Database of people from Ireland who died in first World War released

Names of more than 31,000 people included in archive by military historian Tom Burnell

Burnell says the publication of the database ‘is one of the best days of my life’. Photograph: Getty Images

Burnell says the publication of the database ‘is one of the best days of my life’. Photograph: Getty Images

 

A database of more than 31,380 people who died in the first World War from what is now the Republic has gone live for Armistice Day.

The database, Irelandsgreatwardead.ie, is a digitisation of military historian Tom Burnell’s 15-volume series 26 County Casualties of the Great War, which listed 29,450 people who died in the war. It was published in 2017.

That mammoth act of remembrance took him 15 years. The full series comprises 15 volumes, 8,000 pages and more than three million words. It begins with Private John Abbey from Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, and ends with Richard Zimber from New Ross, Co Wexford.

Mr Burnell used official and non-official sources including the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database, the books Soldiers Who Died in The Great War and De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, and cuttings from every local and national newspaper.

The criteria for inclusion is born in the 26 counties, lived in the 26 counties, buried in the 26 counties (except for those who died at sea and are not Irish) and next of kin lived in or born in the 26 counties.

Since the series was published, Mr Burnell has added almost 2,000 names through the In From the Cold series. This is a British-based project to remember those who died as a result of the war but not in combat situations.

It also includes coast watchers, civilian drivers for the military, army pay clerks, munition workers, barrack staff and merchant seamen who are not recognised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as war dead.

The database has been digitised with support from Tipperary Libraries which is part of Tipperary County Council.

Mr Burnell began the process in 2000 and his original motivation was to correct the Irish National War Memorial Records which was published in 1922. It listed 49,000 men from Ireland who died in the war, but many of them were not Irish but had served in Irish regiments.

Mr Burnell, who was diagnosed with bile duct cancer earlier this year, said the publication of the database “is one of the best days of my life”. It had been on his computer for years. “I thought that it was would be lost from my computer.”

He said he did not have the personal resources or the time to include the dead from what is now Northern Ireland, but is interested in collaboration so the dead from the whole of Ireland can be accurately calculated.

Given that the six counties of Northern Ireland accounted for a third of all Irish war dead, it would indicate that 45,000 people from Ireland died in or as a result of the first World War.