Moment of Truth for Brazil’s military past

Moment of Truth for Brazil’s military past

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Remembering Russia’s unknown soldiers

Remembering Russia’s unknown soldiers

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Call for Papers

Call for Papers.

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Germany considers a more active role

Germany considers a more active role

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World War One at Home: John Logie Baird and the undersock

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Crowds ignore Tower of London poppy garden Tube warning

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The Historian and the Arts/or the ‘Temporal Engineer’

I have been thinking about writing this post for some time. But I caution you the avid reader, just because I have devoted considerable thought to something does not mean I have advanced it thoroughly!

You have been warned!

This post is, what I would view as the first in a series, concerning the historian in the modern era. Recently I have participated in a number of media projects which have used a historical basis to convey information to the public. The first was a television based genealogy programme, the second a play.

Both sets of people were incredibly pleasant to deal with (probably not always the case!) and both seemed to take my concerns regarding factual accuracy at face value. But dare I say without fully understanding why I was so concerned about it. The journalist can print/publish a retraction should something they say be factually incorrect. However the historian has a slightly larger concern. If a statement in the present is wrong, then some recent  memories may be changed; they may be more malleable and can be changed again without upsetting a narrative thread massively.

However if the historian errs, then the past is altered, sometimes with long lasting consequences. These consequences (or ripples if you will) have a ‘knock on’ effect forward in time, which by the very nature of linear based timelines, MUST displace thought and conclusions based on now altered facts and arguments. Therefore logically a new narrative must take the place of the old one, resulting in a ‘new’ history being written, a new narrative being accepted, being taught in schools to a new generation.

This is nothing less than the social engineering of an entire generation.

And the inaccurate historian can create havoc.

The reason why historians stick to facts, the reason they must insist on correctness and accuracy of not only their sources but also their argumentation and reasoning is directly related to the above facts. Without accuracy and dedication to accuracy, then the historian runs role risk of tacitly supporting the construction of a flawed narrative, which may alter the perception of the past in ways which often last far beyond the instigating portrayal, often in the media.

Two good examples would be the film MICHAEL COLLINS and the debate surrounding the scholarship of the late Peter Hart. You’d be genuinely surprised to discover jist how many people thought the British fired at the GPO in the manner depicted in the Neil Jordan film, instead of sniping from the ends of Sackville Street! Or those who STILL believe that the Auxiliaries drove an armoured car onto the pitch in Croke Park to initiate the massacre!

The (ongoing, posthumous) debate concerning Dr. Hart’s secret sources and the alleged false surrender at the Kilmichael Ambush has generated (to paraphrase) “more heat than light.” The withholding of his attributable witness sources and allegations ranging from academic fraud, to stupidity, to outright lying and deception have irreparably damaged the debate surrounding the incident. In this instance Dr. Hart must shoulder a significant portion of the blame, as it was his initial allegations rubbishing the claims of a ‘false surre’ that ignited matters. What he should  have done was secure an impartial third-party to review his unmasked sources and then to vouch for them should they be credible. But alas, poor scholarship and not a small measure of stubborness led to entrenchment and now we may never truly learn of his reasoning.

This, disastrous debacle, is a very solid reason why the dreaded R-word has been received so poorly in Irish Historical scholarship; in truth all ‘new’ history is revisionist in natureand content, if not aggressively so in outlook.

But I digress.

When engaged on a project the historian must ALWAYS endeavour to put factual accuracy to the forefront and should it be necessary, they must be willing to defend that accuracy with dogged determination and righteousness. This stubborness (of which the author has a personal and genetic stockpile) must not be aimed at sheer awkwardness (less the “Ulster Says No”), but rather should be couched in terms appealing to commonsense and should convey a genuine, sincere and professional desire to uphold an accurate, reasoned and logical truth.

While sometimes this approach will fall on understanding, but ultimately unsympathetic (not meant in the negative sense!) ears,  nonetheless every reasoned effort must be made, within the framework of the project, to assure accuracy. Where accuracy is compromised, often in the case of artistic licence, such deviation from the truth must be clearly acknowledged, preferably audibly or in writing! This is to protect both the audience and the historian and also to indemnify the latter from persons claiming that historical accuracy has indeed been compromised.

There’s no business like show business, especially not for a ‘Temporal Engineer’/Historian!

