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09-11-2018, 21:22   #1
patsman07
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Irish Parliamentary Party-Policy on British Wars Other than WW1

As most people will know, John Redmond as leader of the Irish parliamentary party supported the British War effort in World War One and encouraged the Volunteers to join up. This turned out to be a political mistake and was one of the reasons for the party's downfall.

I've been trying to find out if Redmond's policy was in keeping with party policy on other British wars from that era. E.g. The Boer War, Boxer Rebellion etc. I cannot find any information on this. Any ideas?
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09-11-2018, 22:23   #2
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As most people will know, John Redmond as leader of the Irish parliamentary party supported the British War effort in World War One and encouraged the Volunteers to join up. This turned out to be a political mistake and was one of the reasons for the party's downfall.

I've been trying to find out if Redmond's policy was in keeping with party policy on other British wars from that era. E.g. The Boer War, Boxer Rebellion etc. I cannot find any information on this. Any ideas?
I gather that the IPP was against imperialist ventures, or at least coolly indifferent, as a matter of course.

Redmond's support for the British war effort was a reaction to the political needs of its time, with the need to match Ulster Unionism's own support and to get brownie points with Westminster when it came to the implementation of Home Rule, specifically whether to allow Partition.
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16-11-2018, 17:14   #3
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I've been trying to find out if Redmond's policy was in keeping with party policy on other British wars from that era. E.g. The Boer War, Boxer Rebellion etc. I cannot find any information on this. Any ideas?
Whatever about IPP policy there were very mixed feelings in Dublin about the Boer War. On the one hand there were many Irish soldiers serving in the British Army, many of whom were highly decorated including Rugby International Tom Crean (NOT the South Pole guy, another one) who won the Victoria Cross. The Royal Dublin Fusiliers who died in that conflict are commemorated on the gate leading into St Stephen's Green at the top of Grafton Street Dublin.

However, there was also great sympathy among many for the Boers. Not only was the aforementioned gate colloquially known as Traitors' Gate (although it wasn't erected until after the war) but the Boers and Paul Kruger, president of the Boer Republics were local heroes.

There is a pastiche of the song "the British Grenadiers" which was a popular street song which ended with the lines
"To hell with the Queen and the old Tambourine and three cheers for Kruger's Army"

Kruger was pronounced Crew-jer in the Dublin vernacular and the "tambourine" refers to the circular shield in Victoria's hand that appeared on many coins of the time.
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19-11-2018, 19:38   #4
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The IPP was split at the time between Parnell and anti-Parnellites and the only thing that united them was opposition to the Boer War, which actually seems to have helped them to heal the rift.

There's a good article on this here. https://www.persee.fr/doc/irlan_0183..._num_17_2_1086

Michael Davitt resigned his seat at Westminster over the war and wrote a pamphlet, the 'Boer fight for Freedom'. Willie Redmond, (John's brother who later died in British uniform in France in 1917) sat alongside IRB members on the 'Transvaal Committee' which raised funds for the Boers and the Irish Brigade who fought on their behalf.

John Redmond's backing of the British war effort in 1914 was completely unprecedented for his party and would not have happened outside the Home Rule context of 1912-14. In 1918 the IPP led by John Dillon returned to a more familiar line in backing the campaign against conscription.
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19-09-2019, 23:42   #5
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This is not worth its own thread so perhaps somebody could answer this.

According to this, some 206,000 Irishmen fought in WWI. I had always heard that of the 180,000 members of the Irish Volunteers only 10,000 stayed in Ireland and the rest followed Redmond's call to fight for the British in order to secure Home Rule.

