Tag Archives: World War 1

“They froze to death, their hands frozen onto the oars”

Fanad Head Lighthouse guarding the entrance to Lough Swilly, County Donegal, Ireland. (Thesilvervoice).

Fanad Head Lighthouse guarding the entrance to Lough Swilly, County Donegal, Ireland. (Thesilvervoice).

 

Fanad Head lighthouse features regularly on social media because of its splendid location. Whilst it is a major tourist attraction, it has also featured in some dreadful tragedies over the years. One such was the loss of the Laurentic on this day in 1917.

The Laurentic (Wikipedia commons) The Laurentic was an ocean-going liner of the White Star Line and,like their other world famous ship the Titanic, was built at Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. Launched in 1908 she was considered a ‘magnificent ship’ at 570 feet long and she could ‘do’ speed! She plied the Atlantic operating a regular service between Liverpool and Canada, sometimes calling in New York. In August  1914 before the declaration of World War 1, she was filled with refugees fleeing the European situation. In September of that year she was commissioned as a troop carrier for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and subsequently saw service in Sierra Leone, Hong Kong and Singapore.

On 23 January 1917 she departed Liverpool for Halifax, Nova Scotia, with about 479 people on board. In addition she was carrying a cargo of 3,211 gold bars for the purpose of purchasing munitions in USA and Canada for the war effort.

On 25 January she made an unscheduled stop in Lough Swilly at Buncrana  to disembark a number of men who had contracted Yellow Fever and needed medical attention. While there, it was reported that the officers went ashore to enjoy a meal at the Lough Swilly Hotel and they were all back on board again by about 5 pm to set sail across the Atlantic. They headed out of Lough Swilly and no doubt Fanad Head lighthouse was one of the last things they saw. The weather was bitterly cold at -13c (9f) with blizzard conditions.

Less than an hour after departing Buncrana, the Laurentic struck two German mines in quick succession. The engine room was disabled, power and pumps were rendered useless and the ship listed. Many were killed. In pitch darkness the life boats were launched with some difficulty due to the list. The Laurentic quickly sank in 40 metres of water. Many had been injured as a result of the blasts and those who made the lifeboats rowed for Fanad Head. Newspaper reports stated that many were found “frozen to death in the lifeboats, hands frozen onto oars”.  Buncrana’s Lough Swilly Hotel became a temporary morgue, but many bodies continued to be washed ashore for a number of weeks.

71 were interred at St. Maura’s Graveyard in Fahan, 2 at Cockhill in Buncrana, 1 in Arklow, 1 in Orkney and Memorials to those who died are at various locations including Plymouth in Devon, Chatham in Kent. The wreck that lies in 40 metres of water off Fanad Head is an official War grave site.

And what of the 3,211  gold bars? Between 1917 and 1924 the Royal Navy recovered all but 25 of them. In 1934, 3 more were discovered, so 22 remain undiscovered.

At Downings  pier in north Donegal, near my home village, is one of the guns from the Laurentic, recovered by the Downings Diving  team and presented to them by the owners of the wreck.

A gun recovered from the wreck of the Laurentic. Sited at Downings Pier in County Donegal.

A gun recovered from the wreck of the Laurentic, sited  at Downings Pier in County Donegal. (Thesilvervoice)

Next to the gun is a handsome memorial to the 354 men who lost their lives on that bitterly  cold January evening, 100 years ago this very evening.

 

2013-05-19-12-53-11A memorial cannot portray the true horror that unfolded on that January evening, just off Fanad Head. But next time I pass it by, I will recall those who “froze to death, their hands frozen onto the oars”.

