The tricolour flag from Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, 1916 Rising

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The Royal Irish Regiment with the Irish Republic flag at the Parnell Monument, O’Connell Street (NMI Collection)

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Irish Republic flag flying on the GPO, photograph taken from a Metropole Hotel window (NMI Collection)

Probably the most famous flag of the 1916 Rising is the Irish Republic flag, with its white and orange lettering on a green field background. It was flown from the roof of the GPO on the Princes Street corner, while the tricolour flew from the Henry Street side. The flag survived the destruction of O’Connell Street, and was taken as a war souvenir by the Royal Irish Regiment. It ended up in the collection of King George of England, and was stored in the Imperial War Museum until 1966 when it was presented from the British to the Irish governments for the 50th Anniversary of the Rising. It is now in the care of the National Museum of Ireland.

 

 

Another 1916 Rising flag that was presented to the National Museum was less fortunate in its survival. These fragments of the tricolour flag that flew from the tower of Jacob’s Biscuit Factory also made the journey from England to Ireland in 1966. They are glued onto a piece of paper from a photograph album, with the words ‘Fragments of the Sinn Fein Flag which flew over Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, Dublin, Easter 1916’.

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Fragments of the Jacob’s Factory flag (NMI Collection)

On the Monday morning of Easter week the rebels took a number of buildings across the city. They hoisted flags from the highest points of these buildings as a symbol of the new Republic which had just been declared. The GPO’s Irish Republic and the Irish Citizen Army’s Starry Plough flag, flown from the Imperial Hotel, were unique. The other garrisons flew either the Irish tricolour of green white and gold, or the gold harp on a green field background. Many were made beforehand in preparation for the Rising and stored at Liberty Hall, but the Jacob’s tricolour was made at the garrison post during the week.

The garrison at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory saw a limited amount of action that week (the story of Jacob’s garrison that week can be read here). The men were mostly involved in sniping at British soldiers coming towards the city from Portobello Barracks and providing other garrisons with both supplies and men.

 

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Jacob’s flag fragments (NMI Collection)

Thomas Meldon was part of the garrison, and says in his BMH witness statement that they had forgotten to bring their flag with them as they marched out of Liberty Hall on Monday morning. On Thursday they received a message that the GPO was burning, and that the flag had been shot or burnt down. They decided to make a flag, and the search for the materials began.

 

 

‘After some time a quantity of bunting was found, some green and some white, but, curious to relate, no orange – stalemate, but not defeat.

A further search brought to hand a bundle of yellow glass cloths, and the work of putting together the flag was commenced. Three men were entrusted with this task – George Ward, who has answered the last call-in; Derry Connell, who is still with us, and myself. On the completion it was discovered that the rope on the flagpole had been removed, so that the flag had to be nailed to the pole, needless to say, at the risk of life. Nevertheless, it was accomplished, and according to a little book by James Stephens, the author, on that memorable week, the flag was still flying long after the general surrender.’

In fact, James Stephens, in his book The Insurrection in Dublin, described how he could see the flag flying from Jacob’s from his kitchen window on Sunday, and saw it being hauled down at about 5pm that evening.

We also have some insight as to what was happening in the factory at that moment. Patrick Cushen, an employee of Jacob’s, came to the building on Sunday afternoon after the surrender of the Volunteers to protect the factory from looters. He left an account of the scene he found, including meeting John MacBride and the hauling down of the tricolour flag –

‘Having heard of the rebels’ surrender of the factory, I ran down and saw about 90 of them getting out the windows and a lot of the rabble getting up the rope that was hanging from the office window, and tumbling the sacks of flour out. I ran round to the Caretaker’s door in Peter Street and got in to the Bakehouse. I was surprised to see between 90 and 100 of the rebels standing and sitting about.

Then one of the officers of the rebels came in to the office and asked was there anyone to take charge of the place, and they told him that I would. He said there were a lot of bombs stored away that would blow up the whole place, and as they had done no damage they did not want the blame to be left on them if any careless person handled them. He brought me round and pointed them out to me, and we came back again and he showed me where there were some hand grenades stored in the little ovens in the King’s Own Room; he left me on guard of them and told me on peril of my life not to let anyone lay a hand on them until the military came in who knew what they were.

