“I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen”

 

BATTLE_OF_THE_SOMME_AIRCRAFT_020716

When referring to World War One, American President Woodrow Wilson famously remarked: “This is a war to end all wars”. Oh; how wrong was he?

In 2014, we marked the centenary of the commencement, on 28th July 1914, of that terrible global conflict, during which so many young lives, were needlessly and senselessly, wiped out.

Just short of two years later, on 1st of July 2016 we paused once again, this time to solemnly mark the centenary of  perhaps the greatest mass slaughter of human beings, by their own kind, in the history of humanity. I am of course referring to, the commencement of that major World War One action, known as: the battle of the Somme.

Whenever I read history, in relation to the many tragic events surrounding World War One, I never cease to be amazed, by the apparent almost naiveté, on the part of so many unsuspecting young men, as they were being recruited into ranks which were ultimately to become, wave upon wave, of lead stopping fodder. We often read, that so many of those doomed young recruits, saw the prospect of their involvement in that awful conflict, as being one of adventure; an adventure to be shared with friends and perhaps neighbours. So, what an unspeakable tragedy it was, for the reality of their believed adventure, to turn out be, the elimination of whole streets of their friends and neighbours.

Ireland, being part of the British Empire of that time, did not escape the awful slaughter. Over 200,000 Irish men, fought in World War One. If we consider casualties from those Irish who fought not just in the British army, then we discover that 49,500 of our countrymen, never returned to their families. However, they were certainly not alone in spilling their blood in those awful killing fields, as so many other nationalities, were meeting their maker, in those terrible places, too.

During 2014, as part of a commemorative project to mark the 100 anniversary of World War One, organised by Librivox (Free Audio Books), I contributed an audio piece for inclusion within one of their catalogues. My piece was about a young American Air Man named Briggs Kilburn Adams.

In the summer of 1916 Briggs volunteered as an ambulance driver in France. In the autumn of 1916 he went back to America to finish his education and upon graduating immediately returned to France to train as an Airman. Briggs was a prolific letter writer and he regularly sent the most graphic descriptions of his experiences home to his family in America. This is what Briggs College Tutor had to say, upon reading some of the material he sent home:

“They are the most beautiful bits of writing to have come out of the war – beautiful in style and colour and motion. No one else has taken me up in the air and shown me what it must be to fly; no one else has presented so vivid a figure of war as it should be portrayed.”

Listen here to:

Selected Letters by Briggs Kilburn Adams, Lieutenant of the Royal Flying Corp

So, it is now time to transfer from America, back to Ireland.

On 1st July 2016, our national Television Station RTÉ (Radio Telefis Éireann), broadcast a unique, Battle of the Somme, commemorative programme entitled: My Adopted Soldier.

The project, of the same name upon which the  TV programme was based, was the brainchild of History Teacher from Donegal: Gerry Moore.

Gerry’s interest had been stirred by an “old crumpled photograph of a grand-uncle who died in World War One”. Given that the tragic impact of that war, had probably not left a single county in Ireland unscathed, Gerry thought it would be a good educational history project and a respectful tribute, to some of the young men who had lost their lives, for one student from each of the 32 counties in Ireland to adopt a soldier, research the soldiers background and following this, the 32 students would then bring that body of research together and archive it for posterity, within a specially prepared website.

What an amazing idea!  Well done Gerry and well done Student Researchers.

So, this is the background story, to the My Adopted Soldier Project, as introduced  by: Gerry Moore –

My Adopted Soldier – Project History

And here is the link to the archive which tells the stories of the 32 Adopted Soldiers –

My Adopted Soldier – The Archive

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My Twitter Handle: @DisparatePost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About dubmantalks

Writer
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