At the outbreak of WWI on 28th July 1914, Ireland was governed from Britain and was considered by the British, to be as much a part of their Empire as any other country under British dominion, at that time. In fact, Dublin was considered by the British ruling class, and those in Ireland who favoured the link with Britain, to be the second city of the British Empire.
The trigger for the outbreak of WWI was the assassination, by a Serb Nationalist, of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife. The assassination was carried out in the city of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia Herzegovina. While this event was the spark which finally plunged the continent of Europe into the worst conflagration in its history, it was not the actual cause of the conflict. WWI resulted from storm clouds of complex political, economic and social factors which had been rumbling since the 1870s.
It was against this horrific backdrop that Irishman William Luson, Seargent 7822 of B Company, 5th Service Battalion, the Connacht Rangers found himself, as a British Army Soldier, in Kilworth Camp, County Cork just two months after the commencement of WWI.
William was either a close family friend of my paternal grandparents: Philip Lennon and Anne Breen, or a cousin of Anne Breen. I have not been able to absolutely confirm which. In 1914, my paternal grandparents lived in an area of Dublin in close proximity to the cities famous Phoenix Park, known as Arbour Place.
However, a letter which he wrote to my grandparents in 1914, while he was stationed at Kilworth Camp, during that dark period in European History, was lovingly preserved for 90 years on my father’s side of the family, until it finally came into my possession, on the passing of our mother in 2004.
So here are the transcribed words of Sgt William Luson as he ponders the war and the likely role of his unit in the conflict. I cannot imagine how he must have felt, day to day, living with the fact that at any moment his unit was likely to be moved to the front line:
30th September 1914
It is time that I thought of scribbling these few lines, but I can assure you that I am not at the seat of war.
I am busy in trying to get Kitcheners new army into shape for we are going through a years work in a month; getting the raw material in shape for the big fight which must come off before the Kaiser says enough; which I am sure will be the end of a tyrant. As sure as night follows day he will be in the same predicament as his historic friend Napoleon at Waterloo. In any case, let us hope that the defeat of the Germans will be soon.
Dear Phil, your kind words about my destination fills me with praise for you kind thoughts for the troops now in the British Isles, but as you know every true soldier from old Ireland would like to be at the seat of war to lend a hand to our dear comrades at the war, but I suppose it is my luck, but I think that every regular soldier in Britain’s small army will be in at the end and once more show the world what our little army can do, when the time comes to fight.
How I am sorry to have to say that we have lost a great proportion of Officers of the old Rangers and it makes me feel uneasy for our dear Charles safety, as I know that the rank and file must have suffered a great deal, but we must keep on hoping for the best and may god in his mercy watch over him and may he be as lucky as I have been in South Africa. May he return safely to his dear wife and children.
Dear Phil, It gave me the greatest pleasure to see that you have seen Brandy Lyons and that his words up to date, were so encouraging. Let us hope that they are still the same.
Dear Phil, tell my dear cousin Nan that I send her my best wishes, for she was always the flower of the flock and one who I always think was a kind friend to me, even in childhood.
So now, I will draw this too short a note to a close, hoping it finds your dear children, Nan and yourself enjoying the best of health.
I remain your true and sincere friend Bill.
Good bye and good luck.
P.S. Answer soon, as I may leave here at any time. I was near forgetting. I am up one. No: 7822 Seargent William Luson, B Coy, 5th Service Battalion, the Connacht Rangers, Kilworth.
I may be a General yet.
Do you know of anyone by the name of Luson who may have served in the British Army during WWI? Do you know anything about the role of the Connacht Rangers 5th Service Battalion in WWI? If so you might consider leaving a comment.
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