Past Newsletters & Articles etc.
::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::NEWSLETTER JULY 2004:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
UPDATE ON SERGEANT MAJOR COUGHLAN VC DEDICATION (1826-1915)
Plans for the dedication of the grave of Sgt Maj Coughlan VC are at an advanced stage. A large attendance is expected at Aughavale Cemetery, Westport, Co. Mayo on Sat 07 Aug 2004
at 1300 hrs.
The Minister for Defence will unveil a headstone dedicated to Sgt Maj Coughlan VC.
The gallant Sgt Maj went to his eternal reward in 1915 at the age of 87. He received his VC as a result of actions in Delhi in 1857 whilst serving with the Stirlingshire Regiment (later Gordon Highlanders). He subsequently served in 3 Bn, The Connaught Rangers and lived in Westport for 40 years. At the time of this most popular hero's death a headstone was not erected. The course of Irish history then changed the following year with the 1916 Rising and honouring those many Irish soldiers who served in British Forces became unpopular and eventually, this gallant soldier was forgotten about by most people. His grave was unmarked, but thanks to the efforts of Mr. Jim McNally, the curator, it was located.
Times have now changed and the with the advent of broader political horizons people are now in a position to view history with a new maturity and respect for other opinions and traditions. Military Heritage Tours Ltd are proud to announce that with the support from public subscription a headstone will be unveiled at the grave of Sgt Maj Coughlan VC.
The Victoria Cross is the world's most famous award for bravery, rivaled only by the American Medal of Honour. Out of the 1354 VC's ever awarded, over 200 have been awarded to Irishmen. This wonderful record should not be forgotten and the brave recipient's should be duly honoured.
The fact that an Irish Minister will dedicate this grave in the West of Ireland speaks volumes for changing attitudes and it is seen as a most magnanimous gesture. It is also a day in the history of this country that will in years to come be seen as a profound statement of political maturity.
The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Lt Gen Sreenan is kindly providing troops from the Reserve Defence Forces (RDF) for this ceremonial occasion.
Many ex-servicemen's associations and disbanded regiments associations will be present at this occasion. International media organisations will attend and the ceremony will prove to be a wonderful photo opportunity.
Following the dedication, an Irish Military Heritage display will take place in Murrisk village, 4 miles west of Westport. Organisations such as:
A.The Military Vehicles Club of Ireland
B. US Civil War re-enactors
C. Connaught Rangers re-enactors will be on display.
Any organisation who would also like to be part of this Irish Military Heritage display would be welcome. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 353 86 8889 883.
Also information on the "Heroes Return" programme will be available. The Heroes Return is a UK lottery funded scheme that enables war veterans, accompanied by a family member or carer to visit a battlefield in which they fought. Military Heritage Tours Ltd is proud to have been the company chosen to facilitate Irish and other veterans living in the Republic to avail of this scheme. This year alone we have brought relatives of WW1 veterans to France and Belgium and we also brought veterans to Normandy in June for the 60th Anniversary commemorations of D Day and the Battle for Normandy.
Further tours are in the planning stage.
Outline plan as follows:
1300 Minister arrives, inspects Guard of Honour
1305 Minister escorted to graveside
1308 Inter-denominational graveside prayers
1313 Talk on Coughlan VC and joint Anglo Irish Military Heritage
1335 Minister makes dedication and unveils headstone
1345 Wreath laying on behalf of ONE, Disbanded Regiments and RBL, etc.
1350 Volley from Connaught Ranger Re-enactors and Last Post on CR Bugle with Colour Parties rendering honours
1355 Reply on behalf of the guests
1430 Reception and Military Heritage display in Murrisk village (4 miles west)
People intending to travel to this unique event are advised to make accommodation arrangements as soon as possible as August is the height of the tourist season in this popular location.
More details may be had by contacting:
Capt Donal Buckley
086 8889 883
MILITARY HOBBIES EXHIBITION
Immediately following the above dedication, a family day out for those with an interest in things military will take place. Anybody with an interest in exhibiting please contact me at email@example.com
Exhibits can include:
Disbanded Regiments Associations
Any other relevant display
WORLD WAR 1 SEMINAR
Following the success of MHT's Connaught's Military Heritage Seminar in the National Museum at Turlough, Castlebar I 2003 it is intended to mark the 90th Anniversary of the out break of The Great War with a Seminar in the Linen Hall in Castlebar. (The Linen Hall incidentally was the HQ of French General Humbert during the 1798 Revolution).
