Gallipoli and all that


To start with a personal point: for reasons which are a mixture of fear and disgust, I believe taking human life in any circumstances  is a  truly awful thing. That’s why I’ve always admired people like the Quakers who refuse to involve themselves in armed conflict of any kind, while other religious denominations find no irony in appointing padres to various regiments. With God on our side blah blah blah.

This point comes to mind because today they’re celebrating/commemorating the Battle of Gallipoli, and yesterday marked  the anniversary of the Easter Proclamation. It seems to me that if you believe in violence to achieve political ends – as is the case in any country with a standing army – then it comes in at least three forms.

There’s the violence which achieves its objectives. Under this heading you might classify the struggle against Hitler and Nazism. The goal was to defeat Germany and after a six-year struggle, the Allies were successful. Those who died believing in the need to defeat Nazism died in the interests of a noble cause.

Then there’s violence which doesn’t achieve its objectives in the short term but in the long term does. Under this I’d classify the Easter Rising, which was denounced on many sides when it was crushed, but from the ashes of which grew the independence of the twenty-six counties. Likewise the republican violence of the Troubles: its central aim was to achieve a united Ireland. Republicans failed to do that. But in the longer term they moved out of conflict and built an extraordinarily successful political movement which may well achieve the original goal of a re-united self-governing Ireland.

Finally there’s the violence which is fought in the interests of a lie. Into this category I’d place the Irish Volunteers who, with John Redmond’s blessing, marched into the 1914-18 war and gave their lives for an illusion. Likewise the many Australians and New Zealanders, whose deaths are being commemorated and honoured today: they probably were brave men but they died for…What? So that they could say the Hun had been defeated? So that the Mother country could acclaim their loyalty? Like the millions who died in that war, their lives were sacrificed for nothing. Which makes the pretext that they died in a noble cause an insult to their brave memory.

11 Responses to Gallipoli and all that

  1. Cushy Glen April 25, 2015 at 10:05 am #

    I have recently been researching the 1st WW for a book.

    My father (a Protestant) fought in WW1 (yes my father, he was 56 when I was born in 1954). He was one of those poor deluded boys from Ireland who joined up at 17 to have an adventure & to look good in a uniform. I don’t believe he had any other motive.

    However the strange thing looking at that period of history is that many Irish (prior to 1916) believed there was some kind of higher motive – protecting small countries like Belgium; protecting Catholicism – Germany was strongly protestant & they did some nasty things on their way through catholic Belgium, even destroying early Irish manuscripts; fighting for Ireland to get Home Rule. Some catholic Irish felt some patriotic duty to serve the Empire. Many of course joined up for the pay being in many cases destitute.

    The remarkable thing, looking at that period from the advantage 2015, is that many Catholic (as well as Protestant) Irish were very confused about their identity. Were they British or Irish first? This confusion over identity allowed them to be manipulated. It was 1916 that began to sort that confusion out.

    I am no advocate of warfare, but would that confusion in identity that allowed so many Irish to be cruelly manipulated have been resolved without a dramatic event like 1916?

  2. Francis April 25, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    Futility and slaughter celebrated with reverential solemnity…The clown is wearing a suit.
    Destruction of vast swathes of humanity on behalf of the myopic interests of Empire, blushing Poppies are more apt than the Circus masters know.

  3. Perkin Warbeck April 25, 2015 at 11:29 am #

    After perusing your daily think in virtual ink, Esteemed Blogmeister, one tends to switch one’s attention to the halting site of The Unionist Times to see what their button-down thinkers are serving up at breakfast time.

    All in the interest of maintaining equilibrium, you understand, balance being such a vital component of mental stability.

    Alas, one is once again doomed to disappointment as one is confronted with the same old minimalist morning fare of a TUT thinker’s breakfast: a yawn, a stretch, a burp and a scratch.

    Little wonder then that Perkie’s inner seeker after symmetry is compelled to live his life at a tilt. No surprise to discover he has frequently been compared to ‘little crooked Paddy from the Tiraloughett bog’.

    The Editorial, to which one’s mind’s eye invariably makes a beeline, seemed at first glance this morning at odds with the fabulously inclusive photograph which adorned another page of the record-breaking paper : the camera shot featuring three rather rum creatures: a green turtle, a shear-water petrel and (if one is not mistaken) a swallow-tailed gull with unusual red feathers.