References

http://www.irishshipwrecks.com/shipwrecks.php?wreck_ref=128

Wikipedia.

http://www.irishfreemasonry.com/index.php?p=1_112_HMS-Laurentic

List of burial/ memorial sites:

http://irishfreemasonry.com/list%20of%20burial%20sites.pdf

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Filed under Ireland, Irish History, Shipping disasters Ireland, Shipwrecks

One Poppy

Ceramic poppy from Blood Swept Lands and Seas of RedJust a year ago I visited the art installation at the Tower of London which commemorated the centenary of the beginning of the First World War. The installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was made of ceramic poppies, one for each of the 888,246 men who perished in the British Army at that time. Tens of thousands of those who died were Irishmen.

Contrary to popular belief, Armistice Day continued to be observed in Ireland in the years and decades after the 1916 Rising. In 1926 for example an estimated 40,000 people turned out in Dublin in remembrance of fallen relatives and friends.

An estimated 40,000 attend Armistice Day commemorations in Dublin 1926

An estimated 40,000 attend Armistice Day commemorations in Dublin 1926

I was among the lucky ones who got to buy one of the ceramic poppies from the Tower of  London installation. It is now beautifully framed  and  stands in sorrowful remembrance of the pity of war.

One framed Poppy

One framed Poppy

 

 

Further details and more photos of the installation at The Tower of London in 2014 can be seen in my post Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.

Irish Poppy Pin

Irish Poppy Pin

 

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Filed under Ireland, Irish at War, Irish Heritage

Discovering Martin O’Meara V.C. & The Psychological Cost of World War One

The extent to which the Irish diaspora have left indelible marks in many corners of the world, yet are relatively unknown in their homeland never ceases to amaze me. One of the most memorable of these is County Tipperary man Martin O ‘Meara, a veteran of World War One, whose memory lives on in the parts of Western Australia where he lived and died.

A bright-eyed Martin O Meara, date unknown (Australian War Memorial, public domain

A bright-eyed Martin O’ Meara, date unknown (Australian War Memorial, Public Domain

Martin inscribed his name into the annals of history for his actions during the Great War, service which earned him the highest decoration for gallantry. But it was also a conflict that destroyed him, ultimately consigning him to long years of mental anguish and institutionalisation. This is his story.

Irish tricolour far from home

Irish tricolour far from home

On March 17th 2014, at the Western Australian State Memorial Park in Perth, an Irish tricolor fluttered in the breeze. A member of the Irish Government was coming to lay a wreath at one of the tablets surrounding the Flame of Remembrance. The entourage was led by Mr Alan Kelly T.D. (now Minister of Environment, Community & Local Government) then Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and Mr Marty Kavanagh, Honorary Consul of Ireland in Western Australia. In a very simple and moving ceremony  Mr Kelly honoured his fellow Tipperary man at the plaque inscribed Pte Martin O’MEARA VC, 16th Australian Infantry Battalion AIF, 9 September 1916. 

So who was Martin O Meara? Since that ceremony I have made it my mission to find out, traveling to some of the sites associated with him and spending long hours exploring many of the historical documents associated with his life.

Martin O'Meara in 1916 Image Wikimedia Commons

Martin O Meara in 1916
Image WikimediaCommons

Martin O’Meara (Meara) was born in County Tipperary, Ireland in November 1885, one of 11 children of  Michael and Margaret. In the 1901 census we find 15-year-old Martin living with his father and mother, three older brothers and two older sisters in the townland of Lissernane. By the time of the 1911 census, his mother has been widowed and she is living in the same house with one son and one daughter. We cannot be sure where Martin was at this time, but a Martin O’Meara born in Tipperary and of the correct age is recorded working in the timber industry in Kilkenny as per this 1911 Census entry for Skeard. Could this be Martin, a wood worker and boarder in the house of a mill worker? We do know that he made his way to Liverpool about 1911, and onwards to Australia In 1914. He eventually settled in the vast timber forests around Bowlling Pool, Western Australia some 30 plus miles from the town of Collie. It was here that he found work as a sleeper-cutter, servicing the rapidly expanding railway system of Western Australia.