He went away after making himself known to me, and to my surprise I found myself introduced to Major MacBride for the first and last time, as we all know he paid for his mad acts with his life.

Well, he was not well gone when a volley of shots rang out all round about where I was standing, and the sprinkler main over my head was pierced through with a bullet, and the hat was knocked off my head by a bomb fired through the open window. Luckily for me it passed out through a window and exploded over the refrigerator outside. Well, I thought my last hour had come. Just then the soldiers came in and shouted ‘hands up’, and up they went in haste, then they came over and searched me, asked me who I was and what had me there. I told them that I was an employee of the firm and that I came in to stop the looting. They said, ‘if you are a member of the Works, you know where that d… rebel flag is hanging out, and get on to it at the point of the bayonet’.

I said ‘you are not one bit more eager to get it down than I am myself, but before I go I want to show you those weapons of danger – the bombs’. Then we started on our way to the flagstaff, and went to three or four doors but could not get in the way they were barricaded. At last we got in through the Cake Room and away to the tower: I would not let him get out for fear of the snipers, but I got the rope and lowered the flag and no sooner than it began to come down than 5 or 6 shots rang out – I do not think that man could have been prouder if he was after taking the Empire of Germany.

On our way back he told me that I was a lucky man that I had nothing in my hands when he came in or he would have shot me where I was standing.’

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Live bombs, made from tin cans, and various ammunition left in the Royal College of Surgeons (NMI Collection)

The card on which the Jacob’s flag fragments are attached takes up the story from where Patrick Cushen left it. On the back is written that it was a gift from a Mr Fowler who was present in the Hotel when the flag was brought in by a Canadian soldier, and relates the following story –

‘A certain time was given for the troops of the IRA to leave Jacob’s and then this Canadian solder entered the building with another soldier. They met a man in uniform and promptly shot him, then a man in civilian attire who they directed to show the way to the flag. On arrival the civilian was told to ‘hop it’, which he promptly did. The flag was hauled down and taken to the Hotel by the Canadian who cut it up into fragments and distributed them to those present’.

Though there is no further information given with the object to help us identify either the Canadian soldier or the hotel, we can conclude that the hotel mentioned is the Shelbourne Hotel on St Stephen’s Green. The Shelbourne had been taken over by British troops and used as a base from where they fought against the Irish Citizen Army, led by Michael Mallin and Countess Constance Markievicz, at the Green and the Royal College of Surgeons, and is around the corner from Jacob’s Factory.

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British Army troops outside the Shelbourne Hotel, St Stephen’s Green. Note the nurses on the balcony above the entrance (NMI Collection)

By Friday of Easter week, between soldiers in Irish Regiments in the British Army and the arrival of 10,000 British troops from England (diverted from the fighting in France), there were about 16,000 British Army soldiers in Dublin.

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British Army troops around St Stephen’s Green after the Rising (NMI Collection)

Our Canadian soldier however, was not one of those sent from England on the Wednesday and Thursday, nor was he stationed in Ireland. He was most likely in Dublin on leave from the war at the Front, as were many other soldiers from British Commonwealth nations such as Australia and New Zealand. When the Rising started, these soldiers reported for duty to their nearest barracks or to Trinity College which was also operating as an Officers Training Corp (and held a stock of arms), and so formed part of the body of soldiers involved in the suppression of the Rising.

However, the tale he told to those in the hotel that he had entered Jacob’s Factory and shot a man in uniform is not factual. Not only did Patrick Cushen not mention any incident of a shooting, but there are no records of any combatant death occurring around Jacob’s other than Irish Volunteer John O’Grady, who was mortally wounded around the Mount Street area while trying to reach the Boland’s Mills garrison. It seems the Canadian soldier’s statement was an ill-advised boast to his audience.

 

The Jacob’s Factory flag fragments will be on display in the National Museum of Ireland’s new exhibition Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising in the Riding School at Collins Barracks in March 2016, along with the rest of the museum’s collection of 1916 garrison flags, including the Irish Republic and Starry Plough. Though it is not be the only garrison flag in the museum’s collection, it is certainly the smallest.