This war had a traumatic effect on every town and village in Ireland and because the political wind had changed following the end of the war the many, many thousands of soldiers who fought were written out of history and forgotten. It is only in the last number of years that people have had the courage to raise their heads above the parapet of the one sided version of history received, and to start acknowledging the horrendous sacrifice these Irish soldiers made.
This seminar will take place on the last weekend in August 2004 and all are welcome.
Anybody who would like to present a lecture please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 353 (0)94 903 1344.
All are welcome.
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::NEWSLETTER SEPT 2004::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
We brought a group on a tour to WW1 battlefield, museums and cemeteries. The guide was Colonel Dick Heaslip, a man who has an intimate knowledge of the Irish involvement in WW1.
The group was composed of the Roger Casement Branch (Air Corps), Organisation of National ex-Servicemen and Women and other people who had an interest in or who had relatives who fell in WW1.
We flew from Dublin to Charleroi and met the coach at the airport. Then straight to the location where the opening Allied shots of the war were fired on Aug 22, 1914 by Irishman Corporal Thomas of
the Dragoon Guards. We also visited St. Symphorian Cemetery where Mullingar officer, Lt Dease, the first VC of the War is buried.
The tour included the following locations:
Cemetery at Cerisy-Gailly
Newfoundland Park at Beaumont- Hamel
Faubourg-dAmiens Cemetery, Arras
Tyne Cot Cemetery
Langemark German Cemetery
Ypres museum, Flanders Field
Island of Ireland Peace Park at Messines
Redmond Grave and Memorial
Wytchaete Cemetery & 16 Division Memorial
By this location list alone it would seem even to the unfamiliar eye
to be a comprehensive tour, and it was. However it was much, much more.
BACKGROUND TO IRELAND 1912-1922
During WW1the island of Ireland contributed in the region of 230,000 volunteer soldiers to the British Army. What is now the Republic of Ireland was then part of the United Kingdom. The democratic introduction of Home Rule for Ireland was a goal sought after by many people for a long time. It was finally to be introduced in 1912. A minority of Irish people, in the main Loyalist/Protestant/ Unionists from the North East of Ireland was determined that Home Rule would not be introduced. The Ulster Volunteer Force was established to resist by force of arms, its introduction. Weapons were openly imported from Germany and many thousands flocked to its ranks.
An organisation called the Irish Volunteers was then formed by people, mainly Catholic/Nationalist/Republicans, were determined that after years of democratic lobbying, nothing would prevent the introduction of Home Rule. 120,000 men flocked to its ranks. A limited number of weapons were imported from Germany and in contrast to the UVF situation; the authorities actively resisted their import.
In 1914, with the commencement of The Great War, the British Government put the Home Rule Bill on hold until the end of the War. The UVF quickly merged into the British Army, forming the 36th (Ulster) Division, desperately anxious to be seen to assist Britain in her hour of danger and confident that at War's end, their loyalty would be rewarded by the scrapping of Home Rule for Ireland. The Irish Volunteers were encouraged by their politicians and leaders to enlist as it was thought that if loyalty was shown to Britain in her time of danger, the granting of Home Rule at war's end would their reward. 30,000 Irish Volunteers enlisted, in addition to the scores thousands of other Nationalist Irishmen and the 16th (Irish) Division was formed in addition to the already existing 10th Division. All Divisions fought with extreme bravery and gallantry and equally suffered the horrors and deprivations of WW 1. Death or gallantry was not discriminatory.
Meanwhile in Ireland, a minority group within the Irish Volunteers reckoned that no matter what happened, no matter what sacrifices were made, Britain would bow to the demands of the minority who did not want Home Rule at war's end and decided to stage a Rising in 1916, without the knowledge of the leadership of the Irish Volunteers. Given Britain's record in this matter, this assumption was not unreasonable.