On August 19, 1915  Martin O’Meara enlisted  in the Army at Blackboy Hill in Western Australia. His Attestation Papers show that he was born at Rathcabbin, that he was 29 years and 9 months old, 5 feet 7 inches in height, weighed 140 pounds and had a dark complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. He nominated his sister Alice as his next of kin. As a member of the Australian Expeditionary Force, he arrived at  Marseilles, France, on  June 1, 1916. Just a matter of weeks later the Tipperary man was in the middle of the Somme offensive, possibly acting as a stretcher bearer in a fierce assault on the Germans at Mouquet Farm, near Pozières. The fighting here was bitter with the Anzac forces suffering heavy losses. It was here, between August 9 and 12 that Martin O’ Meara distinguished himself with acts of bravery that earned him the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy. The citation read: during 4 days of very heavy fighting, he repeatedly went out and brought in wounded officers and men from No Man’s Land under intense Artillery and Machine Gun fire. He also volunteered and carried up ammunition and bombs through a heavy barrage to a portion of the trenches which was being heavily shelled at the time. He showed throughout an utter contempt of danger and undoubtedly saved many lives.

Martin won high praise for his actions, with Lieutenant W.J. Lynas describing him as the “most fearless and gallant soldier I have ever seen”, while Lieutenant F. Wadge stated in dispatches that he rescued more than 20 soldiers during a barrage of high explosives and machine gun fire that was “intense beyond description.” On yet another occasion, he ventured into no-man’s land under heavy artillery and machine gun fire to retrieve six more of his comrades. The courageous Martin did not stop there, as Lieutenant Colonel E.A.D. Brockman, Commanding Officer of the 16th Battalion, said,  he “continued to venture out into no-man’s land after his company had been relieved, delivering first aid to the wounded, digging out soldiers who had been buried by high explosive shells, and carrying the wounded back to the dressing station.” Martin O’Meara was presented with his Victoria Cross by King George V in July 1917

Private O’Meara suffered gun shot wounds to the abdomen during this action and was evacuated to England and admitted to Wandsworth Hospital on August 19. He rejoined the 16th Battalion on December 22.  He was wounded twice afterwards, but rejoined his unit each time.

Outdoor photograph of Martin O'Meara, date unknown. (Australian War Memorial, public domain)

Outdoor photograph of Martin O’Meara, date unknown. (Australian War Memorial, Public Domain)

On August 31, 1918 he was sent to the UK for return to Australia, arriving back in Fremantle on November 6 1918. Sadly that was not the end of the war for Martin. The quiet, courageous man from rural Tipperary who had survived the hell of battle did not live happily ever after. He had already embarked on another journey into hell, a journey that was to last for the rest of his life. Martin was discharged from the army on November 30, 1918. Within days it was reported that he was “delusional” and he was transferred to Stromness Mental facility directly from quarantine, and from there to Claremont Mental Hospital three months later. The sights, sounds and the horrors of war on the Western Front had driven the quiet Tipperary man mad.

We know a little about Martin O’Meara’s personality as newspapers responding to the award of his V.C. sought accounts from people in Australia who knew him before enlisting. One friend described him as a strong but gentle teetotaller, while another remembered him as reserved but with a very genial character. A former employer reported that he was “generous to a fault” and willing to perform any task asked of him. He was a member of the Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society. A few of his letters back to Australia have been published and they are evidence that he was a caring, compassionate, humble man, who made reference to God and his deeply held beliefs.