 

The IRA ‘Big Gun’ and the Death of Matt Furlong, 1920

IRA 'Big Gun', October 1920 (NMI Collection, EWT.401)

Arming the Irish Republican Army during the War of Independence was not an easy task; weapons, particularly modern ones, were not readily available. In the countryside shotguns were common, as most farmers owned one. The IRA also gathered firearms such as rifles, even Lewis machine guns, and ammunition from the many raids conducted on Royal Irish Constabulary barracks around the country. Arms were also smuggled into Ireland. In 1921 Harry Boland ordered over 650 Thompson machine guns (made iconic by the US Mafia during the 1920s and 1930s) from America, and though most were intercepted on the docks in New York, some did make it to Ireland via Liverpool in England.

IRA 'Big Gun', October 1920 (NMI Collection, EWT.401)

Such weapons made little impact on the armoured vehicles of the British Forces however, or the strong walls of barracks buildings, and heavier guns were necessary. Unable to acquire them, the IRA turned to improvising weapons to serve their needs. This home made ‘big gun’, or mortar, designed to fire mortar bombs at short-range targets, was described as the only piece of such artillery used by the Irish during the War of Independence when it was donated to the museum in 1937.

The story of this mortar is an interesting insight into the making of improvised munitions during the War of Independence, but it is also a tragedy which led to the death of Matthew Furlong.

Matthew Furlong (from irishmedals.org)The Furlongs of 19 South Main Street, Wexford town, had a Fenian family tradition. Matt and his brother Joseph were members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) from 1908. He apprenticed as an engineer in the Wexford Engineering Company, but due to the labour wars and lockouts in Wexford in 1911 he and Joseph moved to London where they transferred to the London I.R.B., joining the same centre as Michael Collins. When the Irish Volunteers were formed in Ireland in November 1913, companies were also formed in the Irish centres in England. The Furlongs joined, and just after Christmas 1915, received word from Collins to quit their jobs in London and relocate to Dublin to prepare for the Rising. Matt and Joseph fought with G Coy, 2nd Battalion at Jacob’s Factory during the 1916 Rising, and were interned in Frongoch Camp in Wales until December 1916. They returned to Ireland and their home at 70 Seville Place, Dublin, took employment (with Matt working for a time at the National Shell Factory on Parkgate Street during the war years) and resumed their activities in the I.R.A.  Matt’s trade would prove useful, his engineering knowledge led to his involvement with the setting up of an underground munitions factory in 1918 by Michael Lynch of the Fingal Brigade, who had been charged with the task by Dick McKee.

The munitions factory was established in the basement of 198 Parnell Street, underneath the bicycle shop of Heron & Lawless; Archie Heron was Lynch’s Vice-Commandant and Joseph Lawless an Engineer Officer, both of the Fingal Brigade.

A munitions factory making hand grenades at Bailieboro, Co. Cavan

The munitions factory was fully equipped, including a forge and a lathe. It was here that they made the iron exterior bodies of hand grenades, based on the pattern of German egg grenades, and the brass fittings for the fuses, which were transported to another location to be filled with explosive and finished.

Joseph Lawless at Rath Internment Camp, 1921 (NMI Collection)Lawless was arrested in a raid on the bicycle shop by British Forces in May 1919, and afterwards felt that because of his connection with the premises it would be more closely watched. In order to keep the profile of the building low and protect the factory, he sold his interests to Lynch. Archie Heron had already left the business some time before. By June Lawless had set up a separate business renting cars, which was also used to provide car transport to Volunteer raid parties, and munitions became the sole business of 198 Parnell Street. (The story of Joseph Lawless’ later internment in the Rath Camp in 1921 can be found in a previous blog post here).

During mid 1920 it had been decided that there was a need for a portable heavy gun to aid in Barracks attacks, and work began on an experimental mortar. G.H.Q. Munitions branch decided to attempt to replicate the British Stokes, or Trench, mortar which had been produced during the latter part of WWI.

PSM_V92_D055_Stokes_mortar_for_trench_warfare_2 (Wikimedia)

IRA 'Big Gun', October 1920 (NMI Collection, EWT.401)

Artillery of this type is smooth bore rather than rifled, and used to propel explosive shells at a high angle towards targets with a much greater explosive capacity then a hand grenade. Matt and Joe Furlong undertook the task, although detailed drawings and instructions were not available.

