Ireland & World War One

During the First World War Ireland was still under the rule of the British Empire, although Ireland had been in the process of seeing a Home Rule Bill through parliament the process was halted due to the outbreak of World War One. As a result many Irish men were involved in the war effort. As well as this, Ireland was used as a base for British and American naval ships and aircraft.  Therefore, Whiddy Island was the ideal location for the construction of an American Naval Air Service, Sea Plane Base.

Unveiling of the Memorial - Lord Mayor County Cork and  Lt. Col. Seán Coston, U.S. Aircorps and Defence

Unveiling of the Memorial – Lt. Col. Seán Coston, U.S. Aircorps and Defence Attache to the American Embassy and Lord Mayor County Cork Cllr. Alan Coleman

On the 28th of June, 2014, the centenary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg , I attended the memorial service for American airman, Petty Officer Walford August Anderson which was organised by the Whiddy Island Association. In attendance was the chairman of the Whiddy Island Association Tim O’ Leary, Lord Mayor of Cork County Cllr. Alan Coleman, Representatives of the American Legion and the American embassy and the grandaughter of Anderson’s co-pilot Neil Emerson Kemp, who survived the ill-fated flight in 1918. Unfortunately, Anderson was killed when the aircraft on which he was a radio operator crashed over Bantry Bay on the 22 October 1918.

Anderson was stationed on Whiddy Island as a radio operator. The aircraft base was ideally located to monitor increased U-Boat activity in the area during the First World War. On the 22nd of October 1918, Petty Officer Waldford August Anderson and his

Walford August Anderson, Monett, Missouri, USA. Killed 22 October 1918.

Walford August Anderson, Monett, Missouri, USA. Killed 22 October 1918.

partner Neil Emerson Kemp were returning from what is thought to be a routine patrol of the area (the exact reason for the flight remains unknown) when their plane A1072, crashed off the coast of Whiddy Island.  His partner was rescued from the crash but unfortunately Petty Officer Anderson was killed. His remains were flown home to his family in Monett, Missouri, USA.

While his death, just three weeks before the armistice was called, was a huge loss to his family, it is thought that the return of the young man’s body to his family brought a sense of closure which many families who lost loved ones during the First World War would never know.

The Whiddy Island Association erected a memorial plinth at the dock to commemorate the death of Walford August Anderson and to recognise the changes that the naval base brought to the area during this troublesome time in Irish history. The construction of the

Close-up of Handcrafted Memorial Plinth, Whiddy Island, Co. Cork.

Close-up of Handcrafted Memorial Plinth, Whiddy Island, Co. Cork.

naval base began in December 1917 and brought an economic boom to Whiddy Island, the building was carried out by Moran and Co. Builders.

The first American personnel did not arrive on the Island until March 1918, the 45 personnel were billeted on the mainland until the 27th of April 1918. The construction also brought with it  the first ever truck to the Island, via barge in May 1918. This truck brought supplies which aided the speed at which the barracks were constructed for the personnel which were to be stationed on the Island. The station was commissioned under Commander J.C. Townsend on 4th July 1918. A radio tower and hut were erected on the Island by the middle of August 1918 and the first flights occurred in September on the arrival of two Curtiss H. 16s from Cobh. These planes were 96ft wide and 45ft long. They had two 400H.P Liberty Engines which were mounted on the wings. The engines were made in Buffalo New York. Each plane required a crew of five men.

Anderson’s partner Neil Emerson Kemp,  was 18 years of age when he left his home in Kansas to join the war effort. He survived the accident. He kept mementos of his time on Whiddy Island – particularly of the crash –  his grandaugher, Kim Kemp, who spoke at the ceremony told how he kept a piece of the wing of the plane that had been salvaged from the wreck in the Bay. However she says that the greatest reminder her grandfather had of the accident was in the form of the scars that he suffered as a result of the accident.

The unveiling ceremony for the memorial plinth began on the main pier in Bantry at 12 noon on the 28th of June 1914,

Wreath Laying Ceremony at Crash Site

Wreath Laying Ceremony at Crash Site

exactly 100 years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, which marks the outbreak of WW1 in Europe. When the boats left Bantry pier, there was a procession to the crash site off the coast of Whiddy Island, where there was a wreath laying ceremony in remembrance of Petty Officer Anderson.

After which the boats continued onto the pier at Whiddy Island where there were speeches, music and poems said in commemoration of the naval base at Whiddy Island, Ireland’s involvement in the First World War and of course Petty Officers Anderson and Kemp.

The base remained in use until 1919, it is thought that had the war gone on longer Whiddy Island would have been a central base for the allies during the war. A total of six planes operated out of Whiddy Island for the duration of the war. When the war was ended the hangers were dismantled the huts were sold for auction and all that remains of the base today are the concrete bunkers which were used to store munitions.