A Rising was staged, mainly in Dublin in 1916. It was accepted that this Rising could not be a military success, but that it would "awaken Ireland's desire for freedom". It was quickly subdued. Many of the "British" troops in action against the Rebels were in fact Irish soldiers from Irish Regiments and also Australian troops who were passing through en route to and from the front.
In general people were outraged by the Rebellion. Lives were lost, property was destroyed and jobs were lost. People reckoned that it was a stab in the back and that husbands, brothers and loved ones, fighting at the front had been betrayed. The prisoners being marched to the docks, heading for internment camps in Britain were protected by outraged Dublin mobs by their British Army escorts. The British Government acted quickly and courts-martial were established to deal with the rebellion. However the hand of justice was ham fisted. Death sentences were carried out over a protracted period. Innocent people were shot and many people who had nothing to do with the Rising were interned in Britain. After a while a grudging respect was given to the Rebels (as per their plan), and it was thought after all that they had behaved honourably and put up a fair fight. Recruitment to the British Army dropped (as it also did in the North of Ireland) and the British Government reckoned that conscription was the answer. The Conscription Act was passed in 1918. Note that it was never introduced in Ireland, Ireland has never had conscription. Nationalist leaders, the Catholic Church and (old) Sinn Féin strongly resisted the introduction of conscription. A general election was held in 1918 and Sinn Féin candidates, with an independent Republic of Ireland agenda, swept the boards.
1918 GENERAL ELECTION, WAR OF INDEPENDENCE, TREATY
The new Irish parliament, known as the Dáil, sat in the Mansion House in Dublin and the Declaration of Independence was read. On the same day in Soloheadbeg, Co. Tipperary, two Royal Irish Constabulary men were ambushed and shot dead. The Dáil was declared illegal and the War of Independence began. It lasted from 1919 to 1921 when a Truce was called. Talks ensued and a Treaty was agreed in 1922. A Free State would be established in 26 Counties and a State known as Northern Ireland would be established in 6 of the 9 Ulster Counties.
The troops of the 36th (Ulster) Division who came back have rightly never been forgotten by the people of Northern Ireland. They are very much remembered to this day. However, people in Northern Ireland do not tend to remember much the 16th (Irish) Division and the 10th Division.
As for the Republic, the contribution of Irish soldiers was written out of history altogether. The concept of Irishmen fighting in British uniform did not suit the image of the New Ireland. All the sacrifices made, all the grieving families, all the dead soldiers, all the returned heroes who had fought for the "Freedom of small Nations" and "Poor little Catholic Belgium" were airbrushed out of history. It was as if it had never happened and yet, not a town or village in Ireland escaped the horrific casualty roll of the Great War. (A similar occurrence was to happen in WW 2. See Normandy notes below).
Finally, in the late 20th Century people began to realise what had happened and began to question the one-sided version of history that had been fed to us. Regimental Associations to perpetuate the memories of those Irishmen who gave their all began to spring up. First the Royal Munster Fusilier Association, then the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association followed by the Connaught Rangers Association and most recently by the Leinster Regiment. The memories of those who fought for us, for the "Freedom of Small Nations", for "Poor Little Catholic Belgium" began to be awakened. Too late for the WW1 veterans, but not too late for their families, their relatives and their descendents. Not to late for the remaining aged veterans of WW2.
Not too late for those of us with a conscience, a sense of history and those of us who would reclaim our military heritage, our military heritage that was claimed by the British and by the Unionists and rejected by the Republicans. The memory of a generation that was sacrificed for us, and that we wrote out of our history is only now being awoken.
MHT TOUR OF THE GREAT WAR
It was with this sense, this knowledge, this awareness and this burden that Military Heritage Tours organised this tour to Belgium and France to visit our dead, our fallen and our patriots.
It was with this same sense that we were joined by servicemen, ex-servicemen and others who wanted to visit, wanted to pay their respects and wanted to remember their dead.
LOCATION OF THE IRISH FALLEN
The morning after we arrived we crossed the Somme at Albert and visited the military cemetery at Cerisy-Gailly. One ex-serviceman, Sgt Michael Prince had information that his Uncle Pte Patrick Prince of the Kings Liverpool Rifles and who fell in June 1916 was buried there. Pte Patrick Prince's grave was soon found and one can imagine the emotion displayed by Michael and by all who accompanied him.
