Finding branches of one's family tree touching upon military service in more than one country's armed forces is a common theme in Irish genealogy.
Do you have stories to share? Whether your ancestor was Irish-born or of Irish descent we invite you to bring their memory home to Ireland. No matter where they served or what conflict they were involved in, if your ancestor was born more than 100 years ago we'd love if you added them to our Ancestors Roll-call for veterans.
Anzac Day (25 April) marks the anniversary of the WWI campaign that led to major casualties for The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) at Gallipoli in 1915. What began back in 1916 as a remembrance of all the lives that were lost at Gallipoli, has since grown into a significant event that incorporates WWII and commemorates all those involved in conflict and military service.
The Irish at Gallipoli
Troops from many nations and ethnic groups were involved in the Gallipoli landings – including African, Australian, British, Canadian, French, Ghurka, Indian, Irish, Maori, New Zealand, and more. Two out of every three men fell during the landings.
As Ireland did not have its own separate army, Irishmen from all backgrounds volunteered to fight in Irish regiments, brigades, and divisions from all over the British Empire.
- Gerald Robert O'Sullivan from Carrigaline, Co.Cork was dispatched to the Gallipoli peninsula with the British Army. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery at Kirithia.
- William Keneally from Wexford town was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery at Cape Helles – running into an onslaught of enemy fire to cut the wires which won them the strategic point of the cliffs.
Among the force of Allied troops and marines dispatched to Gallipoli were: The Royal Dublin, Royal Inniskillin, Royal Munster Fusiliers, and the 10th Irish Division of the British forces. Many of the Dublin Fusiliers were killed as they waded ashore, others badly wounded drowned.
An estimated 3-4,000 Irish died at Gallipoli in 1915. In terms of Irish WWI casualties, Gallipoli was second only to the Battle of the Somme in terms of gravity.
This historic event was a coming of age for Australia and New Zealand in the world's eyes. Among the ANZACs were many recent immigrants from Ireland. According to Jeff Kildea, an estimated 6,600 Irish-born men and women served in the Australian Imperial Force. How many more were the sons and daughters of earlier waves of Irish immigration?
- Brigadier Murray Moten was an Australian hero of Irish origin – his grandfather having been transported from Ireland to Australia in 1846. He served in both WWI and WWII.
Whatever generation of Irish descent your ancestor was, we invite you to add them to our Irish Diaspora roll-call for veterans.
Was WWI remembered in Ireland?
Back in 1914, Ireland was on the verge of securing Home Rule when the Great War broke out.
- There was no separate Irish army as Home Rule was deferred until after the war.
- When the war broke out, there were already 58,000 Irish in the British Army
- There was no conscription in Ireland, they were all volunteers; the proportion of Catholic and Protestant being almost equal.
- Approx 200,000 Irish soldiers served over the course of the Great War
Whether regular army or volunteers, the Irish showed remarkable fortitude, and their countless stories of exceptional bravery were rarely given the recognition they deserve.
Jack Campbell from Dublin joined the British army because he wanted to follow his brothers and "see the world". Encouraged by the recruitment officer to lie about his age, he signed up to The Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 16th Irish Division at the age of 16. Gassed at the Somme, he was the only one of 5 brothers to survive.
Researching Military Records
With the 100-year commemoration of World War One, lots of military records have now been digitized.
- In addition to service records, you may be able to find letters, photographs, and more in national archives online.
- War Memorial Collections are another great resource for rolls, photo collections, and letters of enquiry (e.g. as to what happened to a lost loved one).
- International events were reported in newspapers worldwide and Irish newspapers are worth exploring for names (e.g. gallantry awards) SEE Irish Newspaper Sources
The Irish Military Archives has a repository of personnel files, as well as several other collections of interest to those researching their family history. However, it does not hold records relating to military service prior to 1922.
- If your relative served during World War I, or at any point up to 1922, it is likely their service was with some of the Irish Regiments of the British Army.
Within Divisions of the British Army, the following Irish Regiments were involved:
- The Royal Dublin Fusiliers, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Derry, Donegal, Fermanagh, and Tyrone), The Royal Munster Fusiliers (Clare, Cork, Kerry, and Limerick), and the Connaught Rangers;
- The Royal Irish Regiment, The Royal Rifles,
- Of course, many Irish soldiers served in other battalions of the British Army.
- Military records, including unit war diaries, medal index cards,
- First and Second World War records
- Royal and Merchant Navy records, including Royal Marine service records
- Wills from the jurisdiction of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury
- Migration records, including aliens’ registration cards and naturalisation case papers
Many old barracks in Ireland are still extant and have publications and websites about their particular history.
WWI Memorial Sites in Ireland honor the names of a community's loss to the Great War. Having a memorial where one could pay one's respects was so important – especially with so many having no known grave. Raised by public subscription, many of these Irish memorials take the form of
- Plaques erected on the walls of churches and cathedrals,
- Cenotaphs in many town squares,
- War Memorial Parks in major cities.
BROWSE Memorials on IrelandXO
OVER TO YOU...
So many Irish names were memorialized far away from Ireland and the personal stories behind them are so important. Whether they were born in Ireland or abroad, we'd love if you brought their memory home and reconnected them to our "special group" for Military Ancestors.
To reconnect and discover more...
WATCH Our webinar on how to add and reconnect your ancestor to a building in Ireland here:
LEARN MORE Irish Ancestors Masterclass
READ MORE Dublin Military Barracks in the 1830s