Bantry has a long and rich maritime history inter-weaved with the political history of Ireland. Having been ruled by the O Sullivan Beara Clan who were barons of Bantry in the early 1700s. In 1689, there was a battle between the French and the British in the narrow bay. The French forces were trapped by the British, but are said to have badly damaged the British fleet. In 1796, Wolfe Tone and the Armada had a failed attempt to land in Bantry Bay which was hampered by the bad weather. It is said that the remains of an armada ship have lain undisturbed in the harbour for the last 218years.

The port remained under British control until the return of the treaty ports in 1938. It was in October of 1938 that the last of the British troops stationed in Bantry left by train for Cork City.

The port was being run under the Harbour Act of 1946 until this year when it was handed over to the Port of Cork Authority who hope to rejuvenate Bantry Bay, there are currently plans to dredge and widen the pier, they have a budget of €7million to do so and hope that the rejuvenation of the port will generate economic productivity in the area.

 

The Media and The Great War

In many of his letters Stevie mentions to his father and sisters the lack of literature available to the officers at the front.

Requests literature be sent from home.  Item 974 The Grehan Estate Collection, Boole Library, UCC

Requests literature be sent from home.
Item 974 The Grehan Estate Collection, Boole Library, UCC

He receives bundles of newspapers and magazines and frequently requests that books and novels be sent out to him via post.

The most consistent of the papers that Stevie receives is the Irish Times, he also mentions the Balkan News (when he is stationed in Salonica) and requests, at one point, that his father alter his subscription from the magazines that he was receiving and so that The Field would be sent out to him instead.

Reading was a popular pastime in the evenings. Item 977, Grehan Estate Collection, Boole Library, UCC

Reading was a popular pastime in the evenings.
Item 977, Grehan Estate Collection, Boole Library, UCC

He tells how they are very grateful for any form of literature to be sent out, as there is very little to do in the evenings besides playing cards. When the papers, magazines and books arrive they are passed about through the whole Battery.

When he is stationed in France in 1915, newspapers arrive regularly, however, in 1916 as the post comes less frequently newspapers begin to come intermittently, in bundles of 4/5. Stevie writes in his letters that he gets them in large bundles when they do come, but often fears that there might have been a few deliveries lost if a mail boat had been “torped”. There is a sense of disappointment if the papers or mails are lost as that means there is nothing new for the officers and other men in the battery to read.

Stevie uses the papers to keep up to date with the events as they are happening at home. He watches the race results and often comments on the articles that mention his father’s horses. During 1916 he also takes great interest in what the Irish Times has to say about the War of Independence, which was occurring in Ireland over Easter:

Comments on the Easter Rising in Ireland. Item 1006, Grehan Estate Collection, Boole Library, UCC

Comments on the Easter Rising in Ireland.
Item 1006, Grehan Estate Collection, Boole Library, UCC

As you can see from the letter Stevie is very interested in receiving the newspaper delivery for Easter week in order to keep abreast of the situation at home. It the same letter he laments to his father that they seem to be having more excitement at home than he is seeing at the front.

There are more references to newspapers and other forms of literature in the letters that Stevie sent home to his family too. Those shown here are just a small selection.

*All images are copyright Boole Library University College Cork.

The Beginning of the Great War Letters

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

The outbreak of the First World War is marked by the assassination of the heir presumptive of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg on the 28th of June 1914, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. However, it was not until the 4th of August 1914 that the Britain joined the war. In September 1914 Britain called upon her Imperial troops to help on the Western front. “They came from the Lahore and Meerut Divisions and the Secunderbad Cavalry. In October, Indians were fed into some of the fiercest fighting at Ypres. In March 1915, Indian troops provided half the attacking force at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, which was the costliest in terms of lives.”

It was nearly one whole year later before Stephen Grehan became involved in the Great War. The first letter that he wrote home from France was dated the 2nd of May 1915. It was a Field Service Postcard. Addressed to his sister Miss M. Grehan at Clonmeen, Banteer, Co Cork. This first piece of correspondence does not fit into the traditional letter format.

The front side of the postcard leaves space only for the sender to fill in the address of the recipient. There are also strict instructions by the manufacturers “The address only to be writ-ten on this side. If anything else is added, the post card will be destroyed.” On the reverse of the postcard there are more printed instructions:

“Nothing is to be written on this side except the

date and signature of the sender. Sentences not

required may be erased. If anything else is added

the post card will be destroyed.”

Below this  note the sender must scratch out the printed lines that do not relate to them and leave the messages that they want the recipient to see:

I am quite well.

I have been admitted into the hospital

{sick } and am going on well.

{wounded } and hope to be discharged soon.

I am being sent down to the base.

I have received your {letter dated _____________

{telegram dated

{parcel dated _______________

Letter follows at first opportunity. 

I have received no letter from you

{lately.

{for a long time.

Signature

only.        }   SAGrehan

Date 2.5.15

[Postage must be prepaid on any letter or post card

addressed to the sender of this card.]

