Lt Tom Kettle recalled 100 years after death at Battle of Ginchy

Kettle killed leading B Company, 9th Royal Dublin Fusiliers; 300 Irish killed in the battle

Lt Tom Kettle, in an image from his book The Ways of War. The MP and academic  was one of the most high-profile Irish casualties of the  Battle of the Somme.

Lt Tom Kettle, in an image from his book The Ways of War. The MP and academic was one of the most high-profile Irish casualties of the Battle of the Somme.

 

One hundred years to the day after he was killed at the Battle of Ginchy in France during the first World War, Lt Tom Kettle has been remembered in Dublin.

Kettle was killed leading his men from B Company, the 9th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, during the bloody battle in which more than 300 Irishmen were killed.

He was one of the most high-profile Irish casualties of the wider Battle of the Somme. He had been a MP, an academic and a writer.

His poem To my Daughter Betty, the Gift of God, written just four days before he died, is one of the most famous of the first World War.

Kettle was professor of economics at UCD and was honoured in his old university by the unveiling of a bronze plaque on Friday morning. It coincided with a seminar on his life and works.

It was unveiled by UCD president Prof Andrew Deeks, and features Kettle’s famous poem.

Serving Irish soldier Col Dr Brendan O’Shea said the historic neglect of Kettle’s memory had been “nothing short of a national disgrace”.

Writing in the magazine Ireland’s Military Story, Dr O’Shea said men like Kettle had been written out of Irish history.

‘Historical footnote’

“Of course there are reasons for this - not least amongst which is the manner in which history has been taught to successive generations prioritising one historical narrative over another, and thereby effectively reducing the contribution of Kettle and others like him to the status of an historical footnote.

“This was deplorable, and ignored the fact that Tom Kettle was a truly great Irishman of whom we should all be immensely proud.”

The State was represented at a memorial service in St Stephen’s Green. Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan represented the Government.

Mr Flanagan and members of the Kettle family laid flowers at the bust to Kettle which was first erected in St Stephen’s Green in 1927.

In paying tribute to Lt Kettle, Mr Flanagan described him a “true European”and a “hugely important figure”.

“The death of this proud nationalist was not only a loss for his family and friends but a huge loss to Ireland, ” he stated.

“Ireland in the early years of statehood could only have been enriched by someone of his intellect and talents, and his loss is a reminder of the tragedy of a generation from across Europe who were caught up in the slaughter of World War I.”

As part of the day’s commemorative events, Mr Flanagan launched an exhibition, Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace, a series of photographs by photographer Mike Sheils which focus on the battlefields of the war and which will be on display at the Lime Walk on the northern end of St Stephen’s Green until mid-October.

This exhibit will be on display for seven weeks in St Stephen’s Green and is free of charge to the public.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson and Ireland’s Ambassador to London, Dan Mulhall, also led a commemoration at the Palace of Westminster.

Wreaths laid

They laid wreaths at the House of Commons first World War memorial for Lt Kettle, who joined the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and enlisted to fight in the first World War the following year.

Mr Mulhall said Lt Kettle must have gone to the front in the aftermath of the Easter Rising with a heavy heart.

“He confessed to a realisation that those who had fought in Dublin would come to be regarded as heroes and martyrs, while he would be remembered, if at all, as ‘a bloody British officer’.”

Nevertheless, Kettle maintained an idealistic stance on the war to the end of his life. He saw the conflict as a battle to save European civilisation and wanted Ireland to become more European in its orientation.

Although in poor health on account of his excessive drinking, he insisted on being sent to the front in the summer of 1916.

He hoped the participation of Irishmen of all creeds in the war “would be a prelude to two reconciliations, between Britain and Ireland and between unionist Ulster and nationalist Ireland”, the Ambassador said.