When the mortar was complete in October 1920, testing began. Experiments with dummy shells were successful, a test site in Co. Meath was selected, and Matt Furlong, Peadar Clancy, Tom Young, Sean O’Sullivan and Patrick McHugh began the trial, with Matt as the operator. Difficulties arose with the firing of live shells, and adjustments were planned. Another trial at Kells took place where, after a number of tests, Matt decided to use a live shell which fired but landed unexploded. After further adjustment another shell was tested; this time it exploded inside the base of the mortar, blowing off the bottom half of the cylinder. Matt Furlong was very badly wounded, particularly along the left hand side of his body which had been closest to the mortar. He was brought to the Mater Hospital where his left leg was amputated, but he later died of his injuries at the age of 28.

IRA 'Big Gun', October 1920 (NMI Collection, EWT.401)

With the loss of the mortar, the munitions factory at 198 Parnell Street, still operating under the name of ‘Heron and Lawless’, concentrated on grenade manufacture. It was eventually shut down by the Auxiliaries in December 1920, when it was accidentally discovered during a raid next door. The building that housed the munitions factory is now the location of King’s Inn House, beside the Parnell Centre.

British soldiers, two Auxiliaries and a DMP constable at the Heron and Lawless premises at 198 Parnell Street after the raid. (http://www.standingwellback.com/home/2014/12/30/ira-improvised-munitions-1919-1922.html)

The ‘big gun’ itself was hidden in the River Tolka for some years before it was recovered by John Connell of Lustown, Co. Meath, after his release from Arbour Hill Prison. He and Padraig O Huigin later deposited it in the National Museum of Ireland in 1937 for display in its 20th Anniversary exhibition in Kildare Street. It remains the only known example of an IRA Big Gun.

View of "1916" exhibition sign, central court, Kildare Street, 1941. Shot from the balcony looking towards the first floor stairway (from glass plate negative DF5406, NMI Collection)

View of “1916” exhibition sign, central court, Kildare Street, 1941. Shot from the balcony looking towards the first floor stairway (from glass plate negative DF5406)

Occupying Istanbul – Photograph album of Lt Andrew J. Horne, 1923

Lt Andrew J. Horne Constantinople Photograph Album, 1923 (NMI)

The last post on the blog looked at the experience of two Dublin brothers Thomas and Joseph McEnroe in World War I. Thomas had been a professional soldier from 1902, and his brother volunteered in 1916. It is estimated that about 350,000 Irish men and women served in this war in various roles. This photograph album is one of two extraordinary books compiled by a medical officer from Dublin, Lt Andrew John Horne, and was donated to the NMI by his daughters in early 2014.

Lt Andrew J. Horne (NMI)

Andrew was born in 1891 to a wealthy Catholic family. His father, Andrew J. Horne from Galway, was a physician and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Royal Academy of Medicine of Ireland. In 1911 he, his wife Margaret and three adult children were living in 94 Merrion Square in Dublin, with young Andrew studying medicine in university. He was just 23 when war broke out in 1914, and he entered service as a medical officer with the 17th Stationary Hospital, which was attached to the 29th Division. His first album depicts his time in Gallipoli, Turkey, where he served during the disastrous campaign from April 1915, which saw about 180,000 Allied casualties. His hospital was established on a hill overlooking the peninsula and he managed to photograph the action from his vantage point, including shells exploding on the beaches. He was one of the five officers who were the last to leave the Gallipoli Peninsula on 9 January 1916, and went on to serve in Mesopotamia, Alexandria and India. After the war he spent time with the British Army in Malta (an established centre for the Royal Army Medical Corps), the Dardenelles, the Asian / Europe border and Istanbul, then known as Constantinople, where he made his second album. The album dates from early to mid 1923 and illustrates a very particular and turbulent time in the history of the city.

Lt Andrew J. Horne Constantinople Photograph Album, 1923 (NMI)

Constantinople was the capital of the powerful Ottoman Empire, but by the time war broke out in 1914 the empire was in major decline, having lost most of its territories in Europe and North Africa. It entered the war in November on the side of the Central Powers in an attempt to regain its lost empire. The Allied Powers considered Constantinople, with its location at the intersection between Europe and Asia, and its control of the route from the Aegean Sea to the Black Sea through the Bosphorus Strait, as one of the great prizes of the war. Russia claimed sovereignty, and Britain and France wanted to open the area to supply Russia via these sea routes. The Allies were already negotiating the division of Istanbul during the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915. Though the Ottomans saw some military successes during the war, the Allies victory in October 1918 and the subsequent armistice led to a five-year occupation of Turkish territories, including Constantinople, by British and French troops from November. Soon afterwards, the British Prime Minister Lloyd George encouraged Greece to pursue territories in the Ottoman Empire. Their invasion of 1919 led to the growth of the Turkish Nationalist Movement, with the remains of the Ottoman army led by the experienced World War I officer, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. This conflict, known as the Turkish War of Independence, not only repelled the Greek invasion, it also ended the occupation of Constantinople and eventually led to the establishment of the Republic of Turkey.

