Willie Brazil – From Great Western Square to the Western Front

Above : A young William Brazil in his Royal Artillery uniform

Name of soldier : Willie Brazil

Name of descendent : Enda Carr

Teacher Enda Carr lives on Monck Place, Phibsborough, north Dublin. This is just beside Great Western Square where his grand uncle William Brazil, a veteran of the Somme, lived until well into his 90s.

Enda’s story adds to the many associations between this small area and the First World War, with a number of stories already posted here from people living on the Square or on Monck Place.

As it happens, Great Western Square was originally built for railway workers. But it also housed military veterans and, after 1914, there was an overlap, with many rail workers enlisting. Those who returned from war often resumed their rail jobs and were given houses on the square or on the adjoining Great Western Villas.

The old railway terminus at nearby Broadstone has a plaque listing the fallen workers – and soldiers.

There were also fatalities who lived on the Square itself such as Private John Brennan who lived at No 43. Aged just 19, he was with the Machine Gun Corps, Infantry division and died in France on 9 April 1917. He is remembered on the Arras Memorial.

Around the corner, at No 20 Phibsborough Road, lived Thomas Harding, who died at the Somme, with the Munster Fusiliers. This was at the Battle of Ginchy on 9 September.

The Battle of the Somme was a massive offensive, which took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the Somme river in France.

The battle was supposed to break the stalemate on the Western Front and hasten a victory for the Allies.

However, the operation was delayed by some months as the French dealt with the German assault on Verdun. Within this time, the Germans got dug in at the Somme and were well prepared for the Allied offensive, despite its considerable preparation.

On the first day alone, the 1st July, there were 57,470 casualties in the Somme offensive, including 19,240 killed. Included among them, were Broadstone natives John Geraghty of Prebend Street, (Royal Dublin Fusiliers) and James Joseph Gannon, of Royal Canal Bank (Royal Irish Regiment).

The Somme offensive would continue for another four months. In all, more than three million men fought in the battle and one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the deadliest battles in human history.

William Brazil was lucky enough to survive it. However, his brother in law Thomas Connors, from Gorey, did not and in a poignant encounter, the paths of the two men crossed in the war zone. While Willie Brazil was on his way back from the front line, Thomas was on his way towards it.

‘Take these’, said his brother in law and he offered Willie his personal posessions, ‘I dont think I’m going to survive this.’

Such premonitions were common among soldiers at the front line, where death was common and relentless, and especially so at the Somme. Thomas Connors did not survive. Nor did Thomas’s brother Michael, who died later in the war at Gallipoli.

Your own name: Enda Carr

Your relative: Granduncle Willie Brazil

Period of activity: 1914-1920 including World War One

Specific regiment: Royal Artillery

Areas served in: The Western Front, The Somme

Did your family have much contact with Willie?

Yes, we visited him sometimes in Great Western Square and would meet him out walking in Phibsboro. He was a fit man and lived into his nineties. He was from Phibsborough Road originally.

Where is he buried? Glasnevin Cemetery

Do you have any mementos of him?

No, just the photograph shown here. Nor do we have personal possessions of his brother-in-law Thomas Connors.

The fighting at the Somme was so intense and in such terrible conditions that the bodies of many of those killed were never recovered.

They are remembered today on the Thiepval memorial, erected nearby. This is a huge memorial, composed of 16 redbrick arches and faced with Portland stone. The names of the missing are inscribed upon it.

The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the same architect who designed the Memorial Park at Islandbridge, Dublin. (And the Barings Castle house on Lambay Island).

A staggering 72,000 soldiers went missing in the Somme area, from 1915 to 1918. Even today, human remains are still being found.

Once a body is discovered and identified, a burial is arranged and the name on the Thiepval Memorial is filled in with the cement.

Patrick Flynn – The East Wall Sapper who tunneled under the Germans

Pictured above : Royal Engineers, posing for a photograph, 1915.