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Bunker busting under London?

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U-boat found with ship it sank

U-boat found with ship it sank

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How the British financed Napoleon’s return to power!

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The forgotten women of the ‘war in the East’

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Limerick’s Military & Logistical Heritage


Limerick, my own adopted city, has a proud and even some would say defiant history of involvement in military affairs. From the Williamite siege of the city, to this year’s 75th anniversary celebration of the Irish Army’s Limerick based 12th Battalion home (in the aftermath of the Irish Civil War), the Treaty City has a wide swathe of experiences related to the World of Warfare.



But not everything of a military mindset is directly related to the business end of a soldiers job. Quite a significant amount of military logistical history can be traced to Limerick; from the havoc that manifested itself after the Patrick Sarsfield destroyed the Williamite army’s siege train, Limerick has provided a series of case studies for the military historian.


Geographically speaking, Limerick has a number of unique advantages. It is uniquely situated in Ireland at the furthest possible fording point on the mighty River Shannon, which by the time it reaches Limerick, has become a tidal estuary. This allows the ancient King Johns Castle an unrivalled position in terms of defence and control over the nodal bridiging points and trade. As the song goes ‘There is an Isle/A bonny isle/Which stretches forth/Proudly against the Sea.’


It was this trade which made (and still makes) Limerick a vitally important logistical and transportational hub. It is located at the Western edge of the ‘Golden Vale’, a geographical area in the Mid-Western sub-region of Ireland, famed for producing some of the beat bacon, cheese, dairy and beef products in the world. Limerick as the largest and nearest accessible natural port, facing the Atlantic ocean was a natural choice for a transhipment point. Indeed in the 19th century the city acquired the moniker ‘Pig Town’, such was the volume of its pork related exports.


Another key actor in this supply chain was the Tait Military Clothing Factory. The factory, located on Lord Edward Street a stones throw from the gates of the city’s Sarsfield Barracks (formerly the New Barracks), was a magnificent example of a military clothing purveyor during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The firm supplied many continental forces (including the British Army during the Great War, whose centenary we currently commemorate). More interestingly perhaps is the fact that Tait’s also supplied the Southern Confederate forces during the American Civil War. The eponymous ‘Tait Jacket’ was produced for the officer corps, in Limerick.



From their factory (portions of which still stand and are being redeveloped), the Tait’s supplied materials to the both Union and Confederate belligerents during their conflict.






An amusing anecdote is still told in Limerick of a Chandler who was contracted to supply the Confederates with tents, pegs and ropes. The merchant loaded a number of ships with the requested goods and despatched them. However in a manner similar to the destruction of the British Army’s Pals Battalions half a century later, disaster befell the convoy; one of the ships sank. This resulted in the ropes and pegs arriving unscathed on one ship and all of the tent canvas headed toward the briney deep!

Posted in Britain, Conflict, Empire, First World War, Ireland, Irish Defence Forces, Logistics, Oglaigh na hEireann, Organisational History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Disappeared: Human remains found in search for Brendan Megraw

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The Other Great War 1918+

How in a single year did life expectancy in the US dropped by 12 years?

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Aids: Origin of pandemic ‘was 1920s Kinshasa’

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Romancing rebellion: the culture that spawned the Irish rebels of Easter 1916

The review begs the question was the real fight the revolution of the soul?

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Boots on the Ground

In the latter years of the Twentieth Century, after the Cold War had come to an end and the thaw that had emerged a new concept was explored in Europe. It was born out of several key concepts and constraints. The budgetary and logistical nightmares of maintaining hundreds of thousands of men, women and materiél almost indefinitely in theatre, as was needed in Cold War Europe led to the evolution of a new concept, which was in effect an old concept with some new window dressing.

Rapid Reaction forces, expeditionary warfare units, Quick Response Forces all names given to military forces which were supposed to be able to remain on suspended readiness for months at a time and then be able to deploy, anywhere on the planet and be fully capable of intervention in a crisis in short order.

