Counting the Irish dead

 

There is little consensus on the actual number of Irishmen who were

killed in the Great War. It is unlikely we will ever get a definitive reckoning

La Bascule - This year’s remembrance, at site outside Mons, of the 2nd battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment and a battle when Irishman Maurice Dease became the first of the War’s winners of the Victoria Cross

La Bascule - This year’s remembrance, at a site outside Mons, of the 2nd battalion of the Royal Irish

Regiment and a battle when Irishman Maurice Dease became the first of the War’s winners of the

Victoria Cross

Wed, Oct 22, 2014, 00:00

 

It is now generally accepted that the number of Irishmen who left this

country as members of the army, navy, as reservists or as volunteers

between 1914 and 1918, was roughly 210,000. This does not include the

many Irish-born soldiers who enlisted (or were conscripted) in Britain,

Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, South Africa and elsewhere.

There is far less consensus on how many members of that cohort died.

The Irish National War Memorial Records (INWMR), compiled

in the early 1920s, lists 49,647 Irish fatalities, North and South.

However, included in this register are the names of more than 11,000

men born outside Ireland. Most of these are British soldiers who served

in Irish units like the Dublin Fusiliers, the Munsters, the Inniskillings

or the Connaught Rangers.

According to www.findmypast.ie, only 30,986 of the names recorded

in the INWMR are of men born in Ireland. A third category lists the

names of 7,405 men who are of unknown origin. These include, to cite

but two of the most egregious examples, the former Irish Party MP Tom

Kettle (from Dublin) and the first Victoria Cross winner of the war

Maurice Dease (born in Westmeath).

Of those whose birthplaces are recorded (just over 42,000), Irish-born

soldiers make up about three-quarters of the total. Extrapolating from

that ratio and applying it to the 7,405 of unknown origin – perhaps a

dubious piece of methodology – we would arrive at a total figure for Irish

dead of about 36,500.

However, more than 75 per cent of those in that third category may well

be Irish. Of the mysterious 7,405 names, almost 1,000 are those of men

who died in the service of non-UK armies (Australia, US, etc). Why would

they have been included in the INWMR unless they had been born in this

country, albeit their connection with Ireland was not revealed in final

documents.

Morbidity ratio

But what was the Irish ‘death rate’ in the Great War? The overall morbidity

ratio for the United Kingdom as a whole in WW1 – total dead (720,000) as

against total enlistments (5, 700,000) – was 1:8. To arrive at a comparable

Irish ratio we must subtract from that putative total of 36,500 those

Irishmen who died while serving in British regiments. A close study of

the INWMR by this writer reveals about 8,500 such names – 6,000 of

those in English units.

 

That would mean that about 28,000 of the 210,000 Irishmen who left

this island between 1914-18 to fight in the Great War, died or were l

isted as “missing presumed dead”. This makes sense, as it is close to

the figure of 27,405 recorded in the 1926 Census report as being the

number of Irish deaths (excluding officers) that took place on active

service outside the UK between 1914-18. That would mean a morbidity

ratio of 1:7 for Ireland. The comparable figure for England is 1:9, for

Wales 1:7 and for Scotland a chilling 1:4 (has Alex Salmond been alerted

to this statistic.

  •  

There are, however, numerous caveats with all these calculations. As with

the Irish recruitment figures, they do not include the Irishmen who died

in armies other than that of Britain. Australian academic Jeff Kildea has

made a close study of the war records of his country. He is able to verify

the presence of 6,000 Irish-born recruits in the Australian Imperial Force,

of whom 900 died. Anecdotal evidence suggests a figure of about 1,200

deadfor the Irish who fought in the army of the USA.

If, as assumed, there were almost 20,000 Irish-born recruits and conscripts

in the 620,000-strong Canadian force (which suffered 67,000 deaths)

the Irish fatality total would be even greater.

The picture is further complicated when even a cursory study is made of

a cross-section of the 2,600 men buried in Commonwealth War Graves Commission [CWGC]graves in 681 cemeteries in the Republic of Ireland

and Northern Ireland. Some, a very small percentage, are not Irish. But,

after some rudimentary research it is clear that many of those Irishmen

have not found their way into the Irish National War Memorial Records.

In addition, a number of local historians (Brian Scanlon in Sligo,

Margaret Connolly in Leitrim, Mark Scott in Fermanagh, Michael Feeney

in Mayo and Tom Burnell in Tipperary) have uncovered further

discrepancies in the INWMR records. For example, in the case of

Sligo, 395 names are recorded in the INWMR. To date, Scanlon has

identified and verified 548 deceased veterans. Some 694 men from

Mayo are listed in the INWMR. The poignantly beautiful Great War

Memorial wall in the Peace Park in Castlebar has more than 1,100 names.

While some of these can easily be accounted for as men who came

from counties with a high emigration rate and who died in the service

of the USA or the ‘Colonial’ armies, much more work will have to be

done before we can get closer to an accurate Irish morbidity figure.

The final total of all Irish-born soldiers who died in the Great War

is likely to come to about 40,000. A definitive reckoning, given the

extent to which the ‘fog of war’ pervades first World War fatality

statistics, is too much to hope for.

Last Updated (Thursday, 23 October 2014 00:27)

 
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Donna & Eamon.

We want to offer our heartiest congratulation's

to our long time committee members

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Mayo Peace Park AGM 2014 Update

Annual General Meeting 

President:  Dr Dermot Murray 

Mr Michael Feeney was elected as Chairman / Secretary.

Mr Stephen McLaughlin was elected as Treasurer and Assistant Secretary.

Committee

Pat Conlon, Ernie Sweeney , Captain Donal Buckley , Kevin McNally, Mona Dempsey, Donna Dempsey, Lenore Dempsey, Austin Gannon, Fergus McEllin, Jackie Rumley,Francis Kerrigan, David Jackson, Eamon Horkan,  Patrick Huddy, Noreen Molloy, Andrew Kirrane, Michael Downes, Ann Cresham, Martin Bartley, Anthony Ryan, Ron Howko,Stuart Ryan .

PRO 

Michael Baynes

International Committee Members.

London Based representitives John Basquille & Martin Coyle.

Southampton  Mr Eamhonn Mac Suibhine

U.S.A. Mr  Patrick Gorman, Dixon, Illinois.