill, or on medical leave here and died in hospital.
Those buried here are
2nd Lt Henry Thomas Doyle aged 27 from Otahuhu, New Zealand, died at sinking of RMS Leinster Oct 1918.
Lance Crpl Peter Freitas, an Australian from Guildford, Sydney who served with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, died at sinking of RMS Leinster.
Pte John Quinn of Wellington, New Zealand died from illness 6 Nov 1918.
Pte George Bardon aged 26 from Tablelands, Queensland, became ill when visiting relatives in Dublin and died 13 October 2018.
Pte Joseph Thomas Barnes, 37, Peyneham, South Australia, returning from convalescent leave in Ireland, died on RMS Leinster.
Pte Charles Michael Byrne of Nagambie, in the Goulburn Valley in Victoria died of pneumonia 4 November 1918.
Pte Edwin Johnson Carter Warrnambool, Victoria, returning from convalescent leave, died at sinking of RMS Leinster 10 October 1918.
Pte Joseph Gratton, who had visited a cousin in Ireland died at sinking of RMS Leinster.
Pte Arthur Andrew Murphy, became ill while visiting Ireland and died 2 June 1918.
Pte Michael Ernest Smith, from Cobar had enlisted in Sydney, was wounded at the Battle of the Somme was returning from convalescent leave and died on board the RMS Leinster.
A beautiful installation for Anzac Day came from Rostrevor Men’s Shed and Kilbroney Parish Church who brought along their perspex soldiers, originally used for their Ghost Tommy project. These bore the names of other ANZACs buried elsewhere in Ireland.
Here too was a tribute to Nurse Winifred Starling, who was aboard the RMS Leinster when it was torpedoed. Winifred was lost at sea.
Later at the National Museum of Ireland we assembled for a series of talks to mark Anzac Day.
Lynn Scarff, Director of the National Museum of Ireland quoted from the song ‘The Foggy Dew’
‘Twas better to die ‘neath an Irish sky
Than at Suvla or Sud el Bar .
The slaughter of Irish at Gallipoli, where the sea ‘ran red with blood of Irishmen’ caused many at home to question involvement with the British army. All Irishmen were volunteers in the Army. Then came the rising in 1916 and subsequent executions which consolidated opposition to the British. Meanwhile in Australia and New Zealand some 6,000 Irish born, or men of Irish descent volunteered for service in the forces. One of whom was Martin O’Meara from Lorrha in Co Tipperary who was awarded a Victoria Cross for bravery. I have written about his tragic story here and here.
The Irish Minister for Justice and Equality, Mr Charlie Flanagan made the dramatic announcement that the Australian Government had enacted legislation that would for the first time ever, allow for an Australian Victoria Cross in public ownership, to leave the country on loan, and that it would be coming to Ireland in the very near future for a period of 12 months. It will be put on public display in the National Museum as part of the Soldiers and Chiefs exhibition, with Martin’s British War Medal which is in the possession of a family member in England.I am excited to be able to see Martin’s V.C. again, having seen it at close hand in its home in the Army Museum of Western Australia, in Fremantle.
I was thrilled to get this photo of the grave of Martin O’Meara in Karrakatta, in Western Australia, with the programme for this event placed on it, and a small branch of a native gum tree placed there by my friend Leith Landeur, a guide at King’s Park in Perth which contains the State War Memorial, who has done so much to raise awareness of Martin O’Meara in Western Australia.
Robert Fleming, Curator at the National Army Museum in London had a fascinating presentation on the Australian Irish connection. 7 million people in Australia claim Irish or partial Irish descent. Not just convicts, but voluntary immigrants have risen to the top of political and business and every facet of life in Australia. He explored the way in which Irish immigrants influenced the emergence of Australian nationalism. While up to 30% of the AIF volunteers were from UK or Ireland, an estimated 6,000 – 6,500 were Irish or of Irish descent, as were 30 women who served as nurses.
Dr Jennifer Wellington, Australian born lecturer at the War Studies Centre at UCD told of the painful statistics of those killed and injured. She had some anecdotes about a ;pair of ANZACs in Dublin attending the jubilant Victory Parades and ended up carrying a Sinn Fein flag, for which they were subsequently court martialed, but acquitted. Some years earlier during the Easter Rising in 1916, five New Zealand soldiers assisted in the defence of Trinity College Dublin. One of the five was born in Australia, grew up in New Zealand and was wounded at Gallipoli.
The consequences of war for returning survivors were considerable with hospitalized shell shocked soldiers not included in statistics. About 1/5th of those coming home were shell shocked, with many suicides, much alcoholism. There are no stats for self harm or early deaths as a result of military service. War, she said, does not begin and end on the battlefield. (Martin O ‘Meara’s war went on for many tormented years after returning to Australia after his service)
Brenda Malone, Curator of Military History at the National Museum of Ireland looks forward to the arrival of Martin O’Meara’s V.C. by July. Personal memories and artifacts pertaining to the first world war were more challenging for the Museum to obtain than those associated with the rising for example. Hopefully the arrival of Martin O’Meara’s V.C. may entice others to share memorabilia of this very important part of our history
I was happy to seek out and meet a Lorrha man – Séamus King, who was so helpful to my friend Leith in putting Martin O’Meara’s story together for the State War Memorial and King’s Park. His publication ‘A Lorrha Miscellany’ had invaluable information on Martin.
Glad too to meet Gerard O’Meara, who has written a very considerable tome on ‘ Lorrha people and the great war’, launched in Lorrha by the Australian Ambassador, Mr. Richard Andrews. I look forward to getting a copy!
And I was delighted to meet Aileen and Australian who happened to be in Dublin on holiday and came along to the service. She was excited to see mention of her Queensland hometown, Tablelands as the hometown of Pte. George Bardon who is buried here.
It was a very special and enlightening day, highlighting the many positive connections between our countries. A theme that we will revisit when Martin O’Meara’s medal comes home.
One of the other Anzac graves is in my local town of Midleton. You can read about Ambrose Augustus Haley from Tasmania, here.
There is yet another link with Midleton and an Australian who served in Gallipoli here.
ANZAC commemorations in 2020 will be hosted by the Embassy of New Zealand, opened in Ireland late last year.