A female casualty in Easter 1916

Mon, Jul 7, 2014, 01:07

Sir, – Frank McNally’s reference to Margaret Naylor, the first female casualty of Easter Week 1916 (An Irishman’s Diary, July 3rd) is a reminder of a memory which haunted British army lieutenant John Lowe all his life. Lowe, as aide-de-camp, was by his father’s side all that week right up to the point when Maj Gen William Henry Muir Lowe took the surrender of Patrick Pearse.

Lieut Lowe was on a few days of leave from France and returned there to survive several key battles of the first World War, including the Battle of the Somme, before being captured by the Germans near the end of the war. Yet, for all he saw in the trenches, his only memory of the horrors of war in his autobiography Hollywood Hussar was the sight of a woman shot dead in Dublin – her “skirts bunched up around her waist . . . a truly horrible and unforgettable sight. The worst I ever saw in all of the war”.

Whether or not it was Margaret Naylor he saw is a matter of speculation, but he seems to suggest that the British army was responsible for the majority of the female deaths with this: “Although my father issued strict orders that no women were to be fired at under any circumstances whatsoever, many were killed”.

Lowe went on to become a Hollywood film star and stage actor. After changing his name to John Loder he married Hedy Lamarr, who was billed as the “world’s most beautiful woman”, and starred as a British officer in love with the sister of an IRA man in Ourselves Alone, a 1936 film set during the Anglo-Irish War. – Yours, etc,

ERIC VILLIERS,

The Thatched Cottage,

Tirnascobe Road,

Armagh.