This week 100 years ago, Irish soldiers were among thousands preparing for the onset of the Battle of the Somme.
On the first day, about 3,000 Irishmen perished in what would become a byword for the slaughter of modern warfare. Their story is among those explored in a new book by Irish Times journalist Ronan McGreevy.
Wherever the Firing Line Extends: Ireland and the Western Front was launched by French ambassador Jean-Pierre Thébault (above left, with McGreevy) at the Alliance Française in Dublin last night. It follows the path of Irish participation in the first World War through the monuments left behind.
The title is from a speech by John Redmond in 1914 urging Irish Volunteers to go "wherever the firing line extends".
“Many, many more Irishmen died in the preservation of the French Republic than died in the creation of our own,” McGreevy said at the launch. “There are more Irishmen on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing than were killed in the War of Independence.”
The first World War was the biggest conflict in Irish history in terms of participation and casualties. The book is a tour of the places in France and Flanders where Irish soldiers fought and died.