At least that was the theory. Now in terms of the recent Russo-Ukranian crisis in the Crimean and Donetsk regions and the ongoing Islamic State slaughter across whole swathes of the Syrian and Iraqi countrysides, it appears that Quick Reaction Forces have fallen out of political favour. American, British and Australian political leaders have all signalled their willingness to engage in unlimited airstrikes against the quasi state (and any entity controlling that massive swathe of
real estate when compared with the actual Iraqi and Syrian governments must be recognised as a serious actor and not denigrated by the juvenile moniker ‘so called Islamic State’), yet they refuse to acknowledge the plain reality I’m front of their faces: sooner or later, everything gets settled by the Infantry.

It’s not bravado, nor bombast, not even service snobbery from the air forces toward the sluggish ground pounders. It all boils down to approval ratings. These days polling and approval ratings are the new gold. Government policies are sold to the populace, politicians hang on every bit of polling data to determine how best (their own best, not what’s right necessarily) to proceed. This proceeding then is logically hampered and hobbled by the limitations imposed upon it by the expectations of a (generally) uninformed and uncaring electorate (a significant portion of whom don’t vote anyway).

The unspoken truth, the bête noir of the early 21st century military operations, is simply this; it is necessary to intervene to establish and execute your will and to do this you will need a range of interventions. These will range from the political, to a coordinated policy of airstrikes and interdictions AND culminating in an intervention by infantry forces. The aerial forces may kill the enemy’s ability to make war on you and other actors, but it is your ability to consolidate that projected power, to deny the created vacuum to the enemy which will determine how successful your forces will be in securing their objectives.

Unfortunately for the western political leaders, decades of limited warfare and extremely poor military planning and a lack of potent, coherent leadership have all contributed to an unwillingness to make decisions which should have been normal and logical. Disastrous campaigns in Vietnam, Iraq (Gulf War 2), Afghanistan, etc have destroyed the willpower necessary to put ‘boots on the ground.’ Successful implementation of a coordinated intervention plan worked well in Kosovo and East Timor. In Haiti they failed due to a lack of a coherent follow-up plan (similar to the complete lack of joined-up-thinking and political willpower in Afghanistan).

Russian forces got mauled in Afghanistan (and it took them a long time to emerge from their own Vietnam) and later and continually in Chechnya and Dagestan. Yet in recent months we saw how Russia used proxy warfare and a limited, yet politically reaolute ‘boots-on-the-ground’ strategy to extend the russian hegemonic sphere further east, which may eventually culminate in the creation of a buffer zone against the ever expanding and yet dithering and anachronistic NATO.

In short, in real terms, until the western militaries accept the need to reinforce fancy airstrikes with a steady leavening of either air mobile troops or an expeditionary warfare cadre, then as history has shown us, international intervention will fall flat.

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How Bosnia is helping Cyprus find peace

How Bosnia is helping Cyprus find peace

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One people, 1,200 sausages

One people, 1,200 sausages

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Zara’s ‘Holocaust uniform’ and other clothing errors

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How Nigeria turned Her Majesty’s prison into a place of pleasure



The British had quite the habit of exporting convicts to their colonies, sometimes to work in forced labour, sometimes for penal servitude made all the worse by its great distance from loved ones and familiarity. Indeed the word ‘exported’ was coined in this context by British officialdom to describe a convict who had been exiled, usually to the West Indies, or later to Australia. However the British rarely sent building supplies with the convicts and that is where we start today’s blog, in Nigeria.


The original building which dated from 1882, was constructed of largely flammable materials (timber and reeds) and was regularly attacked and set on fire by the locals. Incensed by this assault and seeking a more permanent solution to policing woes, the British colonial administrators turned to the humble British Brick. Bricks by their thousand were imported from the British Isles at tremendous expense (more than double the annual expenditure for education) in an effort to construct not only a lasting place of incarceration, but also a symbol of British power; a clear signal to those arsonists that the British were here to stay and were not leaving any time soon.


Broad Street Prison (Courtesy of Lagos City Photos)

Broad Street Prison (Courtesy of Lagos City Photos)


The prison housed inmates detained by the dreaded and hated colonial gendarmerie, the Hausa force, specifically recruited from Northern Nigeria to effect a disconnect and cultural discord with the native Southern Nigerians. The hangman in the Prison also had to be brought from the north of the country in order to (1) be able to effectively execute his duties and (2) one suspects add a layer of extra fear, the ‘other’ outsiders coming to kill on behalf of the British. Over the years Broad Street Prison housed some men who would become very famous in Nigeria’s independence struggle; the political activist Herbert Macaulay, Trade Unionist Pa Michael Imoudu and the politician Obafemi Awolowo.