However, then I read this 'Recruitment':

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A total of 206,000 Irishmen served in the British forces during the war.[17] Of these,

58,000 were already enlisted in the British Regular Army or Navy before the war broke out, including:
21,000 serving regular soldiers, 18,000 reservists, 12,000 in the Special Reserve, 5,000 Naval ratings and 2,000 officers.[18]
130,000 were service volunteers recruited from Ireland for the duration of the war, including:
24,000 from the National Volunteers.
26,000 from the Ulster Volunteers.
80,000 with no experience in either of the paramilitary groups.[19]
Of the wartime recruits, 137,000 went to the British Army, 6,000 to the Royal Navy and 4,000 to the Royal Air Force.[20]

According to historian David Fitzpatrick, "The proportion of eligible men who volunteered was well below that in Britain [...] even so, the participation of 200,000 Irishmen was proportionately the greatest deployment of armed manpower in the history of Irish militarism".[21] The recruitment rate in Ulster matched that of Britain itself, Leinster and Munster were about two thirds of the British rate of recruitment, while Connacht lagged behind them.[22] Overall, Protestants volunteered in higher proportions than Catholics,[23] although in Ulster Catholics volunteered just as often as Protestants.[24]

The voluntary recruitment figures were: 44,000 Irishmen enlisted in 1914, 45,000 followed in 1915, but this dropped to 19,000 in 1916 and 14,000 in 1917.[25] The 1918 figure has been given as between 11,000[25] and 15,655,[26] Between August and November 1918 alone 9,845 were recruited.[27]
So, if 170,000 of the 180,000 members of the Irish Volunteers followed Redmond into the National Volunteers, why on earth did only 24,000 of these people volunteer for WWI? The narrative has always focused on the vast majority following Redmond, with the implication being that they fought in WWI under the HR/Volunteers banner. We've been told that most of the Irish nationalists who fought in WWI did so to secure Home Rule following Redmond's Woodenbridge speech. But if this 24,000 figure is accurate a mere 14% of the 170,000 Irish Volunteers actually followed Redmond's advice to fight for Home Rule. And only 2.4 times the number of Irish Volunteers fought in WWI as stayed at home.

Why did so few Irish Volunteers of that 170,000 actually follow Redmond's call to fight in WWI?
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20-09-2019, 02:43   #6
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. . . Why did so few Irish Volunteers of that 170,000 actually follow Redmond's call to fight in WWI?
Couple of thoughts:

It's entirely possible that the very fact of a split in the volunteer movement disenchanted a signficant number of participants. I think it's probably a bit glib to assume that all those in the movement at the time of the split slotted neatly into one or other camp; some may have dropped out altogether, and others may have been only nominal participants on one or other side after the split.

A related point; I don't know the sources for the figures that say 10,000 in the Irish Volunteers; 170,000 in the National Volunteers. But it occurs to me that both of the organisations involved would have had an interest in "bigging up" the numbers of their adherents. Just sayin'.

The key issue in the split was not "will you, personally, serve?", but rather "what should our attitude be to the British war effort?" If we assume for a moment that there were 170,000 National Volunteers, many of those might have had the commitment to turn out for a weekly parade and drill, but not necessarily the commitment to quit their own jobs, leave their own families and go off to die in the deserts of Mesopotamia or the mud of Flanders.

I'm also guessing - no, I'm aware for a fact - that the enlistment standards for the Volunteers were, um, a good deal more relaxed than those for the British forces. Many volunteers might not have passed a British Army medical test, would have been over age (or under age) for recruitment or would otherwise have been disqualified.
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20-09-2019, 04:50   #7
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According to this, some 206,000 Irishmen fought in WWI.
The numbers are unclear, as Irish people were recruited in Britain, the dominions, etc.
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20-09-2019, 05:16   #8
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The numbers are unclear, as Irish people were recruited in Britain, the dominions, etc.
Yes. Although presumably anyone in the National Volunteers who was recruited into the arme was very likely to be recruited in Ireland.
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20-09-2019, 11:38   #9
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I don't think it's a mystery really. Following Redmond (the mainstream political leader at the time) and not the extremist, IRB inclined faction was not a ground breaking thing to do at the time. It must have seemed the safer, more sensible option to many.

Volunteering for the Great War was another thing entirely, particularly once it was clear what kind of war it was. Additionally, at the time of the split in the volunteers, many volunteers understood that Redmond wanted the Volunteers to stay in Ireland to deter invasion. His call to join the British Army itself came a little later.

