In 1914 the whole island of Ireland was then British – and more than 200,000 men are thought to have served in the British army during the first world war, even though conscription was never introduced there. About 35,000 of them, Protestant and Catholic, unionist and nationalist, died in the war.
It is worth remembering that the Somme battle started just a few weeks after the Easter Rising in Dublin on 24 April 1916. The attack on the first day involved 13 Commonwealth divisions supported by a French attack to the south. Despite seven days of preliminary bombardment, there was little damage to German defences and losses were catastrophic.
The memorial at Thiepval bears the names of more than 72,000 British and South African soldiers killed mostly during the battle, but also up to March 1918, who have no marked grave.
The Ulster Tower, Northern Ireland‘s national war memorial was one of the first Memorials to be erected on the Western Front and commemorates the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division and all those from Ulster who served in the First World War. The memorial was officially opened on 19 November 1921 and is a very close copy of Helen’s Tower which stands in the grounds of the Clandeboye Estate, near Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland. Many of the men of the Ulster Division trained in the estate before moving to England and then France early in 1916.
Northern Ireland’s first minister, Arlene Foster, will represent the Stormont executive. The Irish government will be represented by Heather Humphreys, minister for regional development, rural affairs, arts & the Gaeltacht.
“Around 35,000 Irishmen – Protestants and Catholics, unionists and nationalists – were killed in the first world war,”
“Their contribution and their sacrifice was immense, and we should never forget it.”
An Irish government minister joined the Lord Mayor of Belfast at City Hall to lay wreaths at the war memorial.
In the new spirit of cross-border co-operation and Anglo-Irish relations, Dublin Cabinet Minister Leo Vradkar laid a wreath at the memorial in Belfast city centre.
- The ‘decade of centenaries’ will only fuel conflict over memory in Northern Ireland while the present remains divided.
- The Somme
- The Somme | GM 1914
- Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme
- Interlude: Remembering the Somme in Dublin
- ‘It’s the end of the 1916 winter and the conditions are almost unbelievable…’