Name of soldier : Patrick Flynn

Name of descendent : Philip Flynn

Philip Flynn lives in Cabra and runs a barbers at Hart’s Corner in Glasnevin, with his father. Hart’s Corner is at the end of the Finglas Road, just before Glasnevin cemetery.

Philip is also a youth coach with local soccer club, Bohemians FC. (Hence, the tracksuit in his photo below)

Adjoining Hart’s Corner is Bengal Terrace, named for the Indian area. India was once the jewel of the British Empire, with many British and Irish soldiers stationed there.

Vigalent readers of James Joyce’s novel ‘Ulysses’ will know Bengal Terrace as the site of the real-life Childs murder, which was constantly speculated about in the book. The case involved the alleged killing of Thomas Childs by his brother Samuel in 1899.

Above : Hart’s barber at Harts Corner, Glasnevin

Philip’s grandfather Patrick was a sapper with the Royal Engineers and was involved in the building of trenches and tunnels on the Western Front. The Royal Engineers do the crucial technical and heavy work for the rest of the army, creating the facilties through which all the soldiers fight.

A Sapper gets his name from the French word ‘sappe’ for trench. It dates from 17th century warfare when tunnels were dug under the walls of besieged forts to weaken them.

The First World War saw a major transformation of the Royal Engineers as new technologies came into warfare and engineers suddenly had to undertake a whole new range of roles.

In the front line, they designed and built fortifications, operated gas equipment, repaired guns and heavy equipment, and conducted underground warfare beneath enemy trenches.

Their support roles included the construction and operation of railways, bridges, water supply and inland waterways, as well as telephone and other communications. As demands increased, the Corps was expanded from a total of approximately 25,000 men in August 1914, to a whopping 315,000 by 1918.

Truly, the First World War was a war of construction – and destruction : an industrial-level conflict never before seen.

In 1915, in response to German mining of British trenches under the static siege conditions of the war, the corps formed its own tunnelling companies. Patrick Flynn was active in these.

Often manned by experienced coal miners from the north of England and Wales, the tunnelling teams operated with considerable success, building dugouts to protect troops from heavy shelling, as well as tunnelling under the enemy so that mines and explosives could be laid.

Your own name : Philip Flynn

Your relative : Grandfather Patrick Flynn

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: Royal Engineers

Areas served in: The Western Front, Flanders

Did your family have much contact with him?

Yes, they visited him a lot in East Wall, which is where many ex soldiers lived. Many of these had been dockers.

What were his most striking memories ?

He often joked about the tunnelling, and putting bombs underground, and threatened that he’d do the same with a tunnel under the River Liffey!

Above : Hart’s well known haircutters in Glasnevin

Where is your grandfather buried?

Grangegorman Military Cemetery, Blackhorse Avenue.

Do you have any mementos of him?

Nothing that I’m aware of. He died a long time ago, in 1978.

Above : A trio of Royal Engineers, pictured with their pet dog.

………………………………………………………………………….

UPDATE :

The Tunnellers from North Dublin

Since the original post above, we’ve received more information on the life and activities of Patrick Flynn.

This is thanks to military historians Johnny Doyle and Simon Jones, who has a special focus on the Royal Engineers and WW1 tunnellers. Their twitter handles are @johnnyD8796812 and @simonjhistorian and are always interesting.

According to his Pension Card (pictured below) Patrick Flynn lived at one stage on 19 Upper Rutland Street, Dublin 1 and enlisted in March 1915. He suffered an accident to his right leg during service and received a grant in 1922 to set up as a tailor.

It also appears that Patrick Flynn came from very near where his fellow tunneller Joe Niland came from at 23 Summerhill, in inner city Dublin.

Niland was with the Royal Engineers 179th Tunnelling Company, responsible for the Lochnagar Tunnel built for the Battle of the Somme. He was killed a year later with his comrades in a German shell attack in March 1917. Below is a picture of Patrick and his wife Jane.

Below : the wider family and children of Joe Niland.

Simon Jones has written a fascinating book on the wartime tunnellers, entitled Underground Warfare 1914 – 1918, published by Pen and, Sword Military Publishers. Image below.