By contrast, his military records contain many shocking details of his post war condition. In December 1918 he was described as “extremely homicidal and suicidal and requires to be kept in restraint” with no hope of his recovery. The Inspector General of the Insane furnished a report of Martin’s condition during the 17 years he was in the Asylum. He was initially obstinate and difficult, restless, sometimes violent, noisy during the night, suffered from hallucinations and attacked the attendants. By 1923 he “showed loss of control” and frequently needed sedation. In 1925 he was again described as obstinate, difficult to manage, sometimes taking 3 or 4 attendants to put him to bed and in 1927  he is recorded as pacing the floor and rushing wildly to and fro cursing imaginary persecutors. By 1934, it was reported that he was “disconnected in his conversation” and was shameless, sometimes exposing himself and using abusive language. In 1926 he had been transferred to Lemnos Hospital, but because of his ”violent propensities”, he was sent back to  Claremont Mental Hospital in November 1935. Six weeks later, on December 19, 1935, he collapsed following a period of continued excitement and died the following day from Pulmonary Oedema, chronic mania and exhaustion. His death was recorded as “due to war service.” Martin O’Meara V.C. received a military funeral at Karrakatta Cemetery in Perth, with representatives of  the military and the state in attendance as well as other V.C. winners. The funeral cost to the state was 16 Pounds and 13 Shillings.

Shell shock was a relatively new phenomenon,that affected thousands of soldiers. In the war’s early days it was not understood and sometimes dismissed as mere hysteria, especially in enlisted men. Nervous disorders were frequently viewed as disciplinary matters, with sufferers often accused of being cowards or malingering. It is not clear when Martin O’Meara was first affected by it as it is not referred to in any of the military records, but it is unlikely that it first manifested itself on his return to Australia. In any event, the psychological trauma he suffered caused his war to continue for 17 years after the last shots of war were fired. We do not know if he had any friends in the institutions for the insane or whether he had any visitors who cared about him. Was he forgotten for those long years of anguish? His sister Alice, who was in receipt of a fortnightly pension of 25 shillings based on Martin’s service, asked for and received accounts of him from time to time and there was also an enquiry made about him on behalf of one of his brothers.

Martin continued to make headlines following his death as a dispute arose about the validity of a new will he made when recovering from a wound in hospital in Bath, England, in 1917. After winning his V.C. in 1916, the people of Tipperary had a collection in his honour and he was presented with a gold watch. As a serving soldier he was unable to accept the remaining balance of the money collected, but in his will he bequeathed it for the restoration of an Old Abbey in Lorrha village, while his Australian Estate of over two thousand pounds was left for the education of his nephews in Ireland. His Victoria Cross was to be given to a friend (coincidentally from Kilkenny, some 2 miles from Skeard, as noted in the 1911 Census above ) provided she went to live in Western Australia for a period of 12 months, otherwise it was to be retained in Western Australia. However, the money in Ireland was insufficient to restore the ruined Lorrha Abbey and the local priest succeeded in having the court agree that the monies be used instead to repair confessionals in the Catholic Church with the balance being used for Redwood National School. Martin O’Meara’s contribution to the local parish is marked by a small brass plaque in the Parish Church in Lorrha, Co Tipperary, while further up the street there is a memorial to Martin, unveiled in recent years by proud parishioners, to commemorate the local boy who became a hero in Australia.

His Victoria Cross now resides in the Military Museum of Western Australia who would dearly love to have all of Martin’s medals in their collection. Martin’s British War Medal and Victory Medal were delivered to the family on June 24, 1924, with the receipt noting that Martin was then “an inmate of the Claremont Hospital.”

09-01-DSCF5449

Martin O’Meara memorial in the Army Museum of Western Australia

Martin O’Meara continues to attract headlines in Australia, almost 100 years after the end of  World War 1. In the little coal mining town of Collie, near where Martin worked in the Jarrah forests as a sleeper hewer, there is another plaque in his memory, and here Ireland’s Ambassador to Australia laid a wreath in his honour after a lovely Irish themed reception at the town hall. The ceremony was followed by a production in the local school hall of a play dedicated to Martin O’Meara, Under any Old Gum Tree, written and directed by Noel O’Neil.

Martin O’Meara’s life long torment epitomizes the Pity of War. His name and his story are centre stage within the Irish communities in Perth and in Collie, who remember his courage and valour with great pride, even though he had only lived in the area for a relatively short time prior to enlistment. The people of his homeland beyond his own Tipperary locality in Ireland deserve to know more about him and remember him too.

