by ehistoryadmin on March 14, 2014


A very successful World War I Seminar

A very successful WWI one-day seminar was held in Hotel Keadeen, Newbridge, on Saturday 8 March 2014. Around 130 people attended the event billed as ‘They called it the Great War,’ organized by the Co. Kildare Archaeological Society to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the conflict. The seminar was chaired by Professor Raymond Gillespie, Department of History NUI Maynooth and CKAS Honorary Editor. Introduction was made by Conleth Manning: President, CKAS.

The first speaker was Tom Burke, MBE, President, The Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association, who spoke about ‘The Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the First World War.’ Set against the major battles of the WWI on the Western Front, in Gallipoli and Salonica, the lecture presented a profile of some of the men who made up the two Regular and five Service Battalions of the RDF; who they were, where they came from and possible motivations for enlistment.

After a coffee break Frank Taaffe, Council Member, CKAS, gave a lecture on ‘South Kildare and World War I’. How the people of Athy and its hinterland responded to the call to arms and how the social, economic and political life of the area was affected by the carnage in battlefields as far apart as Flanders and Gallipoli.

Frank’s lecture was followed by ‘Irishwomen and the First World War: a kind of historically hidden Ireland’ by Fionnuala Walsh, Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholar, Trinity College Dublin. Fionnuala’s talk gave a broad overview of the impact of WWI on women in Ireland focusing on the involvement of Irishwomen in the war effort, their wartime employment and the impact of the war on soldier’s wives. It moved from the national to the local, to look at the wartime experience of women in Kildare.

After lunch James Durney, Council Member, CKAS, spoke about the ‘Kaiser’s Battle: 21 March 1918. A black day for Kildare soldiers.’ The ‘Kasier’s Battle’ began on 21 March 1918 when  forty-two German divisions launched an offensive on the Western Front which they hoped would end the war. The massive German onslaught hit the undermanned British lines where a wedge could be driven through the Anglo-French front. On that first day of the decisive ‘Kaiser’s Battle’ twenty-four Kildare men lost their lives.

John Horne, Professor of Modern European History, Trinity College Dublin, gave the concluding lecture on ‘Ireland and the Greater War, 1912-1923.’ This talk reflected on the place of the Irish experiences of the Great War, and the revolutionary decade that led to independence and partition, in the context of a Greater War that spanned 1912-1923 in Europe and the wider world.

One of the highlights of the day was when James Durney was presenting his talk on the Kaiser’s Battle, in which he showed a newspaper clipping of the wounding of Lce. Cpl. T. Hickey (Athy) of the Royal Irish Regiment. Relatives of T. Hickey were in the audience and were amazed to see this reference. They had always assumed Timothy Hickey had served with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The details were passed to Timothy Hickey’s family, which included his godson. Within days  of the event a clearer picture had emerged. Ciaran Hickey found that Timothy Hickey, ‘Narraghmore, Ballytore,’ was a Private with the South Irish Horse and then a Lance-Corporal with the Royal Irish Regiment. From the unit’s war diary Ciaran found that Timothy was wounded by an airplane bomb on 18 February 1918 at Epehy.

War Diary, Royal Irish Regiment, 8.2.18: An inter coy relief took place, B relieving C & S relieving A, slight shelling of front line, when transport was returning after delivering rations enemy air-craft dropped a bomb & killed Cpl Stoker & wounded L/C Hickey, Pte McGarvey, Pte Hartrey. One horse had to be destroyed.

Elizabeth Connelly, CKAS Secretary, congratulated all the team who were involved: Seamas O Maitiu, Siobhan McNulty, Michael Dempsey, Hugh Crawford, Bernadette Doyle, Mario Corrigan, A. J. Mullowney, Greg Connelly, Michael Jacob, Frances Murphy, Jacqueline Kelly, Frank Taaffe, James Durney, Con Manning and Raymond Gillespie.

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