Lt Andrew J. Horne Constantinople Photograph Album, 1923 (NMI) By the time Andrew Horne arrived in Constantinople in 1923, the city was on the brink of huge change. Photographs in his album are a mix of a city under military occupation, with images of hospital ships and battleships on the Bosphorus alongside images of merchant ships transporting goods, a reminder of the economically strategic importance of the city and why its possession was so desirable.

Another image shows the railway station building at Haider Pasha on the Asian side on the city, underneath which is written ‘bombed and set on fire by our aeroplanes in the Great War’.

Lt Andrew J. Horne Constantinople Photograph Album, 1923 (NMI)

Some photographs show the recent modernization of Constantinople, for example the old Galata Bridge, with the electric tram which had replaced the horse trams in 1912.

Lt Andrew J. Horne Constantinople Photograph Album, 1923 (NMI) Many of the photographs however, are of the typical sights of the city as seen by a visiting outsider. He photographs the Harem at Topkapi Palace from the river, and visits the Hagia Sophia, originally the Greek Orthodox church of St. Sophia and a functioning mosque when Andrew visited. Less than 10 years later it would close and become the museum it is today.

Lt Andrew J. Horne Constantinople Photograph Album, 1923 (NMI) Lt Andrew J. Horne Constantinople Photograph Album, 1923 (NMI)

Lt Andrew J. Horne Constantinople Photograph Album, 1923 (NMI)    Lt Andrew J. Horne Constantinople Photograph Album, 1923 (NMI)

Lt Andrew J. Horne Constantinople Photograph Album, 1923 (NMI)                Lt Andrew J. Horne Constantinople Photograph Album, 1923 (NMI)

The city and its people must have seemed quite exotic to Andrew; he photographs men and women in traditional dress, workers and beggars in the streets.

One page of photographs shows people, labeled as Greek refugees from Asia, at a Constantinople port. This is a scene from the compulsory population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923, which saw the movement of about 2 million Greeks and Turkish Muslims between the two countries. The people in Andrew’s photograph, pictured with their household goods waiting to leave by boat, were some of the 1.5 million relocated to Greece after the Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations was signed on 30 January 1923. This was to lead to the population of the newly formed Republic of Turkey to be almost 98% Muslim within a few years, though the country was to remain a secular state.

Lt Andrew J. Horne Constantinople Photograph Album, 1923 (NMI) Although Andrew could not have known it, his photographs captured the last moments of Constantinople, the capital of an empire. A few months beforehand, the Ottoman Sultanate had been abolished, and the last Sultan had fled the country. A few months later, the occupation of the city was ended with the arrival of the Turkish Army, and the declaration of the Republic on 29 October 1923. Atatürk, the leader of the Provisional Government of Turkey, became its first president, and moved the capital to Ankara. Even the name Constantinople soon went out of use, as the city became the Istanbul we know today. Lt Andrew J. Horne Constantinople Photograph Album, 1923 (NMI) Lt Andrew Horne’s Gallipoli photograph album will be on display and fully viewable in digital format in the World War I Centenary exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland, Collin Barracks, opening end of November.

Prisoner of War Photograph Album, Joseph McEnroe, WWI

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This July we commemorate the centenary of the First World War and remember those men who served in the various armies of all nations. Two such men were brothers Thomas and Joseph McEnroe, who served with the Royal Irish Fusiliers, and between them their experience covers the war years between 1914 and 1918. This album was made by Joseph after the war, and documents his experience as a prisoner of war in Germany between 1917 and 1918. It was donated to the National Museum in 1986.

