Remembrance Weekend

Great War Memorial on South Mall, Cork

Great War Memorial  South Mall, Cork

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years of continuous conflict. What was originally hoped to be a short and limited European war, ‘over by Christmas’, turned into a period of prolonged stalemate which enveloped the world. As part of the British Empire at the time, Ireland became embroiled in the conflict. The current estimate is that 200,000 Irishmen served in the conflict, although this is a difficult number to be sure of. With many Irish living abroad and enlisting in regiments in their new homes, it can be hard to know for certain how many were involved. It is estimated that between 30,000 to 50,000 lost their lives (depending on whether you count just those serving with Irish regiments or Irish enlisting in other armies).

Until recent years it would seem that the role of the rish in WW1 was ignored and overlooked due to the focus on the events of Easter 1916 and the subsequent War of Independence in Ireland. Fortunately perceptions of the conflict have changed, although it still remains a controversial subject for some, especially the practice of wearing a poppy. Our Taoiseach has today laid a wreath in Enniskillen as part of their Remembrance Sunday events and our Minister for Foreign Affairs was a participant in Belfast events. Our President has attended the Remembrance service in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

Members of the Cork branch, Western Front Association

Members of the Cork branch, Western Front Association

Here in Cork we are fortunate to have a number of groups and individuals who are very dedicated to commemorating those who served in the Great War. Over the last few years the members of the Cork branch, Western Front Association have organised a number of events over the weekend closest to November 11th. On the Friday they hold an Evening of Remembrance in St Fin Barre’s Cathedral. This is always a truly moving event combining songs, music, stories and poetry. On the Saturday they organise is a gathering at the WW1 memorial on the South Mall in Cork for a wreath laying ceremony. Both the Lord Mayor of Cork and the Mayor of Cork County delivered speeches. On the Sunday a seperate ceremony is held by members of the Royal British Legion, along with a number of special masses.

Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Chris O'Leary

Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Chris O’Leary

Crowd gathered at the WW1 memorial for the wreath laying

Crowd gathered at the WW1 memorial for the wreath laying

From a genealogical point of view these commemoration events can be very important. We don’t have to approve of the War or why and how it was fought. But it is important to remember those who lost their lives in the conflict. Every family in Ireland would have known someone who enlisted to fight in the War and each had their own reasons for doing so. These commemoration events help us to learn more about the lives our ancestors lived and to appreciate who they were. Too often when we read about these conflicts it can seem like an endless stream of numbers and big battles. But by commemorating them, we realise that each of these numbers was a living breathing individual at one point with a story to tell.

As part of the Rembrance weekend, Ancestry have opened up their WW1 records to explore for free. Usually I’m not one to plug the subscription websites, simply because they are so well known. However on this occasion it’s a great opportunity to search for your WW1 ancestors and see what sort of information might be out there.

WW1 Medal Roll

WW1 Medal Roll

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