    While the Editorial was entitled ‘Remembering all who died at Gallipoli’ one’s first instinct was to suspect it had made the understandable mistake of confusing Gallipoli with Galapagos. On further inspection of the Anzak Moment, however, not so; TUT had got it right, as always..

    For (l to r) the stunning snap captured Harry, Mickaleen and Chuck (minus his wagon) in the all-together of civilised inclusivity.

    But, to allow the Editorial drone on in its inimitable high-minded tone: ‘And now we too are learning how we can remember the Munister;s landing at V beach with the 10th Irish division at Suvla Bay and …..the ‘Pals’ from Lansdowne Road who were decimated’

    (One almost expected to read at the end of that paragraph ‘ in the Ravenhill Road commemoration last night’).

    There’s more: ‘ There is little point or satisfaction for nationalists now to continue to play a game of historical retrospection ‘I told you so’ about these our grandfathers, grand uncles and cousins, who paid the price, many with extraordinary courage’.

    Such a pity that the ‘many’ introduced a minor sour note to a major op ed of such transcendent sweetness. For ‘many’, read ‘all’, surely. Perkie’s inner exculpator is prepared, as always, to pass it off as a typo.

    (One,however, looks forward with mounting trepidation to Dec ‘The Neck’ Lynch’s depiction of the family scrap book of scrappers in the TUT’s sister paper, The Sunday Dependent,tomorrow as,gulp, so much ‘Eejitry Writ Large’).

    As a back-up bonus there is a taut, provoking piece by one of the Sainthood (Sticks, Stoops and Staters) who comprise the columnists of The Unionist Times. Entitled ‘Time to press the pause button on the 1916 Debate?’.

    The question posed by Dora Sheridan (for it is she !) is, ca va sans dire/ ar ndoigh rhetorical in the Rhett Butler sense of that interrogation. Frankly, Dora couldn’t give a d-word for the 1916 thingy and the time has come for the M-word on debating that unholy inconvenience: Moratorium. For all a sniffy Dora cared a documentary could be made on the distasteful topic, possibly entitled: ‘Gone with the Breakwinds of Change’.

    -We are no longer a country of romantic nationalists. At last we have grown up and begun to (gulp) T-H-I-N-K.

    (See under halting site breakfasts above).

    And then the kicker: ‘Ambivalence is no bad thing’.

    Which seemed to echo Senator Brian Friel’s acute, world-famous observation: ‘Confusion is not an ignoble condition’. Rendered ‘world-famous’ by constant re-iteration of the Senator’s hagiographer, one F. O’Toole. (see Sainthood above).

    Mind you, this observation was not made by the Senator in the awe-inspiriing chamber of Seanad Eireann, whose sheer majesty appears to have silenced him into, erm, speechlessness. (Being a graduate of the ‘Whatever you say, say shag-all’ School of Oratory).

    Thump ! Thump ! Thump !

    Schrodinger, Perie’s pernickety pet pussy cat, thumping the Axinister again with his correction-demanding tail.

    Oops, not Dora but rather, Kathy Sheridan, of course..

    Perkie’s inner Paddy Stink and/or Mickey Mudd would appear to have been meditating rather too much of late on D.O.R.A. (Defence of the Realm Act) .

    So he has.

    One will have more marmalade on one’s Muffin Moratorium, led thoil.

  4. ANOTHER JUDE April 25, 2015 at 11:46 am #

    The sheer hypocrisy of the British media never ceases to amaze and nauseate in equal measure, wallowing in the mud the blood and the beer like so many boys named Sue. With (Protestant, of course) Churchmen in attendance, Generals in their immaculate uniforms, members of the royal family basking in the glory of other mens sacrifice (again), poppies in April. Gallipoli is curretly on all the news programmes, a place associated with mass slaughter, a place associated with the cunning and devious Churchill, of course that side of things is not mentioned. Considering his part in the horror it is bemusing to this Irish Republican to see the Aussies and the New Zealanders sitting cheek by jowl with their imperial British masters. I can only see one reason for any Irish man joining in with that danse macabre, a wage to send home to the family. I can`t imagine anyone waking up one day and saying I must join in the horror, possibly give my life, so the Queen and her cronies can bask in the glory a century later.