John Hussey – From Sneem, County Kerry to Guillemont at the Somme

Above : Vincent Casey with Eamon Delaney, holding the medals of Private John Hussey.

Name of soldier : John Hussey

Name of descendent : Vincent Casey

Vincent Casey lives in a beautiful and dramatic landscape : near Sneem on the scenic Ring of Kerry. On one side, are the green mountains and, on the other, Kenmare Bay stretching across to the Beara Peninsula of West Cork.

The land is remote and unspoilt and looks much as it did when Vincent’s granduncle John Hussey lived here, before he set out for World War One and for the equally dramatic landscape of the Somme – although dramatic for different reasons.

John Hussey came from Bohocogram, near Sneem, as does Vincent Casey, who practises today as a local painter and decorator. John Hussey, was with the 8th Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers and died at the Battle of Guillemont on 3 September 1916.

Above : Irish soldiers taking in German prisoners at Guillemont, September 1916.

The Battle of Guillemont, from 3 to 6 September, was in the second month of the Somme. Like the similiar Battle of Ginchy a week later (9 September), it was an important advance in which the 16th Irish Division drove back the Germans and captured key villages.

Many soldiers were killed. On the day Hussey fell, eight other Munster Fusiliers were killed. The fighting at the Somme was also so intense and in such terrible conditions that the bodies of the killed were often never recovered and declared missing.

Instead, like John Hussey, they are remembered on the Thiepval memorial (above) erected near the scene of the fighting. It is a huge memorial, composed of 16 redbrick arches and faced with Portland stone.

The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the same architect who designed the Memorial Park at Islandbridge. (And the Barings house on Lambay Island, off the coast of Dublin).

A staggering 72,000 soldiers went missing in the Somme area, from 1915 to 1918.

Even today, human remains are still being found, and when a body has been identified, the relevant name is removed from the Thiepval Memorial and a burial is arranged.

Perhaps one day even John Hussey’s remains will be found.

Above: Vincent Casey with his sons, Michael and Padraig.

Your name : Vincent Casey

Your relative : Grand Uncle John Hussey

Period of activity : World War One

Specific regiment: Royal Munster Fusiliers, 8th Battalion

Areas served in: France, the Somme.

Do you have any mementos of him?

Yes, we have his medal (above), without the ribbons and looking a bit tarnished.

We also have the metal memorial plate (below) given to families of the fallen, with his name on it, as well as a scroll of honour.

There is also a memorial poster (pictured at bottom), listing the significant World War One battles, although sadly this is damaged and torn. These items are all precious to us.

There is no photo of John Hussey. He was aged 25 when he died and the son of Julie and Patrick. His father Patrick died on 1 December 1922 and his mother Julia was in receipt of her son’s pension.

Above : The beautiful landscape near Sneem, where John Hussey grew up.

And, below, the scorched landscape near Guillemont where he ended up. Note the Shamrocks painted on the Irish Division field ambulances.

A list below of the many Royal Munster Fusiliers who died on 3rd September 1916.

Below: Today in Sneem, and in Waterville, a sign in the main street lists the many local men from the area who died in World War One , including John Hussey.

Among the names is Private Patrick Burns, from a well known local family. His house is pictured below, situated between Burns famous butchers and the family ‘s bicycle shop.

Patrick Burns served with the South Wales Borderers, and died on 10 November 1917, aged 27. His body was not found and he is remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial. His parents were Bridget and John.

Below is a close up of John Hussey’s memorial plate, colloquially as ‘The Dead Man’s Penny’.

Commemorative poster (below) listing the major battles of the Great War. It has been handed down in John Hussey’s family, along with his medals and memorabilia.

George Morris – Leading the troops at the Mons Retreat

Above : George Morris in his Irish Guards uniform

Redmond Morris is an acclaimed and successful Irish film maker with a long career of producing well known titles. These include The Wind that Shook the Barley, The Reader and most recently The Dig.

