New exhibition remembers rugby players killed in war

Lansdowne ‘posh pals’ joined fight but many died in battle

An exhibition remembering Irish men who fought in the first World War has gone on display in Glasnevin Cemetery. Conor Dodd speaks about it. Video: Ronan McGreevy

 

An exhibition to remember 39 players from Lansdowne rugby club who did not return from fighting in the the first World War will open this evening.

The so-called posh pals were mostly drawn from the middle class and educated sections of Dublin society.

They signed up in their hundreds after a call from the IRFU president Frank Browning in August 1914.

Some 300 rugby players answered the call to report to Lansdowne Road in September 1914 to sign up for the war effort. Approximately 130 never came back.

Together they formed D company of the 7th battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Many joined as privates, although a secondary school education automatically entitled a man to be commissioned as an officer.

When they left for the Gallipoli campaign in April 1915 thousands of people took to the streets of Dublin to see them off. The Irish Times reported at the time: “The scenes of enthusiasm that were witnessed yesterday proved that the city pulses with ardent enthusiasm for the cause of the Allies.”

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Of the 239 men in D company, just 79 were not killed, wounded or taken prisoner in Gallipoli.

Six panels of material tell the story of the men from Lansdowne RFC who died in the war. It includes the story of Dr Henry Moore, who was 55 when he died, the oldest medical officer in the British army to be killed.

Of the 300 members of the Lansdowne club, 130 joined up to fight along with 120 ex-members. In total 72 died in the war.

“We’re thinking of making this a permanent exhibition. For many decades of the 20th century it was not politically correct to mention these men because the tide of history had gone out on them,” said Ciaran O’Mara, who is organising the exhibition. It opens at Lansdowne rugby club at 7.30pm tonight.

Another exhibition featuring first World War memorabilia donated by the Irish public to Glasnevin Cemetery will open this afternoon to mark Armistice Day.

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