It has only been in the fairly recent past that Ireland has fully acknowledged the role of its people during this conflict; it is thought that up to 150,000 Irishmen enlisted and served in the various theatres of war, and the Irish at home, especially women, found job opportunities on war service, particularly in the manufacturing of munitions. The number of Irish deaths is the subject of debate, some estimate it to be about 35,000, while others include recent emigrants in foreign armies and go as high as about 50,000. It would be impossible to say definitively, as enlistment records do not necessarily state the nationality of the soldier, the Irish regiments were not ‘Irish only’, and individual Irishmen also served in regiments that were not connected to Ireland. Nor do the enlistment forms record the motivation for joining. In 1914 Ireland was part of the British Empire, and about 21,000 Irishmen were already serving in the British Army as professional soldiers. As the war broke out, tens of thousands more enlisted, encouraged by the call to defend small nations such as Belgium. For many Irishmen hoping for Irish independence this was an act of nationalism. Irish nationalist politician John Redmond believed that Irish participation would lead to Home Rule, and encouraged the Irish Volunteers to enlist, causing them to split in 1915 with the vast majority of Volunteers going on to enlist in the British Army.
However, motivations would have been different for every volunteer. In August 1914 this promised to be a short war, and some may have joined as a way to see the world outside Ireland. Unemployment was also very high at this time, especially in urban areas, and many others would have seen a chance to provide an income for their families.

Thomas and Joseph McEnroe were two such men – Thomas being the professional soldier, and his younger brother Joseph volunteering in 1916. They were the only children of the widowed Frances McEnroe of Waterford. In 1901 they were living in Wood Quay, Dublin, and both sons were working as wood sawyer assistants. On 22 April the next year 18 year old Thomas enlisted in the Royal Irish Fusiliers at Armagh, and started a military career. He was posted to India and served there until 1910, when he returned to Dublin and transferred to the Reserves. He took a job as a general labourer in a flourmill and settled down with his wife Susan. On 5 August 1914, the day after the UK declared war on Germany, he was re-engaged and became a Private in the 3rd Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, and was mobilised to France on 12 September 1914. His military records show where and when he was injured. He was at the second Battle of Ypres in April 1915 – the Battle of St. Julien – and would have experienced the first German gas attack using a lethal chlorine gas. Thomas was shot through the pelvis on the 25th and was sent to Crumpsall Military Hospital in Manchester for his recovery. He was eventually discharged on 29 June 1916, aged 32, as ‘being no longer physically fit for war service’.

Joseph McEnroe – centre

One month later his 29 year old brother Joseph enlisted as a Private in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. I could find little about his service; it seems his records are among those lost during World War II. Only his medal card survives, so we know that he enlisted on 31 July 1916, shortly after the huge losses suffered by British forces at the Battle of the Somme.

prisonersThe photograph album he made tells us more about his experiences. He was probably sent to France, and captured sometime in early 1917, as in the album he tells us he spent two years as a prisoner of war in Gettorf, a town near the Danish border. Joseph filled his album with the postcard pictures of the picturesque German town that he sent home to his wife Catherine, noting the post office, the winter gardens and cafes.

gettorf    cafe

There are many photographs of him with fellow prisoners, some posing outside barrack buildings, a football team, and scenes from plays enacted in the camp, all giving an impression of normal life, with the names of the men meticulously recorded by Joseph on the reverse sides or the album page. One particularly stands out for me – the actors on the stage dressed as schoolchildren and their teacher, but the drawn and soiled faces of the prisoner audience in the foreground tell us more about the reality of their conditions.

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One of the photographs included in this album is of the memorial in the cemetery at Gustrow, dedicated to the prisoners of war who died of starvation. POWs, though they were not generally executed, still suffered bad conditions, forced labour, disease and starvation in the camps. Joseph was probably no exception – his medal record shows he was discharged from service in September 1919, the cause listed as ‘sickness’.

Joslinereph returned home in December 1918, one month after the armistice, on the Norwegian liner the Frederik VIII, which had been chartered by the British government to transport their men back from Germany. Though the McEnroes’ story reflects the experience of many Irish families during the Great War, they are unusual in one way – they both survived. At a time when Irish households, and sometimes whole streets, were receiving news of the death of their loved one, Frances McEnroe was lucky enough to have both her sons live through serious injury and imprisonment and return home.

play football

The National Museum of Ireland has a number of photograph albums made by soldiers. They typically hold images of regiment group, individuals, places served, major events, and some even contain photographs of battle scenes, all captioned with names and memories. At first glance it might seem that their purpose is to celebrate their regiment and its history. A closer look gives me more the impression of a commemoration of the maker’s fellow soldiers, a way of remembering his experiences and the men who shared them with him, and maybe a desire for these not to be forgotten.

