[Note: This survey is intended as a supplement to some conclusions drawn on fatalities in the afterword of the new revised edition of my book Irish Voices from the Great War]
A SEARCH OF THE IRISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL RECORDS
To ascertain how many Irish-born names are included who fought with non-Irish units and to deduct these from the Irish-born total of 30,986 (source: www.findmypast.ie)
To establish how many fatalities occurred among those whose service originated in Ireland. To establish a fatality / enlistment ratio for purely Irish recruits – i.e. those Irishmen who joined up in Ireland or those Irishmen already in Irish regiments like the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, i.e. in the regular army or reserve.
A caveat – some of the Irish-born soldiers who died in British or non UK units may also have enlisted in Ireland. In, for example, a random sample of 1000 deaths of Irishmen who died serving in English regiments c.3.5% had transferred from Irish units and may well have been recruited in Ireland.
An additional caveat – the numbers recorded in the INWMR of those Irish-born soldiers who died in British units may not be exhaustive. There may be other Irishmen who died in British regiments whose names are not recorded.
Use of the invaluable Ireland’s Memorial Records page on the ‘In Flanders Fields’ website [imr.inflandersfields.be/search.html]
Basic search terms such as ‘Canada’ ‘USA’ ‘Lancashire’ ‘Royal Engineers’ etc. were entered and these were used to identify the numbers of Irish-born soldiers in British, Colonial and American units who have been included in the Irish memorial records
In the records of some soldiers there is an indication of previous units in which they served. Only units with which soldiers were serving at the time of their deaths were counted – this was to avoid the risk of double-counting
Where no place of birth was indicated [7405 instances] the soldier in question was not included in any count.
TABLE – IRISH-BORN SERVING WITH UNITS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES
NEW ZEALAND 14
SOUTH AFRICA 10
This means that 7735 names must be deducted from the total of 30,986 names in the Irish National War Memorial Records, designated as having been born in Ireland, in order to arrive at a tentative figure for Irish dead whose service actually originated in Ireland itself. As noted above this figure could err on the low side by around 3.5%.
However, it should also be noted when arriving at a tentative figure (no definitive figure is possible) that a significant percentage of the 7405 names in the INWM Records whose place of birth is not noted, were actually born in Ireland. On the basis of a ratio of 3:1 (Irish:Non Irish) for those whose country of origin is known we might well surmise that three-quarters of those 7405 men (5554) were born in Ireland.
This would give us an actual total of Irish-born of around 36,540 (30,986 + 5554)
From this we need to subtract 7735 – giving us a total of Irish-born serving in Irish units who died in the Great War of 28,805 – in other words an Irish fatality ratio of 1:7 – somewhat higher than the UK average of 1:8 (720,000 dead out of a serving complement of 5.7 million). It is worth noting that this figure is not far removed from the statistic of 27,405 given by the Irish Registrar General in the 1926 census as the number of Irish soldiers, excluding officers, who died on active service outside the UK between 1914-18. If deceased officers are added in the figure of 28,805 becomes even more plausible.
This of course does not take into account Irish fatalities in ‘colonial’ forces or in the US forces. The only figure that has, thus far, been independently researched, is that of Irish enlistment (c.6,000) and fatalities (c.900) in Australia undertaken by Prof Jeff Kildea. Work yet to be verified by this writer suggests that the equivalent US figure is 1200.
BREAKDOWN OF NATIONALTIES IN IRISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL RECORDS
NONE GIVEN 7,405
INDIA N 82
SOUTH AFRICAN 12