MOM VC

Martin O’Meara’s Victoria Cross. Author with Mr Graham McEwan, Chairman, Army Museum of Western Australia

*I am deeply grateful to Mr. Graham McEwan, Chairman, Army Museum of Western Australia for permitting me to see and photograph Martin O’Meara’s Victoria Cross, which is not on public display.

*I am indebted to Leith Landauer of Perth, Western Australia, a passionate stalwart of the cause of Martin O’Meara,V.C., my  tour guide with an encyclopaedic knowledge of WA heritage, and my friend.

*Following publication of this post, Mr Fred  Rea of  ”The Australian Irish Scene” shared the following information:

There is a website devoted to Martin O’Meara at http://www.martinomeara.weebly.com

Here is a link to the British Pathe newsreel footage that we believe shows O’Meara getting presented with the VC medal by King George V at Buckingham Palace in 1917. O’Meara starts at about the 22 second mark….

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/kings-investiture-at-buckingham-palace/query/kings+investiture+at+buckingham+palace

Thank you, Fred!

 

References:
National Archives of Australia Records as follows:
NAA: PP13/1, C5474
NAA: B2455, O’Meara M
NAA: PP645/1, Martin O’Meara V.C
TROVE Newspaper Archive at http://trove.nla.gov.au
O’Meara, P., & Devenish, S. (2010). Sir Neville Howse (VC), Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick and Private Martin O’Meara (VC) and
their contributions to Australian military medicine. Australasian Journal of Paramedicine, 8(1).
Shell Shock and Mental Trauma in World War 1, Dr Fiona Reid, Open University at FutureLearn.

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Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Ireland, Ireland and the World, Irish at War, Irish Australian, Irish Diaspora, Irish diaspora in Australia

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

I have just returned from a short trip to London, England,where we  lived for almost two decades before returning to Ireland. London is a city that I love and I look forward to each return visit. This year marks the centenary of the start of the First World War which has been commemorated in the most astonishing way at the historic Tower of London.

image

The ‘Weeping Window’ the source of the wave of poppies that will fill the moat

Some decades ago, when I worked  in the banking area in the City of London, summer lunchtime would be spent sitting on the grass looking down at the Tower and enjoying the sunshine. We happily munched on our ham and mustard  or cheese and pickle sandwiches while enjoying the historic view and discussing the gruesome executions that took place just yards from where we dined! The Tower itself dates back to the 11th century, and is one of London’s most visited tourist attractions, housing the Crown Jewels, and protected by the colourful Beefeater Guards and those fearsome Ravens!

My visit this week was very poignant as I revisited the area I know so well, for the entire scene has been transformed to mark the centenary of the First World War. Ceramic Artist Paul Cummins has created  888,246 poppies and stage designer Tom Piper planned the layout of this art installation, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red. Beautifully conceived with a flow of poppies coming from a ‘weeping window’ on the tower, and it has been slowly spreading in a wave, a river of  poppies. Planting of the poppies(on wire stems) by volunteers began in July and has continued each day since then. At 11 am on 11 November the last poppy will be planted.
888,246 is the number of British army  fatalities in World War 1. Tens of thousands of Irish men volunteered (we did not have conscription in Ireland) to serve in this army, for we were then part of Britain and tens of thousands of Irish men died.  Up to 40,000 (the exact number is not definitively known) of these poppies represent Irish men – my countrymen – fathers, brothers, sons, cousins, uncles, nephews, who never came home from that war. They were from every County in Ireland from Donegal to Cork, from Dublin to Galway, from Sligo to Waterford to Kerry. Fathers, brothers, sons, cousins, uncles, nephews who died horrible deaths in muck filled trenches – often blown to bits, blasted to smithereens, dismembered, disembowelled, decapitated; many lay screaming in their last agony, many lay crying for their mothers or their wives in excruciating pain as the life drained from them; many gasped for air as their mustard gassed lungs turned into acid that burned them alive on the inside; many lay in mud filled trenches,with limbs missing and slowly bled to death, perhaps buried under dead comrades; many were vaporized and no trace of them was ever found.
For each of these, and those from whatever country that populated the British Military forces Scotland, England,Wales,Ireland, India,New Zealand, Australia, Canada and more,- whether obliterated  or who died a slow tortuous death – a poppy has been planted in the great moat of this iconic palace.
4 million people will visit to see them and yesterday I was one of them.  An astonishing number of people wept as they realized that each one represents a human being. The silence from such a vast crowd was very surprising.
These are the snaps of my visit in both daylight and after dark. I add my silence to theirs.