After independence plans were set in motion to tear down the symbol of colonial oppression, but with the turbulent political climate they were forever stalling. Eventually locals were able to convert it into a garden and a recreational asset for the whole community in Lagos, in a fashion similar to the work of Caesar Manrique in Lanzarote.

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World War One: Kenya’s forgotten heroes

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The WW1 game that’s still popular today

The WW1 game that’s still popular today

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2.6m historic pictures posted online

2.6m historic pictures posted online

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The odd objects looted from Washington DC in 1814

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The odd objects looted from Washington DC in 1814

The odd objects looted from Washington DC in 1814

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Irish Home Rule and the First World War: A Video History by Ronan McGreevy

Irish Home Rule and the First World War


This fantastic short video introduction to the topic of Irish Home Rule and the impact which the advent of the First World War had on it, is brought to you by Ronan McGreevy. I understand it is the first in a short series on both the conflict and the issues of Irish freedom and self-determination. 

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Coonagh had highest death toll in World War I

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Restoring Cork’s National Monument

When time stands still – restoring the national monument

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Uncivilised Actions in a Civil War

Clashmealcon Memorial

Clashmealcon Memorial

With the world’s rather limited attention span at present being directed at the horrors that are the civil wars in both Ukraine and Iraq/Syria, one could almost be forgiven for thinking that the Irish road to eventual independence came with a rather limited human cost, that we were spared the worst excesses of zealotry and that the blight of internecine conflict never troubled us.


But unfortunately you would be wrong. So very, very wrong.




The Irish civil war shocked even those most jaded by the long campaign waged for independence in Ireland. The Ireland of the 1913 Lockout, the Somme, the Easter Rising, the Tan War and Bloody Sunday, did not leave the butcher’s bill lacking when it came to a post-Treaty schism. The events of 1922-1923 are shadowy in aspect, they are rarely brought into the full light of day; partly one suspects because of the shameful nature of ‘falling’ from the heroic epic of fighting the ‘invader’ to fighting one’s brethren and partly owing to the squalid, hateful nature of the conflict itself. During this period men and women who had pledged their lives to something better, to something greater than themselves, to an ideal, a hope, those same men and women fell like angels and contested the scraps on a barren earth.


National Army soldiers escort an IRA prisoner during the Civil War in Munster

National Army soldiers escort an IRA prisoner during the Civil War in Munster


The Irish Civil War saw the deaths of many; some estimates put the losses at between one and four-thousand souls. Whilst the republicans managed to inflict about eight to nine-hundred casualties on the nascent Free State forces, they received far higher casualties themselves; needless to say, the civilian population also suffered high casualties. Although the hostlities were sread throughout the island, they were concentrated in the South and West. The new National Army was able to bring overwhelming forces to bear on the beleagured rebels and eventually, after the loss of the major towns and the Fall of Limerick and Cork, the Anti-Treaty IRA were forced to adopt their tried and tested Guerrilla Warfare strategy. During the Winter of 1922, the IRA’s conventional structure had been destroyed and men had grouped together in units of under ten, living together in safe-houses.


Clashmealcon Safe House

Clashmealcon Safe House


Also during the Winter of 1922, the Free State, shorn of its leadership of Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith in the previous months, was left to prosecute the war as best it could. The Provisional Government authorised the execution of Anti-Treaty prisoners. With the die cast, the executions of over seventy Anti-Treatites soon led to assassinations, including that of TD Seán Hales.


Memorial Plaque on the Safe House wall

Memorial Plaque on the Safe House wall


And assassinations swiftly led to Free State atrocities like the Ballyseedy, where nine captured republicans were tied to a landmine, which was then detonated, killing eight and allowing only one to escape. Massacres such as this ignited the public consciousness in condemnation of this period in our history. The revulsion shared by many concerning this period had led to a ‘blacking-out’ of it from the national consciousness, until its emergence in recent decades.