This man had never seen before where his uncle had been buried. A relative had never visited before this grave. Photographs were taken, poetry was read and a significant moment in Irish history and Michael's life was experienced
Also on tour we had the honour and pleasure of being accompanied by 90-year-old Mrs. Lily Sheehan and her younger sister, Mrs Alice Goggin. In 1924, Lily had asked about her uncle, Pte John Lawlor. Her mother told her that he had been killed in the Great War. She resolved that day that she would visit his grave. Down through the years there were some potential opportunities to realise this ambition but for one reason or another they were never realised. Finally, after 80 years this lady and her sister joined our tour to complete what was literally a life-long ambition.
Can one imagine the emotion of the moment when the name of Pte. Joseph Lawlor was discovered on the memorial wall of Pozieries Cemetery on the Somme? This elderly lady and her sister making her way past the names of thousands of fallen to visit her Uncle's name etched on a wall far from home. 2,700 soldiers are buried here and the names of 14,600 soldiers who have no known grave are remembered here. Having waited literally 80 years to travel to this cemetery, to place her hand upon the name of Joseph Lawlor, this was some experience in the lives of Mrs Cunningham and Mrs. Goggin. Again, no one had ever visited this man, this hero. It took 88 years for this to happen.
We had another gentlemen with us, Mr.Gerard Donnelly. His story was similar. In that same cemetery he found the name of his relative 2/Lt Meeghan and I visited the name of my wife's granduncle, Pte John McHale.
How many families in Ireland could repeat the same story? Only in Ireland has this additional cruelty been imposed upon the families of the fallen (and the survivors) not only the families of the Great War, but also families of WW2.
However attitudes are now changing and Military Heritage Tours will go out of its way to facilitate anybody who would like to visit the site where a relative fought, fell, is remembered or is buried.
It should be noted well that in 2004, for the first time ever an Irish Army Officer was present in an official capacity at the remembrance ceremony at Messiness.
The tour visited Menin Gate and partook in the ceremonies.
The ceremony commenced with Reveille and followed with a Wreath Laying Ceremony. A wreath on behalf of the tour, in memory of the "Nearly Forgotten Irish Soldier", was laid by Captain Buckley (Retd) and Sgt John Condon (Retd), Roger Casement Branch of the ONE, Air Corps. It was a most emotional occasion for everybody and a moment we will not forget.
A piper from the London Irish Rifles played during the ceremony and also a Welsh Male Voice Choir rendered superbly a selection of hymns including:
Bread of Heaven
Onwards Christian Soldiers
I Vow to Thee
At the Island of Ireland Peace Park a further wreath was laid in memory of the Irish fallen. This ceremony was led by Patrick McLaughlin and accompanied by his comrades from the Roger Casement Branch of the ONE. This was another emotional occasion, Irish servicemen, making a tribute to their fallen comrades. These comrades fell in another time, in another world, in another political maelstrom.
It is interesting to ponder for a moment on the further intricacies of the participants in this ceremony. A full grasp of the complexities Irish history would be a decided advantage because it is in one way ironic and yet fully correct that it should have happened. The unravelling of the intricacies and implications here is a basis for thesis in itself.
Sir Roger Casement was an Irishmen, knighted by Britain for exposing horrific cruelty by Belgians in their then Congo colony. He was involved in the organisation of the 1916 Rising. He was also involved in the visiting of Irish prisoners in German POW camps and attempting to recruit them to fight against Britain in the Casement Brigade. When he landed in Kerry in 1916 by German U Boat he was promptly captured. In London he was tried and sentenced to be hanged, for treason.
His body was returned home to Ireland in 1965, landing at the Air Corps base at Baldonnell, Co. Dublin. The Air Corps base was thereafter named as Casement Aerodrome and it's ex-Serviceman's Branch was since known as the Roger Casement Branch, the "Sir" being dropped in deference to his status as a hero of a Republic. Many of the troops providing the ceremonial detail for the arrival and reburial of Casement's body would have been freshly returned from peace enforcing duties in the newly independent Congo.
