April 1916

Glasnevin Cemetery & World War One

Glasnevin Cemetery Museum

A look into the lives of those who fought in World War One and are now buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Answer The Call
In May 2014 Glasnevin Cemetery Museum appealed to members of the public to come forward with artefacts and heirlooms relating to Ireland’s involvement in the First World War. The response was overwhelming and the range of objects and stories brought out into public for the first time gave a unique insight into the history of Ireland during that period. In 1914 the men and women of Ireland answered a very different appeal. Conflict had begun on 28 July when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. A tangled web of European treaties and loyalties meant that the world’s greatest economic powers were drawn into a war that would last four years and dramatically change the course of history.  Britain entered the war on the side of France, Belgium, Russia and others. It began a mass recruiting campaign to expand its small army, which Kaiser Wilhelm II had described as “contemptible” and turned to Ireland for help. Within the first few months over 50,000 men had volunteered for the army. Men and women of all political viewpoints, religious beliefs and social standings came together in way which had never previously been seen. All had their own individual reasons for volunteering. 

Active Service Recruitment certificate issued to Gunner Philip Ormonde Royal Garrison Artillery.

William Gibson
William Gibson (seated right) with other members of the Royal Army Medical Corps.  William Gibson arrived on the Western Front in 1916. Serving with the 58th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps as a stretcher-bearer he had the job of evacuating wounded men behind the lines for treatment. The job was dangerous but saved many lives. Members of the Royal Army Medical Corps took great risks and many could easily become casualties while helping the wounded. This happened to William Gibson in late in 1916 while serving near the village of Beauval in northern France. 

Cigarette Case showing bullet entry and exit holes.

Letter from Abdulla & Co., the manufacturers of the cigarettes.

Military chaplains 
Military chaplains during the First World War carried out a variety of tasks. They did not just tend to the spiritual needs of those who were serving through the horrors of the war. They also cared for wounded, wrote and read letters for those unable, carried out burial services and other work in extremely dangerous circumstances.   A number of these chaplains are buried in Glasnevin and include Father Francis Browne (DH 34 South St. Bridget’s) who served with the Irish Guards, Joseph Furlong (D 51 St. Laurence’s) with the Royal Air Force, John Coghlan (LE 9 Dublin New Chapel) with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and Francis Gleeson (D 39.5 St. Laurence’s) with the Royal Munster Fusiliers. Joseph Furlong (D51 St. Laurence’s) in his military chaplains uniform.

The grave of Father Francis Gleeson, Glasnevin Cemetery. Dublin.

Charles P. Flanagan 
The First World War witnessed many advances in warfare but one of the most significant was the leap forward in aerial combat. Many men and women buried in Glasnevin served in a variety of roles during the First World War with the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Air Force and Women’s Royal Air Force.     Pilots of these early fighter aircraft took great risks and their life expectancy averaged just 11 days during the war. To become an ace a pilot needed five confirmed victories and less than 40 men from Ireland gained this honour during the war. Many of the Irish aces would be killed at the front while some, such as Charles P. Flanagan, survived and returned home.    Despite the risks of their job many pilots were seen as glamorous personalities, revered by the public and looked on with an element of envy by those involved in the depressing stalemate of trench warfare.   Charles P. Flanagan one of the first members of the newly founded Royal Flying Corps. KE 136 Garden

The military funeral of Charles P. Flanagan to Glasnevin Cemetery in 1926.

John Kennedy
The war years were some of the most turbulent in Ireland’s history. Those who returned to Ireland following the war did so to a country that was, in many ways, unrecognisable from that of 1914.     Each individual had their own way of dealing with the experience of war and all followed their own unique path. Some were left with constant reminders of 1914-1918 in the form of physical wounds; others were left with the psychological effects of the war. Most dealt with the war in an unassuming manner and talked little about their own involvement.     The story of Ireland in the years surrounding World War 1 is a complicated one and many of the stories of those buried in Glasnevin reflect that history. John Kennedy served with the South Wales Borderers during the First World War and with the Army of Occupation in Germany in 1919. Returning home following his discharge he joined the I.R.A. to fight in the War of Independence. 

The marriage certificate of John Kennedy and Mary Douglas.

John Kennedy Memorial Card

During the Civil War that followed he supported the treaty and joined the National Army. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and served as a Lewis gunner. On the morning of 28 June 1922 he reported for duty at 6 a.m. for what would turn into a week of street battles known as the Battle of Dublin. That day, during a break in the battle, he made his way to the nearby Pro-Cathedral where he married his fiancé Mary Douglas and then returned to the fight. On 3rd July Kennedy was shot through the right lung at the Provincial Bank on O’Connell Street and was brought to Jervis Street Hospital where he died of his wounds five days later. His military funeral came to Glasnevin with the coffin draped in the tricolor and followed by members of the National Army. He was laid to rest in KD 81 South, part of the army plot where Michael Collins would be buried just over a month later. Mary never married again and retained the Kennedy name, she is also buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Cross of Sacrifice
In 2008 Glasnevin Trust and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) joined together in a partnership to individually mark the graves of those buried in Glasnevin Cemetery who died in service during or as a direct result of the First and Second World Wars.   207 such men and women are buried in the cemetery and all of their graves had not been previously marked or acknowledged. In the following five years either full size CWGC headstones or smaller markers, similar to those seen in Gallipoli, were placed on the relevant graves.   The marking of the graves was also accompanied by a project to research the lives of each of the men and women individually. This gave a remarkable insight into the lives of those who witnessed these moments of history and showed a cross section of political viewpoints, religious beliefs and social standings indicative of the wider story of Glasnevin.    In 2011 two commemorative screen walls that bear the names of the 207 casualties of the wars were relocated to a more prominent position at the new ceremonial plaza. The walls were originally located at the Prospect Gate area of the cemetery and previously had no opening ceremony or dedication.   The next step comes on the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and is the unveiling and dedication of the Cross of Sacrifice adjacent to the commemorative screen walls. It is an international symbol and commemorates those who lie beneath its shadow who died as a result of conflict.     The cross at Glasnevin is the first in the Republic of Ireland and the first in the world made from blue Irish limestone. Its unveiling is an important milestone and it will act as a focus point for commemorative events for years to come.     This Cross of Sacrifice will serve as a reminder of the cost of war for this and future generations. It also reminds us of the sacrifice of the tens of thousands of Irish men from the four provinces of Ireland who gave their lives, limbs and sanity on the international battlefields of two world wars. 
Credits: Story

Exhibit compiled and completed for Glasnevin Cemetery Museum

by

Luke Portess - Digital Manager
Glasnevin Cemetery Museum

Conor Dodd - Historian
Glasnevin Cemetery Museum

With thanks to

Davide Cavagnino & Dirk Friedrich Google Cultural Institute

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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