  5. Iolar April 25, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    Cannon law

    Some made a choice to celebrate the calendar anniversary of the 1916 Rising (24 April 1916) in this country while others paid their respects to the Gallipoli dead.

    It is said that the sea near V Beach turned red with the blood of men slaughtered as a direct result of seriously flawed military thought and planning. Estimates are that 58,000 Allied lives and 87,000 Turkish lives were lost in pursuit of Mr Churchill’s failed attempt to open a sea route to Russia through the Dardanelles Strait. Men from the Dublin Fusiliers and the Munster Fusiliers paid with their lives in a nautical version of the Charge of the Light Brigade. The troops did not stand a chance as they attempted to land on heavily defended beaches and scale cliffs under relentless gunfire.

    Those who fought and died in Dublin in 1916 engaged in battle with a superior and better equipped army. They were fighting in their own country to establish an Irish Republic. It is appropriate that Irish citizens throughout the world should honour the men and women of 1916 on Sunday 24 April 1916.

  6. moser April 25, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    I would only use violence as a form of self-defence. But there is no doubt that, once the cycle of violence begins, it is very difficult to stop. In the context of the situation as it is here today in the North: I find myself questioning the armed-struggle route. Remembering so many dead that don’t have the luxury of pondering that question.
    And as Yeats says ” he who measures gain and lose”.

  7. Ryan April 25, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

    Money is so easily found for War but yet its apparently so hard to find when it comes to helping the poor and needy.

  8. John Patton April 25, 2015 at 6:51 pm #

    The great unspoken or, at least minimally spoken of, is Churchill. Since Britain commemorated the 50 th anniversary of his funeral fairly recently, it would , in their view, be bad taste to re-hash the incompetence of the old Bulldog which caused this disaster, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives. Not the only calamity which is overlooked by the Brits in their worship of the old drunk; his acquiescence to Stalin, sealed the fate of Poland, Hungary and Romania to languish behind the Iron Curtain which he helped to establish through his blundering; Churchill ruthlessly exploited India and had the audacity of calling Hindus as a foul race deserving extinction despite thousands of Indians dying for England in both the world wars. His ruthless antics united Indians in breaking away from Britain, who till then, were quite divided over whether to seek limited autonomy or independence. The Kenyan concentration camps were set up by him as colonial secretary to crush the natives whom he regarded a s sub-human. His attitude to the striking miners of Tonypandy was similar. In Ireland he gave us the Black and Tans.
    For Churchill, violence was always justified to protect the Empire and capitalism

    • Perkin Warbeck April 26, 2015 at 9:27 am #

      Another unspoken fact,John, is that our all-inclusive Uachtaran na (gulp) hEireann (actually, FSS) is currently a tenant in the same detached shieling in the Phoenix Park where Winnie (as he was affectionately known) Churchill also spent four years of his boyhood as a tenant.

      Sometimes, one understands, even dressed as a wee girl as was the peculiar custom of those Victorian times.

      One wonders at this Official Silence. Could it be, one further wonders, because Aras an Uachtaran (nee The Viceregal Lodge) may well be in some way (gulp) haunted by the ghost of a bulldog pup?

      Wow ! A bow-wow poltergeist?

      Consider the following: the last three occupants of the wee white-washed bohawn in Pairc an Fhionn Uicse (Clearwater Park) have all shown the characteristic symptoms of dwellers in a Viceregal Lodge who suffer from an acute case of monarchimosis. A particularly virulent strain of which is normally contracted by too much thumbing through the glossy pages of such high-brow celebrity magazines as ‘Good Housekeeping’, ‘Elle’, and – Hello ! – ‘Cosmopolitan’.itself.

      There must be some explanation for the good moon rising.

      And while one is on the topic of publications,here’s another thing: back in the sexist Fifties (when – gasp ! – boys had their own comic books and girls had theirs: just imagine !) there was a popular series called ‘The Four Marys’. in the mass-circulation Bunty. It was to become its longest running comic strip and was a particular favourite with the readershiip. Even with many of the female subscribers too.

      And should the next incumbent of the highest office in the truncated land be – dare one hope? – be also called…..Mary ! well, then, what a boost that would be to our nascent TV serial industry. Why, the Vice Regal Lodge could be used as a the venue for a five-star soap called (gulp) ‘The Four Marys’.