Clashmealcon memorial

Clashmealcon memorial


One event which generated great sadness in recent years was the massacre at the small North Kerry townland of Clashmealcon. During the Free State’s Spring offensive in 1923, Jim McGrath was captured and was tortured extensively at Ballymullen Barracks, Tralee. Jim apparently revealed the location of a secret IRA hideout, Dunworth’s Cave, which he believed had been unoccupied for some time. Unfortunately when the National Army soldiers brought him to show them where the cave was, he came across a small cadre of IRA men hiding out there, including his brother Thomas (Tom) McGrath. After an exchange of gunfire, in which two soldiers were killed, the Free Staters decided to starve the IRA out of the cave and camped out around the mouth of the cave. A number of the men, including Tommy O’Shea, decided to try and swim from the cave that night, but they were drowned in the attempt.




The IRA leader, Timothy Lyons offered himself in surrender in order to save his men. While he was being lifted up on a rope out of the cave, the rope snapped and he fell to the cave floor. There, despite his grave injuries, the soldiers ‘riddled’ him with bullets. In latter years great doubt has been cast on whether the rope actually snapped, instead theories have been put forth that Lyons was dropped to his death and effectively murdered by the soldiers keen to avenge the deaths of their comrades earlier in the siege. Once the rest of the men had surrendered (Rudge Hathaway, an ex-British soldier who had deserted to fight for the IRA, James McErney and Edward Greaney), they were escorted to Ballymullen Barracks, where they were executed on the 25th of April, 1923.



Celtic Cross memorial near Dunworth’s Cave






inscription on Celtic Cross memorial


And the story abided in folk memory for generations until the local community in North Kerry  were able to come together and erect a monument to the fallen men, both at the site of their house (some three-hundred metres from the cave) and nearer the cave itself. Photographs of both monuments are attached to this article.



Commemorative Plaque beside memorial


Path to Dunworth's Cave

Path to Dunworth’s Cave


Whatever their actions, may they finally rest in peace.


Directions from Ballymullen, Tralee, Co. Kerry to Clashmealcon War memorial.,+Co.+Kerry/@52.3983887,-9.7010705,10z/am=t/data=!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x4845359d9d79b56d:0xf2a1cedad4995133!2m2!1d-9.692012!2d52.26289!1m5!1m1!1s0x485ac87a029f0c03:0x46bb377ab6b24ee8!2m2!1d-9.7402263!2d52.4676641!3e0

Posted in 1916, Commemoration, Conflict, decolonisation, Ireland, Irish Defence Forces, Memory, Oglaigh na hEireann, revolutionary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mullinahone RIC station

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Documentary reveals 2m Irish men died fighting for Britain

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Israeli plaque removed after attacks

Historical Place Marker for the birthplace of Chaim Herzog

Historical Place Marker for the birthplace of Chaim Herzog


Israeli plaque removed after attacks


Belfast is a funny city.


I mean in 90% of Northern Ireland (and by extension, Ulster), the Orange Order organises reasonably decent commemorative events for Loyal men and women to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne (although there is some dispute over whether or not it was really a as decisive a victory as it has been claimed…but I digress). But in Belfast, with its hardened attitudes, parades are incredibly contentious issues.


So when nationalists sought to commemorate the sacrifice of the hunger-strikers recently, the loyalist community had no desire to allow such a march to pass unscathed. And so followed PSNI riot gear, armoured cars, fireworks, etc etc.


But what is most interesting about all of this is the fact that at these parades, non-traditional flags have started to be flown. At first it was the nationalists supporting Gaza and the Palestinians as they identified with the minority community being subjugated by the larger and more powerful Israeli state. But this in turn led to the Loyalist community marching with their own support flag, that of the Star of David, the national flag of Israel.


Now one must ask oneself, do Loyalists truly believe in the Right of Return, in the deep seated need to pray at the Wailing Wall, or the rights of the settlers in Kibbutzen? They probably don’t, but they do know that the Palestinians don’t like the Israelis and anything the Nationalists like, the Loyalists must hate in turn.


One wonders what they both think of regarding oxygen, food and water…..the dreaded compromise surely!


So with this new found pro-and-anti-Semitism sweeping Belfast, it comes as little surprise that the thugs (those who can read at least) have targeted any public support for the state of Israel, even any acknowledgement of its existence, however tenuous. Regrettably this has even come to include blue heritage disks denoting the birthplace of historical figures like the late Chaim Herzog, Israeli President, whose family was born at Cliftonpark  Avenue, Belfast in  1918 and who emmigrated to Israel at a young age. Despite Herzog’s record of unfailing support for the state of Israel (right or wrong), surely a place-marker to a man long dead (and even longer departed from his birthplace) should remain above matters.