One can appreciate the complexity here. An Irishman, knighted by Britain for his humanitarian work in the Belgian Congo, plotting against Britain during wartime, working with Germany, infiltrating Irish POW's (British Army) in Germany in an attempt to get them to fight against Britain, being hanged for treason. Then 49 years later returned to his then freed country and greeted by troops who assisted in the stabilisation of the newly independent Congo. An ex-Serviceman's group (containing Congo veterans) named in his honour, visiting the graves of their fallen countrymen in Belgium to honour those who had fought and served in the British Army. History is not black and white, Irish history is no exception. History is what happened. History is not what we would have liked it to be.
OLD SOLDIERS DAY, ROYAL IRISH REGIMENT, ST. PATRICKS BKS., BALLYMENA, CO. ANTRIM
Old Soldiers was early this year, moved forward a week in order to facilitate people who wished to travel to Normandy to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of D Day.
Military Heritage Tours was again invited to attend this important day. A busload from the Republic travelled to this occasion to celebrate part of our joint military heritage. Irish soldiers from both traditions assembled to celebrate their history. Normandy veterans took pride of place in this year's ceremonies, for obvious reasons. The parade was taken by General Sir John Wheeler, former Chief of the General Staff of the British Army. The hospitality displayed was again outstanding and friendships from last year and elsewhere were renewed. The recognition by Military Heritage Tours of our joint military heritage, north and south of the border was again highlighted by our presence. Our invitation to the event by the Royal Irish Regiment and the Old Soldiers Day committee was an equal acknowledgement of this joint heritage. Any veterans or others, who would wish to join us on this trip in 2005, please contact us.
MILITARY HERITAGE TRUST OF IRELAND BRIEFING AT COLLINS BARRACKS, DUBLIN
The Military Heritage Trust of Ireland held a briefing in Collins Barracks Dublin about developments and we also were briefed by Mr. Labhras Joye, on the plans for the new Military Museum. The briefing was attended by a cross section of people, military, civilian and academics from north and South of the Border. The Military Heritage of Ireland Trust is a body set up as a result of the Good Friday Agreement to preserve and perpetuate Irish military heritage.
WORLD WAR II D DAY 60th ANNIVERSARY TOUR, NORMANDY
This tour was a very special tour, not only because it was the 60th Anniversary, but also because we had four Irish WW2 veterans with us, three of whom who had been in action on D Day.
It was an absolute privilege to be in the company of these men and some members of their families. We salute Bill FitzMaurice, Tommy Meehan, Leo Cafferkey and Jack Allshire. Because of the popularity of the trip it was necessary to sail via Roscoff. This added to the travel time but the interim hotel arrangements in Pont Orsonne were superb. D Day itself was mainly spent in St. Mere Église as the congestion around Arromanche was prohibitive.
DEDICATION TO THE FALLEN IRISH
The highlight of the trip was to be present at the dedication to the fallen Irish soldier near Caen, at Longueval and Le Cambé wood, where troops of 1 Bn and 2 Bn Royal Ulster Rifles respectively, fell in action. The organisation and hospitality extended to us by the RUR Association and the Royal Irish Regiment was beyond comparison. It was a superb occasion and it was correct and proper that MHTL attended this commemoration. 66,000 Irish soldiers fought in the Battle of Normandy in British uniform plus countless others who fought in other Allied uniform. The hospitality shown us by the French people in the area was equal to the reception provided to the Irish in Belgium.
It is noted with great honour that whilst our tour bus was running late on the day (traffic congestion), the ceremony was delayed pending our arrival.
One of the famous personalities we met in Normandy was General Corran Purdon. Gen Purdon was born in Rushbrook, Co. Cork. He was captured in St. Nazaire after the famous raid involving HMS Cambletown. He escaped, was recaptured and was incarcerated in Colditz until liberated by American Forces.
It was decided to visit the French Armour museum at Saumur. This was indeed a treat for armour buffs. The range and scale of the equipment on display is quiet astonishing and is well worth a visit
In WW 2 Ireland was officially neutral. This was a stance also initially adopted by Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and the USA. At the commencement of War, the government of the day decided that we would stay neutral and that we would enter a period to be known as "The Emergency".
