A Rising in the ranks

 

A chara, – Ronan McGreevy writes, “It has been an enduring historical mystery [. . .] as to why the Rising did not provoke a mutiny among the Irish in the British army or even reports of widespread desertion and insubordination’(“Secret files reveal how deeply the Easter Rising affected Irishmen serving in first World War”, May 7th) . However, there is already suggestive evidence available in Bureau of Military History witness statements on this topic.

Captain Tom Byrne (statement No 564) and others in Dublin speak of Crown Forces deserters joining their ranks to fight during the week. Lieutenant Joseph McCarthy (statement No 1497), one of the late prisoner arrivals to Dublin post-Rising, witnessed a parade scene in Richmond Barracks for an “Irish” battalion which he claimed was part of “the British rushing, in unseemly haste, all the Irish regiments out of Ireland to France”.

But it is Captain Laurence Nugent (statement No 907) of the National Volunteers, who provides the most striking testimony on the subject, worth repeating in full.

He states, “There were rumours of trouble with Irish soldiers in France. They had received some news of the Rising but did not know exactly what had happened and were anxious about their people at home. For the purpose of preventing any further trouble that might arise on account of the secrecy, Colonel Jameson Davis of Wexford, who was well known in the early Volunteer days, with the connivance of the Irish Parliamentary Party and, of course, with the assistance of the British military, dressed in the uniform of an Irish Volunteer Officer travelled to the war area in France and conversed with various Irish companies and battalions, and succeeded in allaying their suspicions. This arrangement never came before the National Committee. The whole affair was kept secret and we only got to know of it when some men came home on leave”.

I would suggest that it should be an easy enough matter to ascertain if “Irish” regiments of the British army were being shipped out of Ireland post-Rising and, as well, to ascertain if Col Jameson Davis was indeed sent on a tour of the Western Front at this time. If so, I would suggest that there are substantial revisions necessary on certain historical narratives which have sprung up here in the recent past. – Is mise,

DAVID FLOOD,

Dublin 9.