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Antarctica mission launch re-enacted

Antarctica mission launch re-enacted

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The ‘lost’ poetry of World War One

The ‘lost’ poetry of World War One

Britain and the Western World was preparing for the Great War for well over thirty years, so it comes as little surprise that the media was ready to play it’s part. The day after the war was ‘reluctantly’ declared, English newspapers published what was to be the first in a series of poems in praise of extrmem nationalism, jingoistic ideology and ultimately the old adage of ‘Dulce et Decorum est, Pro Patria Mori; it is sweet and honourable to die for one’s country!’

The Vigil by Sir Henry Newbolt was carried in The Times

England: where the sacred flame

Burns before the inmost shrine,

Where the lips that love thy name

Consecrate their hopes and thine,

Where the banners of thy dead

Weave their shadows overhead.

Watch beside thine arms to-night,

Pray that God defend the Right.

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Five US generals killed in action

Five US generals killed in action

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Robinson Crusoe Fitzgerald Kennedy

ID Card of Lt (JG) JOhn F Kennedy, USNR (

ID Card of Lt (JG) JOhn F Kennedy, USNR (

The men who saved JFK’s life

  Most articles on President John Fitzgerald Kennedy tend to focus on the man’s assassination in Dallas in 1963; few if any recall that the man known to the world as JFK had actually lived a rather rich, if short life up until that point in time. Born into the illustrious Kennedy clan from Massachusetts (whose ancestors hailed from Dunganstown, County Wexford in Ireland), John and his brother Bobby were destined to reach high office, in a fashion not dissimilar to their father, Joe Kennedy. John started the war as an Ensign with a desk job, but later graduated to the position of Lieutenant (Junior Grade) and held command of a Motor Torpedo Boat, PT-101.

JFK on PT-101 (

JFK on PT-101 (

While there, and after participating in a number of previous actions, PT-101 was rammed and sunk by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri, on the 2nd of August 1943. The survivors clung to wreckage and eventually were able to swim to a nearby island. JFK towed his badly-burned senior enlisted mate, Patrick McMahon to safety by clenching his life vest strap between his teeth.


Eroni Kumana (

There they waited until two natives, Eroni Kumana and Biuku Gasa, arrived by canoe and were able to take a message, scratched into a coconut to the naval authorities to arrange for a rescue. The message simply read;








JFK later had the coconut shell made into a paperweight which he kept on his Oval Office desk, ironically made from the timbers of another sunken ship, the HMS Resolute. Kumana sadly passed away at the age of 93, on Saturday 2nd of August.

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A Positive-Negative Development


Father Francis Browne

Father Francis Browne


Nationwide Photographic Programme


Last Wednesday night’s Nationwide special brought to us by the Irish national broadcaster, rté, showcased a series of photographs which detail the lives lived by Irishmen and women who volunteered to serve in the Great War. This is the fascinating story of a Jesuit, Father Eddie O’Donnell, who was clearing up a room in the Provincial House in Dublin, where he came across a trunk containing thousands of old negatives relating to the First World War. 


Father Browne with one of his beloved cameras

Father Browne with one of his beloved cameras


Father Francis Browne, better known as the priest who documented the Titanic and also Irish life in the early years of the twentieth century, had volunteered for service as a chaplain during the War and was posted to the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards. Frank’s service took him to the Western Front, where he was wounded on five occasions and rather badly gassed. He returned from the War the most decorated Catholic chaplain of the conflict. There he was able to take advantage of his affable personality and the initially cautious deference accorded to both a chaplain and also a photographer, to document his environment and his men around him in both the trenches and out of them. 


Browne self-portrait

Browne self-portrait

Browne later was seconded to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, where he took part in the Passchendaelle with the famous Father Willie Doyle and his lucky Dug Out. Unfortunately Doyle was to be killed during that battle, Browne being given a handwritten note informing him of the loss, with ‘BROWNE’ scratched out and ‘DOYLE’ written above it, so confusing were those heady days on the Western Front. Although in newly independent Ireland, the war services of thousands of Irishmen who had volunteered to aid ‘small-nations’ like Belgium were put to one side of the historical narrative of the new country, those whom he served with never forgot Browne’s contribution; the British awarded him the Military Cross, the Belgians the Croix de Guerre and the French their Croix de Guerre with Palm.


