Kerry and the Munster Fusiliers
Sir, – In light of the numerous upcoming events to commemorate the 1916 Rising, I noted, with interest, the reaction of Sinn Féin to plans to honour Irishmen who died with the Munster Fusiliers in the first World War (“Row over plan to honour slain Irishmen from Munster Fusiliers”, January 20th).
Have we now entered an era of tit-for-tat commemorations? – Yours, etc,
DONNCHA de BÚRCA,
Sir, – How sad to read of a former mayor of Kerry’s issues with the addition of names to a first World War monument.
Last August I travelled to Cape Helles and Suvla Bay on the stunningly beautiful Gallipoli peninsula to see for myself the place where Irishmen and Turks fought each other to the death, in places where the front line was at most eight metres apart, and the casualties on both sides were in almost equal numbers. As part of a research team, I was investigating those members of the Dublin University Boat Club who perished there in 1915.
Much has been written about Ernest Lawrence Julian (Royal Dublin Fusiliers), who was killed at Chocolate Hill, and buried at sea on August 8th, but three of the 12 who died in that campaign were Royal Munster Fusiliers. Robert Hornidge Cullinan, Joseph Bagnall Lee, and Spencer Robert Valentine Travers gave up their lives, most likely on the Kiretch Tepe (Kizlar Ridge), in a three-day attempt to secure the high ground (or part of it) above the Salt Lake. All died within 24 hours of each other at the beginning of that August offensive. Their bodies were never recovered, and they are commemorated on the Helles memorial.
Our local guide told tales of heroism and slaughter on both sides of the divide, memorably describing the ceasefire when Turks and Allies laid down their weapons and came out into no-man’s land to collect and bury their dead, such was the carnage, and huge number of corpses lying between the lines.
A century later, I do not believe that the actions of these men are still divisive, and the erection of a timely memorial should not be either. And, in the same spirit of acceptance that both the Rising and the Somme did happen within a matter of weeks of each other, let us not be churlish about commemorating either event. – Yours, etc,