Redmond also comes from a distinquished aristocratic family in the West of Ireland and holds the title Lord Killanin. The family is one of the Fourteen Tribes of Galway. His father, Michael Morris, the third Lord Killanin, was a film producer, and worked with John Ford, as well as being President of the International Olympic Committee.

Michael Morris (above) also served in World War Two, and worked on the military preparation for the D Day landing of 1944. His own father – and Redmond’s grandfather – George Henry Morris, died in World War One, while commanding his troops during the Retreat from Mons in 1914.

This was early in the war when the British Expeditionary Force, under pressure from the Germans, managed a withdrawal, and realised that the challenges facing the Allies were much greater than expected.

Following the retreat from Mons, to the River Marne, both sides tried to outflank each other in the so-called ‘race to the sea’. The result was a long front line of meandering and stubborn trenches.

Morris had already been an accomplished and fearless military officer who had served in India and in the Boer War and had lectured at staff gatherings on strategy and tactics.

In 2014, Redmond Morris and his own son, George, visited Vadencourt in France and the battlefield site of his grandfather’s grave.

Redmond’s moving account of the visit is reproduced below, courtesy of the Galway County Museum, for whom it comprised part of the museum’s excellent Galway Stories from the Great War series.

Redmond Morris with casting agent, Hylda Queally, and Kate Winslet

Your own name: Redmond Morris, Lord Killanin

Your relative: Grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel George Morris

Period of activity: World War One, Killed 1st September 1914

Specific regiment: In Command of the Irish Guards

Areas served in: Belgium and France. Retreat from Mons, 1914.

Above : George Morris (centre) and officers of the Irish Guards on horseback, Vadencourt, France, 1914

Did you have much contact with him?

None. Nor did my father, who literally was born at the end of July 1914 so George saw him once, we think, before he left for France.

Where is he buried?

Villers Cotteret in an Irish Guards Graveyard in the Forest in which he had been killed

Do you have any mementos of him?

Yes, we have many. Some of which became part of the World War One exhibition at the Galway Museum in 2014.

…………………………….

A Century Later

An Account by Redmond Morris of his visit to Vadencourt in 2014, with his son George, and his brother Michael ‘Mouse’ Morris, the famous horse trainer.

George and Redmond Morris, with local guides, at Vadencourt

On 1st September 1914, my grandfather, George Henry Morris from Spiddal, Co. Galway, was killed in France, within two weeks of his arrival as part of the British Expeditionary Force following the declaration of War. He was in command of the Irish Guards during the Retreat from Mons.

One hundred years later, to the day, a family group, Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren, travelled to France to mark the occasion.

The first stop on our journey was the town of Vadencourt. The only photograph existing of George in France was with other officers on a street corner in that town. We found that nothing much had changed – it became our first photo opportunity!

Above : Redmond and George Morris in Vadencourt, 2014, on the corner where his grandfather was pictured 100 years earlier.

The next morning we went to The Guards Grave in the Forest of Retz, near Villers-Cotterêts. It was here that he was killed. As we walked to the grave we passed a coach load of similar visitors being briefed by their guide. We overheard him say “and they were commanded by Colonel Morris”.

The guide spoke then about George’s bravery and told the story of George saying to his men ‘Don’t worry, the Germans are only shooting to frighten you’ to which came the reply from a guardsman, ‘ Well they can stop now, they succeeded with me a long time ago’.

The guide’s comic timing left a bit to be desired, but it filled us with pride.

Cameras clicked. Many photographs were taken. The visit needed to be recorded. This will never happen again. We laid a wreath and some photographs and my brother Michael cheekily placed a packet of Major cigarettes on the grave!

The irony was not lost on us. George had been an inveterate smoker, almost never without a cigarette between his lips.

George Henry Morris

The day came to an end. We wandered through the forest each with our own thoughts. Something we had planned a year ago had come to fruition. It had been an emotional and uplifting moment to be, 100 years to the day, where George had been killed and to stand by his grave.