      The time has surely come to make a successor worthy of our very own unsurpassable ‘Fr. Tedium’.

      While on the topic of Viceregal Lodges, another distinguished (actual) person who lived in the inaccurately-named Phoenix Park during his spell as Viceroy was one of the most elegant essayists in the Q’s English. He too never merits a mench in the Anal-Retentive Official Circles of the Free Southern Stateen.

      Perhaps one of the reasons why he does not feature in the Irish Litany of Literary Saints (ILLS) is because he had the temerity to open the gates of the,erm, biggest enclosed park in Europe, no less, to the Paddy Stinks and Mickey Mudds of Dublin, no lesser..

      It was Lord Chesterfield (for it was he !) to whom one of the great one-liners in the Q’s English is attributed: ‘The position is ridiculous; the pleasure but momentary and the expense damnable’.

      It is rumoured that he may well have been referring to, erm, horizontal jogging. And if so, it might be not at all inappropriate to apply it to the location du jour: Gallipoli. For indeed that very peninsula was a veritable Centre of Excellence for horizontal jogging a hundred years ago, give or take a day or two.

      ‘Sects on the Beach’ was to become a later war-cry for the same heroic episode. As in: nobody asked the Munsters or the Royal Dublin Fusiliers which church,chapel or meeting house they worshipped at’ before they took etnhusiastic part in what was perceptively described ‘as a sordid trade conflict’.

      That quotation is not to be heard in polite circles in academia or the media (increasingly intercheangeable most of the time) in the FSS becasue it was first made by the Archbishop of Melbourne, Daniel Mannix. And when he strenuously opposed conscription he did not exactly endear himself to the Anzac and tanned antipodeans either.

      While it took a long time for the penny to drop on the plate for the Corkonian in exile – he condemned the Rising of 1916 – nonetheless the scales were eventually to fall. Incidentally, he died at the advanced age of ….99 and a half, to the day. Which may also contirbute to his being considered on the,erm, flakey side by the Mister Whippies of Official Eireland.

      Mention of Mannix reminds one of another man, by the name of Mencken. Who shared a similar lack of enthusiasm for the Great Donkey Derby 14- 18.

      Writing in 1931 in the Baltimore Evening Sun, H.L. Mencken (for it was he !): opined: ‘Most of England’s appalling troubles today are due to a bad guess: she went into the war on the wrong side in 1914. The theory of her Statesmen, of that time, was that by joining France and Russia she would give a death blow to a dangerous rival, Germany, and so be free to rule the world’.

      Man. and Men;:: don’t mention their views on the, erm, War to end all Wars.

      Btw, what’s with the Poppies at this time of the year? Can this be a result of a mild winter? Are they to become like that other sacrosanct P-world, the Premiership, a 24-7 thingy, even a 52-1 one?

      Rather unsporting of Uachtaran na hEireann was not sporting one in his lapel as he took fervid part in this macabre version of the Compromise Rules. (His only blemish; a handling error which may possibly be laid at the door of his, erm, handlers).

      What next? Easter Lilies at Chrimbo time?

      (After it gets used to being worn at Easter first).

  9. DanQ April 27, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

    Agree somewhat Jude but I think its worth remembering that a lot of Irish in WW1 were not Redmondite volunteers but in fact members of Irish Regiments in the British Army who for all we know couldn’t have given a toss about Home Rule.
    As for the lack of mention of the Proclamation on RTE I think part of the problem is that the rising commemorations take place every Easter as opposed to the actual date of the rising itself i.e. 24–29 April so we associate it more with Easter than the dates themselves.
    In terms of republicans fighting for a United Ireland, I was listening to the RTE Late Debate last week and they were taking about the failures/successes of successive Irish governments in achieving the values of the proclamation. One of the listeners contacted the show reminding the contributors that one of the main aims was Irish Unity.. and of course this was unsurprisingly brushed aside almost immediately.

    • Jude Collins April 27, 2015 at 2:54 pm #

      Thank you, Dan – now that’s what I call a thoughtful contribution. Of course you’re right – many joined the British army for a lark, some because they needed a job, some because…And so on. But some did believe Redmond’s assurances and some did believe it was a war to end all wars as well as rescue gallant little Belgian (don’t mention the Congo).