BELVEDERIANS IN THE WORLD WARS

 


Madam, - Kevin Myers rightly points out the importance of finally recognising those Irish men who died in the many conflicts of the 20th century, and the families of those men whose loss was rarely recognised (An Irishman's Diary, July 31st).

Belvedere College SJ will be doing its part by opening an exhibition in the college on November 15th to commemorate the 68 former pupils and teachers who lost their lives in the wars and conflicts of the 20th century. This will include a book launch and a specially commissioned video, as well as a display of clothing, letters and memorabilia.

It may also be of interest to your readers to know that three Irish Jesuits associated with Belvedere died in the two World Wars while working as chaplains.

Father John Gwynn SJ was chaplain to the Irish Guards in 1914; Father William Doyle, a chaplain to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was killed in 1917 in the Third Battle of Ypres. An Ulster Presbyterian wrote of him: "Ulstermen felt his loss more keenly than anybody, and none were readier to show their marks of respect to the dead hero priest than were our Ulster Presbyterians."

Father John Hayes SJ died of typhus while working as a chaplain in Burma in 1945.

Altogether, there were 41 Irish Jesuits who worked as chaplains in the second World War. Among them was Father Micheál Morrison, who was with the 88th battalion when they liberated the concentration camp at Berger-Belsen in Germany.

When they arrived, there were about 50,000 inmates alive. Most of these were Jews, but at least one third were Catholics. Not surprisingly, Father Morrison never liked to talk about his experience there on his return to Ireland.

The Irish Jesuits hope that, although Belvederians were only a small part of the overall picture, everyone will join with them in taking this opportunity to not just remember the famous victims, but finally to remember all of those Irish who lost their lives in the conflicts of the 20th century, on all sides. - Yours etc.,

GARRY O'SULLIVAN, Communications Manager, Jesuit Communication Centre, 36 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2.