Bust of first World War field marshal unveiled

Earl Frederick Roberts of Waterford was oldest recorded military casualty in war

A bust of the oldest soldier on record to to die in the first World War was yesterday unveiled alongside the memorial to the youngest documented casualty, and a fellow Waterford native, in a new acknowledgement of the thousands of Irish people who fell in that conflict.

Field Marshal Earl Frederick Roberts of Kandahar, Pretoria and Waterford died of pneumonia aged 82 while serving in France in 1914. A year later, Waterford-born Private John Condon died in Flanders at the age of just 14. Field Marshal Roberts, who was born in India but regarded as being from Waterford, got married in the city and spent much time there, was a great-grandson of renowned architect John Roberts, designer of both the Church of Ireland and Catholic cathedrals in Waterford as well as many other famous buildings.

Among the guests of honour at yesterday's ceremony was the British ambassador Dominick Chilcott, who told the gathering that the Irish Guards was founded in 1900 by Queen Victoria to mark the contribution of Irish soldiers to the second Boer War, possibly as a result of an idea of Field Marshal Roberts, who was one of the queen's most trusted military advisers.

Members of the regiment killed in the first World War included 68 men from Co Waterford. “Whatever the justification for that war and whatever you think about its causes, there’s no longer any reason to shy away from remembering the loss of human life,” Mr Chilcott said.


The unveiling of the bust was carried out by Lt Col Alexander Turner, the current commanding officer of the Irish Guards regiment, which was led in its early days by Earl Roberts.


The event in Cathedral Square also commemorated the Irish Guardsmen from Waterford city and county who died, and coincided with the opening of a new exhibition at the Waterford Treasures Museum on the distinguished Roberts family.

Before the Last Post was sounded in Cathedral Square, wreaths were laid by Ambassador Chilcott, Lt Col Stephen Ryan of behalf of the Defence Forces; deputy mayor of Waterford John O'Leary; president of the Royal British Legion Maj Gen the O'Morchoe; and Major Michael Keown on behalf of the Irish Guards.