‘ Gallipoli, Two German Officers And The Fog Of Military History’ by Donal Kennedy

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Two German Officers are the heroes of my story, for they dispel the fog of Military History as it is currently presented in Ireland.

The first of these gallant gentlemen, following the defeat of the Kaiser and his own demobilisation, was ce-Commissioned in the Irish National or Free State Army, established its School of Music and conducted the No.1 Army Band. His name was Colonel Fritz Brase. The band cut a number of records in 1930,“Fantasias” , or medleys of Irish airs. Amongst my heirlooms are Fantasia No.1 and Fantasia No.4. The very first air of Fantasia No.1 is The Foggy Dew. Immediately following the 1916 Rising this traditional song had a new lyric, celebrating the Insurgents’s gallantry. But it cast no slight on those other gallant Irishmen, “the Wild Geese” whom Brittania bade fight in British uniform “that small nations might be free” and “whose lonely graves were by Suvla’s Waves and the Shores of the Great North Sea”. “Suvla’s waves” are by Gallipoli. Free State Government Ministers and most Senior Free State Army Officers in 1930 had been insurgents in 1916 and had there been any animus against their compatriots, often their brothers, who fought at Gallipoli, it is unlikely that The Foggy Dew would be such a favourite with them.

My second German Officer, Lieutenant General Liman Von Sanders, commanded the Turkish 5th Army which defended Gallipoli against the British and Anzac attack. Von Sanders paid particular tribute to the Irishmen who confronted him. My father used quote that tribute by heart. It was relayed to later generations of Irish schoolchildren in a standard history textbook—Volume IV of A Textbook Of Irish History by James Carty, first published in 1931. In 1930 and 1931 Cumannna nGael under W.T. Cosgrave was in power.

In the 1950s de Valera’s Irish Press, a Fianna Fail organ, used run a Saturday column by Brendan Behan which celebrated with great humour the Dubliners amongst whom he (Brendan) had been reared, many of whom had served in the British Army in the First  or Second Boer Wars, or were the widows and children of the same. He recalled being amongst them at a film, advertised in Dublin as Gallipoli” but in its country of production “Tell England”.

Also in the 1950s I often read the monthly United Irishman the organ of those Republicans who regarded both de Valera and Cosgrave as lapsed or apostate separatists. I vividly recall a piece on the Irish sacrifice at Gallipoli. It cited a British Officer surveying a landing beach through binoculars and asking—”Why are our men resting?” The poor men had no choice, being dead.

So I was surprised to read a book review by one Harman Murtagh in The Irish Times of February 11th last asserting that official Ireland had airbrushed the story of the Irish at Gallipoli out of history.

Under W.T. Cosgrave and under Eamon de Valera the story was told though, when Liam Cosgrave was Taoiseach, songs such as The Foggy Dew were banned from the air waves by the diktat of Labour’s Conor Cruise O’Brien.

I was disappointed when the Irish Times didn’t publish my rebuttal of Harman Murtagh‘s assertion, or any other challenge to it. And I was rather bemused to learn that Harman Murtagh is President of The Military History Society of Ireland, whose journal is The Irish Sword.

Mr. Murtagh‘s baseless assertion was repeated in the Irish Times by one P.D.Coggin on July 19th. P.D.Coggin is a former officer of the Irish Army and unfortunately knows little of its or his country’s history. He was a guest writer for An Irishman’s Diary. Again the paper published no challenge to his assertion. It’s a sad day when one must invoke a couple of German officers to blow away The Fog of Military History and the Smoke Screens laid down by alleged scholars and gentlemen of My Own Dear Irish Home.

P.S. This piece was published in THE IRISH POLITICAL REVIEW in January 2012.


11 Responses to ‘ Gallipoli, Two German Officers And The Fog Of Military History’ by Donal Kennedy

  1. ANOTHER JUDE June 30, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

    Fascinating piece as usual, mind you, am I the only person fed up hearing about the bloody Somme? Let`s face it, the poor sods who died were not fighting for me or my beliefs, they were probably only there so they could get a wage to send home. Had I been around then and heard about thousands of British soldiers being killed I would have been over the moon, firstly because they were British soldiers and secondly they would not have been available to be posted to Ireland. I think it is hypocrisy for people to stand with their heads bowed as if that will make any difference. POPPYCOCK.

    • Scott June 30, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

      Over the moon about the death of thousands of people AJ really?

      Those people you speak of were English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, South African, Indian French and Rhodesian.

      They were also fathers, brothers, husbands, sons and uncles. Somebody’s loved ones I suppose.

      Even Martin Mcguiness a man involved in the organisation of killings of god knows how many people said he regretted the lose of human life.

      Says more about you really that you’d be doing cartwheels and jumping for joy at the death of thousands of your fellow human beings.

      • ANOTHER JUDE July 1, 2016 at 1:05 pm #

        Had I lived back then I would have been happy to see British soldiers die in France, seeing as they would have been sent over to Ireland to keep the natives down. A total waste of life in my opinion. Had you lived back then I assume you would not have been happy to see the nasty Germans fall in their thousands?

        • Scott July 2, 2016 at 1:23 am #

          I am not a pacifist AJ (or at least I don’t think I am, it’s something I struggle with) but even if I had of agreed with the reasons to wage war, I would have taken no pleasure from the death of human beings.

          You however would have been over the moon, to use your own words. Maybe you should think about that. You take pleasure at the death of humans……sad really isn’t it.

    • billy July 1, 2016 at 8:05 pm #

      you then have irishmen at the minute supporting scotland in their time of trouble when all they did for us was send the black watch and the kosbs and we all know how that ended.mad innit.

  2. giordanobruno June 30, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

    i sincerely hope you would never actually be over the moon about the deaths of thousands of people, whatever the circumstances.
    No man is an island.
    I do not think it hypocrisy to remember the dead.

    • ANOTHER JUDE July 1, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

      So you would have been a pacifist had you lived then?

      • giordanobruno July 1, 2016 at 6:19 pm #

        I may or may not have been a pacifist, I don’t know.
        But I would not actively celebrate the death of one person much less thousands.
        I don’t believe you genuinely would either.

        • ANOTHER JUDE July 3, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

          But people celebrate the deaths of their enemies in war, that is why we have wars in the first place. The British soldiers who went to their futile deaths in Belgium or France would in all probability have been used to keep down the Irish revolution, so from a purely tactical point of view I would have been glad to see them perish there rather than over here.

  3. fiosrach June 30, 2016 at 2:46 pm #

    The spellbinding ‘Letters from the front’ which is broadcast on colonial BBC seems to go on forever. If you miss it you can download it heh heh. The avalanche of celebration of the slaughter of working class people in the War of the Cousins has only just begun.Prepare to be nauseated for the next two years and then comes the illegitimate birth of the bastard province. I wonder will the pseudo Republicans in Stormont be attending any functions for OWC?

    • ANOTHER JUDE July 1, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

      The whole thing is nauseating, especially seeing those wastes of space, William and Harry, sitting at the front while the carnage caused by their equally useless ancestors is remembered, over and over again.