This post card marked the beginning of a long period of correspondence between Stevie and his family at home in Ireland from various Western Fronts during the First World War including: Marseilles, Salonica and Gallipoli .

In my research I have looked at all the letters sent by Stevie to his father (to whom the majority of letters were sent) and to his sisters, from this first one sent in May 1915 to the 31st December 1916. However, the collection of war letters extends far beyond this. I hope through the course of the summer and in completion of my Masters thesis that I will be able to make these letters easily accessible online for a wide audience to enjoy on the centenary of the First World War.

References:

The Open University. Making Britain First World War (1914-1918). Web. http://www.open.ac.uk/researchprojects/makingbritain/content/first-world-war-1914-1918

Wikimedia Commons – Image of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Web. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Franz_ferdinand.jpg

Grehan, Stephen. The Grehan Estate Papers Collection. Item number 967. The Boole Library, University College Cork. Web. http://booleweb.ucc.ie/documents/Grehan.pdf

History and Theory of Digital Art

As required for completion of the History and Theory of Digital Art I created a digital edition of one of the letters written by Stevie Grehan in 1915. Item number 969 from the Grehan Estate Collection

The letter described the work that Stevie was doing that day, the observation point that he was stationed in, soldiers’ attitudes towards the German army mans other events that occurred that day!

I used an online tool called PowToon to create the letter on slides. I was able to add a bit of background ambiance through this tool as well. Therefore I gathered some wartime sound effects from Freesound.org and put them in the background, in an effort to recreate the environment in which Stevie might have been writing the letter to his father. The sound clip was licensed under the Creative Commons, providing the uploader was given attribution.

To make the video available to the public I had to upload it to YouTube.

All copyright in respect of the letter belongs to Boole Library, University College Cork. While in respect of the sound effects copyright remains with Herbert Boland of FreeSound.org

View video here:

Basements and Bookrests

There has been little to no activity on here for the last few months. This is a result of spending the majority of my time in the basement of the Boole Library in the Special Collections department pouring over one of the diaries (dated September 1915 – September 1918) and letters from 1915 and 1916.

From initial consultation I chose, for the purpose of my thesis, to focus on the letters as the small, cramped writing in the diary proved to leave gaps in my transcriptions of the entries. The diary contained a lot of information about the order of events – things that happened during that day, as Stevie Grehan documented it. For example this entry dated 13th June 1916:

Diary Entry Tuesday 13 June 1916

Diary Entry Tuesday 13 June 1916 Image Courtesy of Special Collections Boole Library University College Cork

Tuesday 13 June
_______________________
Had to have ?? shot – bad ???
on stifle.
Very hot every day now.
Mulligan had tea with
us. Section gun drill
in evening.
Got orders to action
Surplus kit into store
also 8 crats – waterproof
capes.
Black went to Div Hdqrs as
temp A.D.C to B.F.
______________________

This one entry alone had 2 elements that I could not identify, whereas when compared with the letters, I had much less difficulty reading and transcribing them, they were much clearer and easier to read – most likely due to the fact that the writer (Stevie) was conscious that they were intended for an audience and therefore made an effort to ensure the content of the letters was legible. Whereas the diaries were more likely for his own private records.

In some letters Stevie goes so far as to question if the reader is able to read the letters clearly – whether pencil or pen is better. Personally, reading the letters today, the ones written in pen seem to have been the best and offered the clearest form for reading. I found that the letters written in pencil were harder to read, therefore making it more difficult to decipher words and markings. This is mainly due to the fact that the pencil in most cases was feint and the thin, slightly glossy paper that the majority of the letters were written on left a shine on the pencil, rendering much of the text invisible.

Mapping the Grehans

On researching the Grehan family I have learned that they were connected to a number of parts of the world. Stephen Grehan Snr. was born in Dublin, his family are noted as hailing from 19 Rutland Square, Dublin, today known as Parnell Square (where the current day Garden of Remembrance is located).As a member of the aristocratic society in Ireland Stephen went on a Grand Tour of Europe before marrying Esther Chichester and settling down in Clonmeen, Co. Cork to raise their family.

Their son Stevie Grehan has been linked to the Woolwich Military Academy, which he joined after he finished school. And during The Great War is said to have been posted in Mesopotamia, Salonika, and Gallipoli.

While Esther is said to have died in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1900 while on a cruise with her husband.

Below I have created a very basic map that illustrates the locations in the world that the Grehan family have been linked to over the years. On it you will see:

Red Markers which depict the movements of Mjr Stevie Grehan.

Green Markers which represent his father.

Yellow Marker marks death place of Esther Grehan (nee Chichester).

As the emdbed function for Google maps no longer works you can view the map on the screenshot here:

Detailed Version of the Grehan Map

Detailed Version of the Grehan Map

Or, if you would prefer to view the live map click here.