New research has shed light on some of the thousands of Irishmen who fought – and died – in the first World War.
The research was conducted to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War which took place between July 1914 and November 1918.
The Irish casualties in World War I record collection, available on Ancestry.ie, details the soldier’s name, where they were born, rank, regiment and how and when they died.
According to Irish government archives, nearly 80,000 men enlisted into the British army during the first 12 months of the war. They joined 50,000 Irishmen who were already serving in the army.
Although the exact number remains unclear, it is reported that up to 49,000 Irishmen died while fighting in World War I.
Ancestry spokesperson and pro-genealogist Joe Buggy said:
“The collection gives families a chance to add the ancestors who fought in World War I to their family tree and learn more about their stories.”
Some of the more prominent tales of Irishmen killed in World War I
First posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross
Maurice James Dease was born in Coole, Westmeath in 1889. By the age of 21 he had joined the British Army and was stationed in Aldershot with the 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers.
On Sunday, August 23, 1915 Dease was killed in action in Mons, Belgium aged 24.
Dease became the first posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest British medal. He received the honour for continuing to defend his position despite numerous wounds.
Irishman ends the Christmas Truce
Arthur Moore O’Sullivan was originally born to Irish parents in Ootacamund, India in 1878. In 1900 O’Sullivan enlisted in the British army.
By the outbreak of World War I he had joined the Royal Irish Rifles where he was ranked as a Captain.
During the Christmas Truce of 1914 O’Sullivan and his regiment went to No Man’s Land to meet German soldiers and exchange gifts. O’Sullivan fired his pistol at midnight, ending the truce and resuming the War.
Just under six months later on Sunday, May 9, 1915 he was fatally wounded in battle.
Unknown soldier revealed as Irishman
For nearly 100 years the final resting place of William Frederick MacHutchison remained unknown. The soldier disappeared during a battle in March 1918 and was listed as one of the 500,000 soldiers having no grave. In 2017 his grave was formally identified and a once blank headstone was marked as MacHutchison’s.
Born in Dublin he joined the British army at the outbreak of the war. He became a Lieutenant with the 7th Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
He was killed in action on March 22, 1918.
International rugby player dies at Second Battle of Ypres
Basil Mclear, although born in England in 1881 spent many years in Ireland during the early 1900’s. During this time Mclear joined the Irish International rugby team receiving 11 caps between 1905 and 1907.
Mclear joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion and fought in World War I. On May 24, 1915 he was killed in action during the Second Battle of Ypres. His remains were never recovered.
He was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2015.
Poet of the Blackbird blown to bits
Francis Ledwidge was born in Slane, Meath in August 1887. Known as the ‘Poet of the Blackbird’ Ledwidge became a recognised poet noted for his work on rural landscapes and nature.
In October 1914 Ledwidge joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. In 1917 his battalion was sent to Belgium to prepare for the 3rd Battle of Ypres. During this time on July 31, 1917 he was killed.
Famous hockey player killed
JG Anderson was a well-known hockey player, playing for Banbridge Hockey Club, the international Irish team and the Scottish team during his time at Edinburgh University.
Anderson joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and fought in World War I. Towards the end of the war on March 21, 1918 he was killed in action.
He received the Military Cross for his efforts during the war.
Irish golfer killed in France
Michael Moran was born in Clontarf, Dublin. Growing up in the surroundings of a golf course in South Dublin Moran became one of the greatest Irish golfers of the time. Before joining the British Army he took part in both British and Irish golf opens, placing high in both tournaments.
Moran joined the 7th Royal Irish Regiment. His regiment was sent to battle in France during the war.
In April 1918 Moran was wounded in action. He was moved to Le Cateau war hospital where he died on April 10, 1918.
Irish at the Somme
During the Battle of the Somme over one million soldiers were killed. Of this, nearly 3,500 were Irish.
Some of the Irishmen killed included:
- Joseph Ballintine of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 11th Battalion. Killed on July 1, 1916.
- Geoffrey Roskell Bible, born in Dublin, a 2nd Lieutenant with the 9th Royal Sussex Regiment killed on July 1, 1916 aged just 23.
- James Augustine Byrne, born in Rathdrum, Wicklow, a Gunner with the Royal Garrison Artillery killed on July 31, 1916 aged 35.
- Edward Collins, born in Ireland but a member of the Canadian army was killed during the battle aged 31.
- Joseph George Adams, born in Killarney, Kerry, was a Private with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 2nd Battalion. He was killed in action on September 3, 1916.
Irish at Gallipoli
Irish soldiers played at important role during the Gallipoli battles and large numbers of Irishmen lost their lives during the campaign. At least 3,411 men serving in Irish battalions were killed or went missing during the campaign.
These men included:
- Patrick Ahern, born in St. Ann’s, Cork was a Private with the Royal Munster Fusiliers, 1st Battalion. He was killed on August 21, 1915.
- Edward Ahern, born in St. Ann’s Cork was a Private with the Royal Munster Fusiliers, 1st Battalion. He was killed on December 5, 1915. It is unknown if these two men were related.
- Michael Jordan, born in Dublin, was a Corporal with the 6th Royal Irish Rifles. He was killed on August 10, 1915.
- John Shannon, born in Drumlane, Cavan, was a Private with Princess Victoria’s Royal Irish Fusiliers, 5th Battalion. He was killed on August 23, 1915.
- Cecil William James Bell, born in Rathmines, Dublin was a Private with the Royal Army Medical Corps. He died “at sea” during the Gallopoli campaign on April 15, 1917 aged 24.
– Digital Desk