I’m too young to remember the First World War, having been born 23 years after it ended. I doubt any of your readers can remember it. And I’d
bet the Artist Hughie O’Donoghue’s abstract “Seven Halts On The Somme” (28 May) are works of his imagination and not painted from personal
experience of the conflict.
Those of my generation brought up in Ireland can recall relations, neighbours and work colleagues who were veterans of that war, some of them
minus limbs lost there, others with problems breathing from exposure to gas. We can remember the sale and the wearing of Poppies. The
British Legion never ceased its yearly commemorations. And there was never any attempt to conceal the fact of the war nor the involvement
of Irishmen in it.
Charlie Dalton’s IRA memoir “With The Dublin Brigade” published in 1929 referred to his brother Emmet’s service as an officer in the British
Army during the First World War. Ernie O’Malley’s IRA memoir “On Another Man’s Wound” published in the 1936, referred to siblings who
were officers in the British Army in the same War. Emmet Dalton was an IRA Offficer after the First World War. Tom Barry’s IRA memoir
“Guerilla Days in Ireland” published in 1949 tells us in its its first sentence that he was serving with the British Army “in far-off Mesopotamia,
now called Iraq” when he got news of the 1916 Rising in Dublin.
James Carty’s “Classbook of Irish History” first published in the 1920s was a staple in Irish schools for decades. It recalled Irishmen who served
in many armed forces, not least with the British in the First World War. He reported tribute paid to the courage of Irishmen at Gallipoli by the German
commander of the Turkish defenders there. Indeed my father, who didn’t approve of Irish service in Briain’s forces, could quote that tribute verbatim.
I can remember that Sinn Fein’s monthly United Irishman, a paper with 8 or 12 pages, in the 1950s devoting a page to the Irishmen at Gallipoli
which ended with the story of a British Officer on a ship with a telescope surveying Irishmen on a beach and asking -“Why are our men resting?’
The men had gone to their Eternal Rest.
Perhaps if Hughie O’Donoghue deigned to examine Irish sources, even those of IRA men and their political supporters, rather than Eton College
he would be better qualified to comment on memory and amnesia?