Father Frank Browne’s story can be read in the book expertly written by Father Eddie O’Donnell, S.J.  Father Browne’s First World War or viewed on rté’s media player for the next few weeks Nationwide Photographic Programme.




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Comdt Padraic Kennedy

Comdt Padraic Kennedy speaks on his role as OiC (Office in Charge) of the Military Archives, the website and the release of the Military Witness Statements which ushered in the Long Decade of Commemoration.

Posted in 1916, 20th century, Archive, Britain, Commemoration, First World War, Historiography, Insurgency, Ireland, Irish Defence Forces, Oglaigh na hEireann, revolutionary, Royal Irish Constabulary | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World War One battlefields 100 years on

World War One battlefields 100 years on

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Beyond the Balmoral: Major Claude Raul Champion de Crespigny


A portrait of a fine gentleman and Auxiliary Policeman, Claude Raul Champion de Crespigny, 5th Baronet.


This family had an interesting time of it. From the end of the Second World War, the baronetcy passed three times in as many years along the hereditary lines of succession. In 1910, the heir to the family estate, Claude Champion de Crespigny (presumably the elder brother to Claude Raul/Raoul) committed suicide allegedly after having his heart broken by a married woman; he had been named in her divorce case as a co-respondent. The coroner described that too many heavy falls from Polo and influenza had brought about a state of ‘temporary insanity’ which preceded the early death.


Claude Raul became the heir and went first to Ireland where he served as an Auxiliary Officer (Company 2i/c C Coy, Macroom), with the Company that had suffered such depredations at the hands of Tom Barry’s IRA Active Service Unit in Kilmichael.


An account of the death of the elder brother may be seen below from the New York Times (20 May 1910).



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Nationwide Once Again

Absolution by father Francis Gleeson before the Battle of Artois with the Munster Fusiliers

Absolution by father Francis Gleeson before the Battle of Artois with the Munster Fusiliers

Last night rté, Ireland’s national television station, broadcast the first of three shows dedicated to the tensions and histories of the men and women who gave their lives in what would become known as the First World War. 

The Regimental Colours of the Connaught Rangers

The Regimental Colours of the Connaught Rangers

The Nationwide programme showcased the three Irish Divisions which fought with the Allies during the conflict on the Western Front and in the Dardanelles Campaign also. The men from the 36th Ulster Division were commemorated along with those from the Royal Munster Fusiliers, the Connaught Rangers and the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The Connaught Rangers, or The Devil’s Own as they were known, famously refused to follow orders in a mutiny over the aggression shown by the British government in Ireland during the Anglo-Irish War. The spirit of the Munsters was expertly captured in the now famous painting by Fortunino Matania of the General Absolution at on the Rude du Bois, by Father Francis Gleeson. The Dublin Fusiliers took such heavy casualties with the Munsters during the landings at V Beach, Cape Hellas, that they had to form a composite battalion nicknamed the Dubsters

V Beach, the Daradnelles

V Beach, the Daradnelles

The presenter, Mary Kenny, and the researchers for the programme did a really marvelous job and one hopes that future presentations by rté and others will live up to this high standard! The show is available to watch on the rté player for the next 28 days and is fantastic viewing!

Posted in 1916, 20th century, Britain, Commemoration, Conflict, Empire, First World War, Ireland, Memory, Northern Ireland | Leave a comment

Last Hiroshima bomb crew member dies

Last Hiroshima bomb crew member dies

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Don’t get your Bat Trunks in a Knot!




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Now normally this site is purely dedicated to Military History and the like, but given how popular last year’s homage to Batman and history was, I’ve decided those of you who have a keen interest in all things Bat-related, deserve a treat!

The publishing house, Tor, has commissioned Mr. Jim Beard to write the following brief history of….you guessed it, Batman’s trunks! Yes Bat-fans, you heard it right the first time, Beard has gone throughout history and has returned to the reader with a chronological look at the Caped Crusader’s undies drawer down through the ages. From the very beginning Batman needed a loin covering, just iike Superman and Tarzan, the enemy of crime chose to pull on what were effectively black hot-pants….who likes short shorts??

