Request with swastika stamp found in files

Emigration among IRA veterans was widespread – 60 per cent of one Sligo regiment emigrated by 1935

Letter from German prisoner of war and former Connaught Ranger William Coman.

Letter from German prisoner of war and former Connaught Ranger William Coman.

Fri, Jan 17, 2014, 01:00


A prisoner of war in Germany who asked Irish authorities to hold on to his military pension until he returned home, was among hundreds of veterans who

moved abroad after the Rising and the Civil War.

Over a tenth of applications and communications being released in the current tranche of the Military Pensions Archive are from overseas. Multiple applications came from the US (118), England (151) and Australia (17). Single applications came from Rhodesia, the West Indies, South Africa and Switzerland.

Emigration among veterans was widespread – 60 per cent of one Sligo regiment of the IRA emigrated by 1935.

William Coman was enlisted in the British army in 1916 but was one of the members of the Connaught Rangers (an Irish brigade of the British army based in India) who took part in a mutiny over British occupation of Ireland in 1920.

He along with dozens of others were court-martialled and he was sentenced to 15 years penal servitude and served 2½ years. As a result he was awarded a Connacht Rangers pension by the Irish authorities.

However, by 1943 he was back in the British army and was a prisoner of war in Berlin. A handwritten envelope, stamped with a swastika is contained the files. “I am wrighting (sic) to notify you that I am a prisoner of war” he wrote. “I will have to leave my money with you until the war is over,” he wrote. In a letter written two years later he tells the board he has been “repatriated” and is seeking “all arrears of pension”.

The transfer of funds abroad did not always go smoothly. One of the many US-based applicants, James Moran in Illinois , was granted a pension for his service with the Irish Volunteers during the Rising.

There are several letters from Moran querying delayed payments across the Atlantic. In one letter in January 1941 he wrote “I am told by my bank the Northern Trust Co of Chicago that my pension warrant for July, August and September. . . has been lost at sea in November and December due to war.”

Also seeking to be paid while abroad was Ina Connolly Heron who was given a pension as her father James Connolly’s dependant and her own service in Cuman na mBan. In 1957 she wrote to the Department of Defence to ask if she could be paid her pension while in the US temporarily.

There followed several similar requests from Connolly Heron from Mexico in 1958, California and 1965, San Francisco and Hollywood in the 1970s.