New project hopes to find out how many Irishmen died in the first World War

Humphreys acknowledges Irish War Memorial Records ‘need correcting and cross-checking’

The Irish War Memorial Records are to be updated. Ronan McGreevy visits the graves of three Irish soldiers who died in WWI: the youngest John Condon (14) and two of the oldest, Thomas Carthy (47) and Major Willie Redmond (56). Video: Ronan McGreevy

 

The Irish War Memorial Records, which list the names of 49,400 men who died in the first World War, are to be updated. The Government is to combine with Google and the In Flanders Fields museum in Ypres to update the records, which were first created in 1922. They hope the project will give a more accurate picture of how many Irishmen died in the war.

The records represent an attempt to catalogue all those who died, but they include non-Irish soldiers who died in Irish regiments and exclude many Irishmen who died in non-Irish regiments. There are also many double entries and errors. The records were digitised and released last year. They are available at imr.inflandersfields.be, but many of the individual records after nearly 100 years are flawed or incomplete.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys has acknowledged the records “need correcting and cross-checking”.

She said she hoped the project would improve knowledge of how many Irish men were killed in the war, a figure that remains uncertain to this day. Most historians believe it is between 30,000 and 40,000.

A bursary scheme is being set up to allow Irish history students to spend time at the In Flanders Fields museum where the records are kept.

“This scheme will play an important part in connecting young Irish people with the realities of this awful conflict in which so many from the island of Ireland fought and died,” Ms Humphreys said.

The Minister was in Ypres yesterday for the centenary commemorations marking the start of the first Battle of Ypres. She attended an evening service at the new Menin Gate where Belgium’s King Philip laid a wreath and the country’s prime minister, Charles Michel, made an address. She also launched a new Google online exhibition on Irish involvement in the war, which will be available on Google’s Cultural Institute.

Meanwhile, the annual Remembrance Day memorial service in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin is to be televised this year for the first time.