This stance was to be observed more in the breach than the observance. A lot of pressure was brought to bear by Britain as she did not respect our neutrality being a former colony and neighbour, and yet as the war progressed she was full aware of the covert help she was receiving. In addition, most neutral countries prevent by law its citizens from joining belligerent forces. 165,000 citizens from the Free State enlisted in the British Army. This figure does not include the numbers who served in the RAF, RN, other Commonwealth Forces and US Forces. It also does not include the 55,000 Regular soldiers in the Irish Army and 100,000 in her Reserve. It includes however the figure of 5,500 Irish Army deserters who joined the British Army when it was realised that they were not going to get to grips with the Axis Forces, if they stayed at home to defend "neutral Ireland".
The Irish Government was in an invidious situation. The War of Independence was fought just 20 years previously and the idea of joining forces with a country that unleashed the Black & Tans and the Auxiliaries was abhorrent to many minds. However, Ireland was in danger of being invaded by Germany and by Allied Forces and was prepared to make any invader "pay in blood for every inch of territory that was invaded". If she were to ally herself to Britain, she would automatically become an enemy of the Axis Forces and would make herself a target like the UK. If she remained neutral, she was in danger of being invaded by British Forces who would like to get her hands on Irish ports and Airfields and deny the ground to the Axis Forces. Her stated policy was that she would deny her territory to all comers. In reality, the Irish and British Forces held regular staff meetings and plans for British assistance were in readiness, should there be an attack/invasion from Germany.
Irelands position is perhaps best summed up by the British Dominion's Secretary, Viscount Cranbourne on 21 Feb 1945 commenting on whether or not Ireland should be invited to join the United Nations.
He gave the following examples of Irish co-operation during the war:
(A) The arrangement of Staff talks to plan against a possible German invasion of Ireland and the subsequent close liaison between Britain and the Irish Authorities.
(B) The similar liaison between British Intelligence regarding all aliens (including Germans) resident in Ireland.
(C) Permission given to Allied aircraft to over-fly a corridor of Irish territory for easier access to the Atlantic.
(D) The transmission of meteorological reports and of submarine and air activity around Irish coasts.
(E) Internment of all German fighting personnel reaching Ireland and the sharply contrasting treatment of Allied personnel, who by the early stages of the war were allowed "to depart freely" and who were given full assistance in recovering damaged aircraft.
(F) The Irish Government's silent acquiescence in the departure from their jurisdiction of thousand's of Irishmen who wished to serve in the Allied Forces and in their returning to Ireland on leave (in civilian clothing provided at British ports)
(G) The establishment of a radar station in southern Ireland for use against the latest form of submarine warfare.
It should be also noted that the newly formed Irish Naval Service's first operation was at Dunkirk. Whilst Irish crews were in Britain to collect Motor Torpedo Boats that had been ordered, the Dunkirk evacuation took place. It is a little known fact that one if not two Irish MTB's crewed by uniformed Irish sailors assisted in this evacuation.
At the end of the War, the US Government wanted to decorate the Irish Chief of Staff, Assistant Chief of Staff and the Colonel Commanding the Air Corps with the Legion of Merit. However, the offer was declined by the Irish Government so as to maintain the overt assistance covertly.
Again at war's end the returning soldiers, sailors and airmen disappeared into the new Ireland. No thank you, no well done, no regimental reunions and no mention. Again it was as if it never happened. Churchill went on air to fume about "Éire's lack of co-operation" and how lucky she was that Britain was not forced to come to terms with her. How she might have done but did not in spite of the fact that German and Japanese embassies/ legations were open in Dublin.
The fact that De Valera went to the German Legation to sign a Book of Condolence when Hitler died was without doubt a serious mistake to put it mildly. In his insistence that the pretence of neutrality continue, this appalling act was carried out. It horrified all right thinking people around the world and history will judge this act as being a dreadful error of judgement at best.
MILITARY MUSEUM DESIGN TEAM
Tour of waterloo, WW1 sites and Fontenoy. The design team that will create Ireland's new Military Museum in Collins Barracks, Dublin were brought to the above locations on a reconnaissance.