As time progressed, Bats settled into a fetching blue number and went through a number of style changes also. But I won’t give too much away! Suffice to say scroll down and prepare to be horrified! Be sure to check this story out with the morning coffee, well worth a read! Though you may never look at the Batman quite the same again! 

Keep scrolling!

All there

All there

*cough, cough*, nice look Bruce….


Also be sure to check out JIm’s new book, Gotham City 14 Miles, link to the book at bottom of the linked content!

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Royal Crest at NUI Galway


Here are a few pictures which I took some time ago of a disused royal crest carved ‘in the round’ at the National University of Ireland Galway.


As you can see from the relief detail and also the lion and unicorn, it definitely suggests an older British connection, possibly even a royal one. Could it have been removed in the post independence period?


The sculpture languishes beside a small access road around the rear of the Aula Maxima in the main campus.


Rear of Aula Maxima, NUIG, Galway, Ireland


Directions from Eyre Square

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Here are a few pictures which I took some time ago of a disused royal crest carved ‘in the round’ at the National University of Ireland Galway.


As you can see from the relief detail and also the lion and unicorn, it definitely suggests an older British connection, possibly even a royal one.



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The RIC (Royal Italian Constabulary)

The carabinieri have served Italy for 200 years in a fashion similar to other gendarmeries. Indeed when one considers matters the similarities between it and the now defunct Royal Irish Constabulary are striking. Neither force attracts recruits from particularly prosperous backgrounds; service is seen as a way to improve ones lot in life. Policemen must not serve in their home district; for almost the first decade they are internal exiles! And the service has extremely rigorous rules concerning the matrimonial complications which men might undergo; wives were seen as an uneccessary distraction and could only be ‘taken on’ by the policeman when they had sufficient resources to support them!

But the similarities do not
end there. Indeed service in both the Italian and Irish forces was seen as respectable and character affirming, a way in which young men could distance themselves from violent anti-state actors and groups such as communists, organised crime and the fenians.

But the police were not without their critics, some claiming that they were heavy handed (both possessed quasi military attributes, the RIC being the sole non-military armed police force in the British Isles, the Carabinieri being a section of the Italian Armed Forces proper). On a lighter note, they also drew attention from caricaturists pens with the constables being portrayed with ridiculous moustaches (there was a conflicting series of regulations concerning their existence) and regularly appearing as dumbfounded brutish figures in periodicals like Punch.

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An Irishman’s Diary on Hubert Gough, an enigmatic general

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The Marching Dead

US sends draft notices to 1800s men



The agency responsible for maintaining and updating the data which allows the United States government to theoretically the maintain operational capability of conscripting its citizens for military service recently made a slight error.


Young men registering for military conscription, New York City, June 5, 1917

Young men registering for military conscription, New York City, June 5, 1917


An operative with the Selective Service System, an independent Federal agency with responsibility for maintaining the draft process, inadvertently entered the digit ‘8’ instead of ‘9’ when selecting those who were to be send letters warning them to register with the System. The vast majority of respondents (listed as having been born in 1889, instead of 1989) had died years previously, ironically most of whom had already served in at least one major conflict which the US had been party to in the twentieth century!




Without maligning veterans, in most Hollywood depictions of mankind battling long dead zombie hordes, the writers probably never imagined the SSS trying to ‘raise’ their own army of the undead!

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Trench construction in World War I

Great article here from Diana Overbey on the construction of trenches!

Diana Overbey

When people think of World War I, one of the first images that comes to mind is the trench.  Here’s a look into how these major features were constructed, as well as their impact on the war.

1. When were the trenches in World War I first built?

After the Battle of the Marne in September 1914 (one month after the war truly began), the Germans were pushed back to the River Aisne.  The German commander, General Erich von Falkenhayn, assessed the situation.  Not wanting to lose the territory in France and Belgium Germany had gained, he ordered his army to dig trenches to defend against French and British troops.  The trenches provided necessary protection from artillery shells and machine guns, and gave soldiers a major advantage when warding off a frontal assault.  Realizing that they could not break through these trenches, the British and French soon began digging their own.

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