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We are the dead, short days ago we lived…

At the 11th hour of the 11th  day of the 11th month in 1918, fighting in World War 1 officially came to an end, in accordance with the Armistice between Germany and the Allies. On the anniversary of this event, men and women who gave their lives  in conflicts are commemorated, and people all over the world wear poppies  in remembrance of them.

Irish Poppy Badge PNG (website)

The Irish Poppy Badge

The wearing of the Poppy in Ireland remains  a contentious issue, although it has become more popular  in recent years. Not so many years ago in this country, families of those who had gone to war were, often with good reason, reluctant to speak of their soldier sons, brothers, fathers, uncles.  The story of their loved ones was buried- lost and unspoken for decades. However,  there has been a gradual rehabilitation of those mostly young Irishmen who went off to fight in the British Army of World War 1,  some 35,000  of whom never came home.

The tradition of wearing the Poppy began back at the end of World War 1. A Canadian Doctor, Lt.Col John McCrae, having witnessed the death of friends and colleagues in Ypres, penned the haunting and imaginative poem, ‘In Flanders Fields’ on May 3, 1915, the day after he officiated at the burial of his best friend.

In Flanders Field - the iconic poem by

In Flanders Field – the iconic poem by John McCrae

Lt.-Col._John_McCrae_and_his_dog_Bonneau_Le_lieutenant-colonel_John_McCrae_et_son_chien_Bonneau

Lt-Col John McCrae and his dog Bonneau. Image Wikimedia Commons

John McCrae had noticed that poppies readily sprung up where the earth had been disturbed. May 1915 was a particularly warm month and it is thought that this facilitated the germination of thousands of poppies that had lain dormant in the ground until it was disturbed.  As anyone driving along motorways in Ireland can testify, poppies will readily colonize any patch of poor ground, and so it was in  the battlefields of Gallipoli, Belgium and France. Lands  devastated  and pock-marked by shelling, littered with the remains of human beings – total wastelands, described as ‘murdered nature’, by the American pilot, James McConnell who flew over Verdun – often produced blazing groups of red poppies.

Poppy Field on the Somme. Picture from the BBC.

Poppy Field on the Somme. Picture from the BBC.

Moina Belle Michael, (1869 – 1944) an American teacher,was so inspired by McCrea’s poem that  in 1918 she set about having the Flanders Field Poppy recognized as a symbol of remembrance of those who had lost their lives in  the war.  

Moina Michael Commemorative Stamp

Moina Michael Commemorative Stamp

Moina achieved her ambition and on September 29 1920, the American Legion agreed to use the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy as a national symbol of remembrance of those who did not return from war or who returned with physical or mental scars.

Moina Michael autobiography, The Miracle Flower. Picture from Amazon.com

Moina Michael autobiography,’The Miracle Flower. The story of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy’ Published in 1941. Image from Amazon.com

Another remarkable woman, Madame Anna Guérin, on a visit to the USA in 1920 was inspired by the efforts of Moina Michael and saw the  potential for raising funds by making and selling paper poppies to help French orphaned children and the war torn regions of France. She founded the ‘American and French Children’s League’ through which she organized French women, children and war veterans to make artificial poppies out of cloth. Anna sent thousands of poppies to be sold in America and then brought her campaign to all the countries that took part in the war. Canada adopted the poppy symbol in 1921 and in that year Anna herself went to London  to meet Field Marshall Earl Douglas Haig, founder and head of the British Legion who agreed to adopt the poppy as a symbol of the legion and the first British fund-raising poppy appeal was held in the run up to November 11 1921.