(Copyright Redmond Morris, 2014)

More on Galway and the Great War here :

Galway Stories from the Great War | Our Irish Heritage https://www.ouririshheritage.org/content/category/archive/place/mo-ghaillimh-fein-my-own-galway/galway_stories_from_the_great_war

Dora Maryan Hall, the widow of George Henry Morris, later remarried, in 1918. She had married Morris in 1913 in London.

This is a portrait of her, entitled ‘Mrs Gerald Thorp against Red Damask, ca 1920’ by the artist, William Bruce Ellen Rankin.

Larry Cassidy – Railway man who went to Belgium with ‘the Buffs’

Name of soldier : Larry Cassidy

Name of descendent : Tommy Cassidy

Tommy Cassidy lives on Great Western Villas, off Great Western Square in Phibsborough on Dublin’s northside. Both Square and Villas were built to house railway workers but also military veterans and, after 1918, there was often an overlap. Larry Cassidy was both.

Already, in the Personal Stories section of this website, we have had references to Great Western Square and to veterans stories. In the old Broadstone rail depot nearby, there is a memorial listing all the rail workers who fell in the Great War.

The houses here were strictly allocated and families were moved around to make way for others. Tommy grew up in a large family and spent much time as a kid on the street and on the Square’s enclosed grass space. There was a strong sense of community. He worked in the railways, as did his father and grandfather.

His father Larry Cassidy was born in 1892 and enlisted for World War One at the age of 23. He served with the East Kent Regiment, popularly known as The Buffs. The nickname came from the 18th century when the regiment, active in Holland, wore buff-coloured facings on their uniforms. Larry also served with the Royal Artillery.

We are grateful to Stephen Callaghan for these details. Stephen is a chronicler of Irish military history and has an excellent website. More here : BLOG | Thebarracksquare https://www.thebarracksquare.ie

One of the strengths of this project is that it is a two way process – we learn details about the veterans and their families, but they can also learn more about their forebears. In this case, Larry Cassidy’s family were not aware of his regiments.

Your own name : Tommy Cassidy

Your relative : Father, Larry Cassidy

Period of activity : World War One

Specific regiment : East Kent Regiment, Royal Artillery

Aeas served in : The Western Front, Belgium

Did you have much contact with him?

Yes, I remember him from when I was a child, although he died in 1952 when I was still young.

What are the most striking memories of Larry?

He was always back and forth to the railway depot, and had a big circle of friends. He didn’t talk much about the war and he was a heavy smoker.

Larry Cassidy in his army uniform

Where is Larry buried?

He is buried in Glasnevin cemetery.

Do you have any mementos of him?

Only the photographs shown above. We had his letters and medals but they got divided among the family and then went down to the pawn shop, unfortunately, when times got hard

The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) | National Army Museum https://www.nam.ac.uk/explore/buffs-royal-east-kent-regiment

Dubliner Edward Gerrard – Fought in Gallipoli and Gaza, wounded in the 1916 Rising

Name of soldier : Edward Gerrard

Name of descendent : Ailbhe Gerrard

Ailbhe Gerrard is the creator of Brookfield Farm, which produces honey and beeswax candles near beautiful Lough Derg, in Tipperary.

More here :
Brookfield Farm – Producer of Raw Irish Honey & Beeswax Gifts https://www.brookfield.farm/

Ailbhe comes from a large and talented family, including siblings Joy and Johnny Gerrard, who are acclaimed artists.

Her grandfather Edward Gerrard is a very interesting Irish military figure, rarely spoken about. He was wounded trying to defend Beggars Bush barracks during the Easter Rising of 1916. Home on leave from Egypt, Captain Gerrard found the barracks completely unprepared for a rebellious attack and tried to muster arms and men for its defence.

Captain Gerrard recuperating in Portobello Hospital, 1916

Gerrard later gave a vivid and highly revealing account to the Military Archives Archives Bureau (BMH). He describes the defence of Beggars Bush and the counter attack on rebel forces at South Lotts railway and at Northumberland Road.

