First memorial Armistice Day in Ireland

11th November 1919
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The first Armistice Day (now Veterans Day or Remembrance Day) in Ireland, was marked in 1919 – a year to the day after the guns of the First World War fell silent across the Western Front. Some 140,000 Irishmen volunteered to serve in the British Army during During World War I. Including those who joined forces in their countries of emigration, it is estimated that close to 50,000 Irishmen died in action.

In accordance with the armistice signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente on 11 November 1918, the hostilities of First World War formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" (meaning November 11 at 11:00 am).  "Armistice Day" was followed 7 months later by the official ending of The First World War on 28 June 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Since World War II Armistice Day has been known as Remembrance Day or Veterans Day.

On 11 November 1919, the first anniversary of the armistice that ended the great war was marked with two minutes' silence in Ireland, Britain, and around the world. The tradition of observing a memorial day on the anniversary of Armistice Day was inaugurated by King George V. The day was to be low key with ‘no jubilation on the anniversary over a fallen foe – but a tribute of commemoration and honour to those who have fallen in the war.’

Last week, King George V, stated that he believed the day provided the people of the British Empire an opportunity to ‘perpetuate the memory of that great deliverance and of those who laid down their lives to achieve it’.

‘It is my desire and hope that at the hour when the armistice came into force – the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month – there may for the brief space of two minutes a complete suspension of all our normal activities’.

‘During that time, except in the rare cases where this may be impracticable, all work, all sound, and all locomotion should cease, so that in perfect stillness the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.’

In Ireland, all local authorities and government departments followed the king’s instruction and preparations were made to signal the 11th hour at military camps around the country. Few communities in Ireland had escaped bereavement and the desire to mark the anniversary in a dignified way was widespread.

BELFAST: Shipyards fell silent and special service was held at Belfast Cathedral

DERRY: The two-minute pause was observed, but ordinary business did not cease as requested. 

TIPPERARY: In Clonmel, a requiem mass for the near 300 local soldiers who died in the war, was held in Saint Peter and Paul’s Church. 

DUBLIN:  Flags were flown from protestant churches, Trinity College and from several shops on the principal streets. In Dublin, as the hour struck 11 am, work was briefly suspended on the railways, in government offices, banks and in many factories. On O’Connell Street, trams stopped, private cars ground to a halt and the Guinness barges along the River Liffey shut off their steam. Some pedestrians also stopped and uncovered their heads.

Not all was silent, however. Students from the National University (NU) singing the ‘Soldier’s Song’ marched four deep from Grafton Street onto College Green, where they were met by Trinity students, who responded with ‘God Save the King’. The NU students then returned to Earlsfort terrace where they quietly dispersed and returned to lectures. Shortly afterwards, however, the Trinity students marched to the front entrance of Earlsfort Terrace (their numbers growing along the way, reinforced by the College of Surgeons). NU students ran out to meet the Trinity students and scuffles ensued.  The Trinity crowd retreated, followed by a large group of NU students, the two groups charging at each other on Grafton Street until police arrived on the scene.

The Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Dublin are dedicated to the memory of the 49,400 Irish soldiers who were killed in action in World War I.

Do you have an Irish ancestor who died in the Great War?

If so, please create an Ancestor Chronicle for them and link them to this memorial under "Link Building".


Armistice Day 11 November 1918 (Pathe Newsreel)