DSCF2614

The Tipperary Annual Remembrance takes place each September to honour Irish fallen,in all conflicts. The inscriptions on the arch are of Irish who have died in service in the uniforms of other countries

The poppy is now recognized as a symbol of remembrance in Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Singapore, Thailand, Germany, Poland, Russia, France, Belgium, India, China, Ireland, Israel and Pakistan  and its symbolism has evolved from one commemorating lives lost or destroyed  in World War 1, to  one of remembrance for all those who gave their lives in all conflicts.

Notwithstanding the general acceptance of the Poppy as a universal symbol of remembrance, there are many in Ireland who see it as nothing more than an emblem of British imperialism. Just  a couple of years ago I was berated in public for wearing a poppy on my coat. ‘Are you a Brit?’ challenged  a work colleague (who happened to be wearing a Liverpool Football Club jersey and is a daily reader of an English tabloid newspaper). I have never understood how men who signed up to join the army often simply as a means of getting paid employment to help support a large family at home, became ostracised because of a ‘green’ discourse in Ireland after Independence. Nor have  I understood why that ‘green’ discourse led to families being fearful  of  honouring their lost loved ones. All down the centuries,Irish men have traditionally fought in armies and wars across the world, as evidenced in the Soldiers and Chiefs exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland.  Even in 1926, some 40,000 people gathered in Dublin to honour the dead on Armistice day. There is a magnificent  image of crowds of people gathered for the occasion in the blog of Come Here to Me. which can be seen here . This post looks at  remembering the dead  and the republican response to it. Looking back at this story now, it looks very much like the commemoration of Armistice Day was, as we say here in the mid west , ‘bate out of us’ by men with guns.

The sacrifice made by our people is part of our heritage, so why will we not join with other nations across the world  on November 11 to recognize them?  Are we not sophisticated and independent enough to do this?  In 2011 I posted about Fr Gleeson and the iconic image of him on horseback giving a last blessing to the Munster Fusiliers here just hours before they were killed and wounded in their hundreds.

Last ab

The Blessing of the Munsters by Fr Gleeson on horseback, by Mattania

Fr Gleeson kept a diary, now  in the National Museum of Ireland. that captures the horrors of war. In it he wrote

Spent all night trying to console, aid and remove the wounded.  It was ghastly to see them lying there in the cold, cheerless outhouses, on bare stretchers with no blankets to cover their freezing limbs. … Hundreds lying out in cold air all night at Windy Corner.  No ambulances coming.  They come at last. – at daylight.” (May 10th ,1915) These words are now engraved on  one of the slabs that lime the entrance to the Peace Park at Messines that commemorates  the joint action of the 16th (Irish) and the 36th (Ulster) Divisions in June 1917.

Gleeson

Royal Dublin Fus 1915

Image from https://www.facebook.com/pages/Its-Time-To-Remember-200000-Brave-Irishmen Royal Dublin Fusiliers  leaving what is now Collins Barracks in Dublin, on their way to Gallipoli where weeks later they were slaughtered by the thousand

We must remember all of these Irishmen with pride – husbands, fathers, sons, uncles, lovers, neighbours, – not to glorify war but  rather to acknowledge the horror and obscenity of it, in every generation.

We are the Dead……. Short days ago
We lived,….. felt dawn,…… saw sunset glow,
  Loved and were loved, …….and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

References

http://www.militaryheritage.ie/research/milmuseums/collins-articles/chaplain.htm

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Its-Time-To-Remember-200000-Brave-Irishmen/153705051393544?id=153705051393544&sk=photos_stream

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