But, in his short statement, Captain Gerrard also gives other insights and details on the revolutionary period in Ireland, offering a quite rare perspective on British military thinking. He had had many conversations with other military figures. (Link at bottom of page).

Edward describes the bravery and determination of the 1916 rebels, including the condemned Kevin Barry in custody, as well as the ambitious half plans of Prime Minister Lloyd George to re-establish control of the island.

At ease in Eqypt. Gerrard is smoking a pipe.

After the Rising, Gerrard was with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, and was active in 1917-18 in the Sinai campaign against the German Allies, the Turks. There were engagements in Gaza, Palestine and what is now modern day Syria.

Gerrard served with T.E.Lawrence – the famous Lawrence of Arabia – who was assisting the Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule in the region.

The Arab Revolt was led by Sharif Hussein, described as the King of Hejaz, as the area was known, and Gerrard rode into Deraa with the Sharif’s son. (Deraa is now in modern Syria and was the scene of intense fighting in the recent Syrian civil war.) Edward heard about the atrocities at nearby Tafas, so graphically described by Lawrence in his famous account, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Your own name : Ailbhe Gerrard

Your relative : Grandfather, Edward Gerrard

Period of activity: World War One, the 1916 Rising

Specific regiment: Royal Field Artillery

Areas served in: The Dardanelles, Gaza and Arabia, and Dublin

Did you have much contact with him?

No, he died in 1969. But there were many family stories and my father had lived with him in Kilmashogue, near Rathfarnham in County Dublin.

Gerrard, in action with his cannon, in Gaza

What are the most striking memories of him?

That he was shot in the arm in 1916. And that he had fought in the Arabian desert.

Also, that his own father – and my great grandfather – had been a publisher on St Stephen’s Green. He had published some early writings by James Joyce and by Francis Sheehy Skeffington.

Skeffington, a well known activist and pacifist, was subsequently shot in the 1916 Rising, by an unhinged British officer, Captain Bowen Colthurst. In his BMH statement, Edward Gerrard described seeing Bowen Colhurst, during the Rising, ranting angrily in Portobello barracks.

Where is Edward buried?

In Cruagh Cemetery, Rockbrook, County Dublin

Details here :

Capt Edward Gerrard (1892-1969) – Find A Grave Memorial https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/74904025/edward-gerrard

Do you have any mementos of Edward ?

Yes, my father has many items, including about 40 letters and photos from Edward’s time in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. And some diaries.

Edward’s uniform, pictured below, was donated to the Irish Military Archive.

An East Wall docker and a Dorset Street plumber who joined the War

Name of soldier : William O Brien

Name of descendent : Bernard Edwards

Bernard Matthews and his partner Pat, pictured below, are based in Phibsborough, off the North Circular Road. They live in a charming small pocket called Cherrymount close, so named because of its profusion of cherry trees in the Spring and Summer. On one side is the old Cherrymount House, which the residents successfully had listed some years ago.

Both Mary and Pat had relatives involved in World War One. Bernard’s maternal grandfather was William O Brien, from Dublin’s North Wall and his granduncle David Edwards was from Ballybough in the capital’s inner city area.

Their stories are typical of the participation of ordinary Irish people in the Great War. William was a docker, as were many in the East Wall area, and later moved to the relatively ‘new’ area of Cabra on the northside.

Your own name : Bernard Edwards

Your relative: Grandfather, William O Brien

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: (Apparently) the Lancashire Regiment

Areas served in: The Western Front

Did you have much contact with him?

No, I never knew either of my grandfathers, as they had both passed away before I was born.

What are the most striking memories of him?

William lived in the North Wall area near Abercorn Road. He then moved to Newgrange Road in Cabra in the early 1930’s and worked as a charge handler on the Dublin Docks.

Where is he buried?

In Glasnevin cemetery.

Do you have any mementos of him?

Just the photograph of him above.