In the back cover of Joseph’s photograph album is the following inscription –

Joseph McEnroe is my name, Dublin is my station, 18 Kildare Street is my dwelling place, and Heaven is my Exportation. I hope when I am dead and gone, and all my bones are rotten, this postcard album will tell my name, when I am quite forgotten.
Joseph McEnroe 4/10/26
Late Royal Irish Fusiliers, ex prisoner of war in Germany, two years.

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Soldiers and Chiefs – National Museum of Ireland – Collins Barracks

The role of the Irish soldier in World War I is explored in the Soldiers and Chiefs exhibition in Collins Barracks, which details the participation of about 150,000 Irishmen and women in the British Army and war service during the Great War.
The National Museum will open a new exhibition and hold a seminar day in late October 2014 to mark the centenary of World War I.

The Hollywood Star and Pearse’s Missing Cap Badge, 1916

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In the late 1940s the Irish Volunteer hat and Browning 7.65mm automatic pistol used by Patrick Pearse during Easter Week 1916 were donated to the National Museum of Ireland. The distinctive Australian style hat was missing something vital – its cap badge, with no information on its loss and no indication of its whereabouts. The mystery was solved in 1977 with the publication of Hollywood Hussar by actor John Loder, famous for his roles in The Doctor’s Secret – one of the first ‘talkies’, and King Solomon’s Mines.

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Loder was born John Lowe, the son of Brigadier General Arthur Lowe, the commander of the British troops in Ireland from the beginning of the rising, and the officer who took Pearse’s surrender on Saturday 29th April. Loder had followed his father into the army in the early months of World War I, and had seen service in Gallipoli and Egypt. He arrived in Ireland on the Friday before the outbreak of the rebellion to take up his new appointment as Aid-de-Camp to his father. On the outbreak of the rising, he went with Lowe to set up his headquarters in Dublin Castle.

 

 

His account of the rebellion is brief, but he describes the fighting in the city centre, the destruction of the GPO and the death of civilians. At the end of the week Elizabeth O’Farrell came to Dublin Castle with a message from Pearse proposing the negotiation of a surrender. Loder wrote the message back to Pearse with the instructions to meet at Britain Street and surrender unconditionally, dictated and signed by Lowe. Loder was with his father at 4pm when Pearse and O’Farrell arrived. The famous surrender photograph shows Loder to the fore, his tall frame slouched slightly, cigarette in mouth.

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An example of an Irish Volunteer’s cap badge of the period. There were a number of different designs of badge, but this is likely to have been the type on Pearse’s hat.

 

 

He describes taking Pearse into detention in a staff car, accompanied by a priest, though his memory of Pearse giving the priest his watch and ring to give to his wife must be a mis-interpretation of the events; Pearse was likely passing his possessions on to his mother or sister. Loder had asked the driver of the car to continue driving past the jail’s gates in order to allow Pearse to finish giving his last messages. In gratitude, Pearse took his hat off, removing what Loder described as the Sinn Fein badge and gave it to him. He ends this recollection saying that he would have liked to have given this memento to the National Museum to join the other items belonging to Pearse, but it was destroyed in his parent’s home during the London Blitz in 1940 to 1941.

 

 

 

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After the Dublin rebellion, he was posted to France, fighting at the Battle of the Somme, and was eventually taken prisoner by the German Army in March 1918. After the war he continued his army career at the British Military Mission in Berlin, and on his demobilisation he returned to civilian life, setting up a pickle business in Potsdam, Germany. He turned to acting and moved to America in the 1920s, winning parts in Hollywood and later Broadway, radio and television. Described in his IMDb entry as ‘A tall, debonair, immaculately-groomed British leading man best known for his pipe-smoking chaps’, he lived the Hollywood lifestyle, complete with five marriages, until 1958 when he became a rancher in South America. He returned to London after his last divorce, and died there in 1988.

 

Many thanks to Michael Lee for telling me Loder’s story and providing me with a copy of his book.