“[British gas] is more merciful than the German gas, as it is so deadly and there is very little suffering or struggling for breath with it….” These are the poignant words of World War 1 soldier, Irishman Charles Howard-Bury who fought at the Battle of Somme.
Marking the 100 year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, the Library of Trinity College Dublin has digitised diaries, letters and memoirs from the Great War in a newly launched free and publicly available, website ‘Fit as fiddles and as hard as nails’ – Irish soldiers’ voices from the Great War.
They are voices from the front line from seven Irish officers. The youngest was 20 years old, Charles Wynne from Wicklow. His sister Emily Wynne’s writings are also included. She wrote a ‘home front’ diary from Greystones.
The authors served on both Western and Eastern Fronts. Three of them were Trinity graduates; two never came home and two received the Military Cross. Among them are Lieut. Henry Crookshank, father of Trinity’s History of Art Professor, Anne Crookshank, and Captain William ‘Pat’ Hone, descended from the famous Hone family of artists Nathaniel and Evie Hone. He was father of author Leland Bardwell who died this week.
In contrast to the diaries of hardship and loneliness from the men fighting on the front, some of the extracts from Emily Wynne’s ‘home-front’ diary shed light on a somewhat restricted civilian life back in Dublin.
“Lovely day.I went off to Dublin, cycling to Greystones & on by rail, leaving at 6.30am. Eagars came up about 1 ocl. They report that 60 more policemen & a detachment of soldiers have been drafted into Arklow. The women & children have been sent out of the coastguard station & the soliders installed. No one may be out after a certain hour 7pm.”
A total of 1,600 pages have been digitised as part of the project, which is freely accessible to researchers and members of the public alike.
Principal Curator, Jane Maxwell says:
“Until recently there was an eerie silence associated with the history of the role played by Irish men and women in the British army. The events of Easter week 1916 overtook them; their subsequent silencing in Irish historical narrative has come to an end in this decade of centenaries, and their voices are being brought to bear on the growing Irish investigation of this pivotal experience.”
Notes to Editors:
The officers are Lieut Arthur Nickson Callaghan; Lieut. Henry Crookshank; Major Richard William George Hingston; Captain William Patrick ‘Pat’ Hone; Lieutenant Colonel Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury; Captain Cyril Stanley Beresford Mundey; Private William Raws and Lieutenant Charles Wyndham Wynne.
The video features actors Bairbre Ní Chaoimh (Mrs Wynne), Ben Waddell (Charles Wynne), Marcus Bateson (Pat Hone), to whom the Library of Trinity College Dublin expresses its gratitude for their generous participation.
Website contains all material: http://www.tcd.ie/Library/fitasfiddles/