More about the Lanchashire Regiment here :
The Regiments In The Great War 1914-18 | Lancashire Infantry Museum https://www.lancashireinfantrymuseum.org.uk/the-regiments-in-the-great-war-1914-18-3/
………

Bernard Matthews also had a Grand Uncle who fought in the trenches

Name of soldier : David Edwards

Name of descendent : Bernard Edwards

David Edwards joined the Dublin Fusiliers, having been a plumber and hackney driver. There are no photographs of him but his work documents are reproduced here. Again, the north inner city area features, as it so often does for these Dublin veterans.

The Hackney licence is addressed at Hutton’s Lane off Mountjoy Square. Bernard’s father had lived on nearby Rutland Street, as a child and as a young man.

The indenture for the plumbers apprenticeship, meanwhile, has an address for David Edwards in Temple Street. At a family funeral many years ago, Bernard Edwards discovered he had distant relations that he didn’t know about, still living in what he describes as ‘George’s Pocket’ off Temple Street.

This is Georges Place, directly behind St Georges Church on Temple Street, facing Hardwicke Place. Like many once congested areas of the inner city, it has now been impressivly upgraded as a community space.

The Temple Street Church area is a significant cross roads in the city centre, with many associations to James Joyce and the First World War.

The contract for plumbers apprentice is dated 1886, suggesting that David Edwards was at least 28 when World War One started. An interesting feature of the document is that David’s father could not write and his ‘x’ mark was witnessed by another adult.

Your relative: Grand Uncle, David Edwards

Your own name: Bernard Edwards

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: Royal Dublin Fusiliers.

Areas served in: The Western Front.

Did you have much contact with him ?

No, he had passed on.

Above : His work contract – ‘so long as he conducts himself to my satisfaction.’

What are your most striking memories of him?

How my Dad would describe my Uncle dry shaving, a habit formed in the trenches during the war. My Dad was particularly impressed by watching him one time when a small piece of metal or shrapnel broke the surface of the skin and was picked out.

Where is your grand uncle buried? In Glasnevin.

Do you have any mementos of him?

Yes, these old work documents, which are precious to us. My Dad gave me them to me as our son is the next ‘David’ in our line of the Edwards family.

William Byrne – A Corkman who was gassed twice, but lived

Munster Fusiliers on the eve of World War One

Name of soldier : William Byrne

Descendent : Liam Byrne

In 2013, Phibsborough resident Liam Byrne died tragically in an accident on his beloved Inishbofin Island, off the Galway coast. The small island was, and still is, a family holiday destination and bolthole, and the original homeland of the family of his wife Carmel.


Liam is pictured above, rowing a boat, and below, with his wife Carmel, in the doorway of their Inishbofin house. Liam was a lively and curious character and is still greatly missed by his family and friends. He was involved in the truck leasing business, and had travelled the world as a truck driver, including much of the Middle East

Liam’s Uncle William, a Corkman, fought in World War One where he was gassed and wounded twice and, at one stage, left for dead on a stretcher until he showed signs of life. His brother, John – Liam’s other Uncle – was in the British Navy.

Liiam’s daughter, Sarah Anne, describes the family memories of William below. Sarah has already described the wartime experiences of her granduncles on her mother Carmel’s side in another post on the site, including the rueful warnings of her Great Aunt Sally.

Great Aunt Sally – ‘You’ll get no more sons from me’ – The Lion and the Shamrock https://thelionandtheshamrock.com/2021/03/21/sarah-byrne/

Sarah Anne Byrne

Your father’s name : Liam Byrne

Your veteran relative: Grand Uncle, William Byrne

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: The Royal Irish Munster Fusiliers

Areas served in : The Western Front.

Did you have much contact with him?

No, he died in his eighties sometime in the 1970s. He was born in Cork on January 08, 1894 and there were 15 years between him and my grandfather who was born in 1909.

Dad’s grandfather was William and he named his eldest son William after his father as was the custom. Also, Dad’s father was the youngest of 9 and so Willam was much older.

Above : Carmel and Liam Byrne in Inishbofin

What were your family’s most striking memories of William Byrne ?

According to Grandad, William was wounded and gassed twice. On one occasion, William was being put on a stretcher by the burial squad but he moaned or otherwise showed that he was alive and recovered.

Grandad also said that he remembered a telegram coming to his home and his father said ‘I suppose this is it’ thinking that he was being notified of his son’s death.

Where is he buried? In a cemetery in Cork.

Do you have any mementos of him?

No, just the memories. We have no photos of him.

Munster Fusiliers leave for France, 1914

Michael Scully – From the Liberties to the Somme

Worcestershire Regiment taking in German prisoners

Name of soldier : Michael Scully

Descendent : John McDonnell

John McDonnell must have been the happiest street cleaner in North Dublin before he stepped down from Dublin City Council in 2017. He was a regular sight to be seen around Phibsborough crossroads in the morning pushing his dust cart and lifting people’s spirits with a greeting and a broad smile. He is now retired and lives on Dowth avenue in Cabra.

The Worcester Regiment traces its origins back to 1694 and spent its early years in Ireland before amalgamation with other regiments. It suffered heavily in World War One, losing 9,000 of its 15,000 officers and men. Its battalions most fought on the Western Front but also in Gallipoli, Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), Italy and in Russia.

Your own name : John McDonnell

Your relative : Grandfather Michael Scully

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: Worcestershire Regiment

Areas served in: Belgium and France. The Somme.

Did you have much contact with him?

No, he died in 1920 before I was born.

What are your most striking memories of him?

He came from the Liberties in Dublin. He had a tough time of it at the Western Front and never really recovered.

Where is he buried?

In Grangegorman military cemetery.

Do you have any mementos of him?

There were some in the family but they got sold, much to our annoyance. I hear this happens often with the families of veterans.

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More about the Worcester Regiment on this excellent website about World War One created by the University of Limerick and based on archive of the Armstrong family of Moyaliffe Castle, County Tipperary

Worcestershire Regiment | It’s a Long Way To Tipperary https://longwaytotipperary.ul.ie/the-military/worcestershire-regiment/

Aidan Byrne – From North Circular Road to the North African campaign

Soldier’s name : Aidan Asquith Byrne

Descendent : Frank Keane

Aidan Byrne was living on Dublin’s North Circular Road (NCR) when he joined the Second World War as a doctor with the Royal Medical Army Corps. He worked with the field ambulance in North Africa for which he was awarded the Military Cross, and later in Europe. After the war, he worked with the British civil service in Malaya.

His nephew Frank Keane also has an interesting story, connected to the war : or at least to its aftermath. Frank worked fitting artificial limbs in 1950s Germany, where disability was now common after the intense bombing raids. His patients were very appreciative of this pioneering work, including one lady who gave him a present of a Nazi medal, awarded to German mothers when they had given birth to six children!

Today, Frank lives in a large house off the NCR, with a motorcycle collection in the basement and a first floor decorated in the style of 19th century Vienna. By coincidence, his home faces a house (visible over his left shoulder below) once occupied by Corporal Digby Burns who was, also an army doctor, but in the First World War. Digby Burns died in the sinking of the RMS Leinster in 1918.

Your own name :Frank Keane

Your relative : Uncle Aidan

Period of activity: World War Two

Specific regiment: Royal Medical Corps Service

Areas served in: The North Africa Campaign : Egypt and Libya. Picture below.

Did you have much contact with Uncle Aidan ?

Yes, we saw him a lot when we were kids.

What are your most striking memories of him?

One day, in the back garden, he told us that he was throwing away his medals and mementos. He was angry because he said that the Americans gave demobbed soldiers an education, whereas the British gave you a civilian suit and sent you on your way.

Where is he buried?

In Alberta, Canada where he had settled. He died in 1997.

Do you have any mementos of him?

Not many. We might have got his medals but he threw them away!

Aidan is listed here :
British Army Officers 1939-1945  — B https://www.unithistories.com/officers/Army_officers_B05.html