But the narrative that most Irishmen in WWI joined up to fight for Home Rule is misleading. This was only a minority of recruits. At most it was a part of one Irish Division (the 16th) out of three. Of the 200,000 plus, nearly half came from the north, many from a unionist background. And southern recruitment was heavily concentrated among the urban poor. That is not the full story either, nationalist recruitment (of all classes) existed, but it was far from the majority.
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20-09-2019, 12:00   #10
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I don't think it's a mystery really. Following Redmond (the mainstream political leader at the time) and not the extremist, IRB inclined faction was not a ground breaking thing to do at the time. It must have seemed the safer, more sensible option to many.

Volunteering for the Great War was another thing entirely, particularly once it was clear what kind of war it was. Additionally, at the time of the split in the volunteers, many volunteers understood that Redmond wanted the Volunteers to stay in Ireland to deter invasion. His call to join the British Army itself came a little later.

But the narrative that most Irishmen in WWI joined up to fight for Home Rule is misleading. This was only a minority of recruits. At most it was a part of one Irish Division (the 16th) out of three. Of the 200,000 plus, nearly half came from the north, many from a unionist background. And southern recruitment was heavily concentrated among the urban poor. That is not the full story either, nationalist recruitment (of all classes) existed, but it was far from the majority.
There were thousands of Irish in the British Army long before WW1. They joined for a job, adventure and opportunity. While there certainly many from the urban poor of the big cities they also came from rural areas especially the catchment areas of towns with garrisons like Athlone Fermoy etc.
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20-09-2019, 12:09   #11
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There were thousands of Irish in the British Army long before WW1. They joined for a job, adventure and opportunity. While there certainly many from the urban poor of the big cities they also came from rural areas especially the catchment areas of towns with garrisons like Athlone Fermoy etc.

There were about 50,000 Irish regulars and reservists in the British military (army and navy) in 1914.

Recruitment patterns had changed drastically over the 19th century. Whereas in the early 19th century they recruited largely in rural areas, post famine depopulation and emigration meant that this pool was no longer really available by the early 20th century. Farmers and their sons were the least likely to join up.

By the late 19th century Irish recruits were mainly the urban poor and the British military was dismayed to discover that they were not longer the strong healthy men they had been used to recruiting from rural Ireland.

When I say urban, I don't just mean Dublin Cork and Belfast, but also places like Athlone, Wexford town, Dundalk, Clonmel, Fermoy, Sligo etc. Certainly there also recruits from the countryside, but military service was predominantly an urban thing by that point.
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20-09-2019, 12:23   #12
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There were about 50,000 Irish regulars and reservists in the British military (army and navy) in 1914.

Recruitment patterns had changed drastically over the 19th century. Whereas in the early 19th century they recruited largely in rural areas, post famine depopulation and emigration meant that this pool was no longer really available by the early 20th century. Farmers and their sons were the least likely to join up.

By the late 19th century Irish recruits were mainly the urban poor and the British military was dismayed to discover that they were not longer the strong healthy men they had been used to recruiting from rural Ireland.

When I say urban, I don't just mean Dublin Cork and Belfast, but also places like Athlone, Wexford town, Dundalk, Clonmel, Fermoy, Sligo etc. Certainly there also recruits from the countryside, but military service was predominantly an urban thing by that point.
Agreed. The healthy,strong farmers sons weren't an option when the food effort was huge in WW1 and alot of the surplus population was gone to the US ,Canada and Australia where droves joined up anyway. The narrative was always pushed that the bulk of Irish men who were joined for nationalistic reasons when the stats dont back this up. And the figure of 50,000 professional military men which included the likes of Gay Byrnes father were steadfast soldiers anyway.
As an aside no one pre 1922 called it joining the 'British' Army. It was just the Army. The British prefix is another add on from Modern Nationalism.
Also even though the full extent of the war was apparent by 1918...why did so many Irish join in 1918?
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20-09-2019, 12:58   #13
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Agreed. The healthy,strong farmers sons weren't an option when the food effort was huge in WW1 and alot of the surplus population was gone to the US ,Canada and Australia where droves joined up anyway. The narrative was always pushed that the bulk of Irish men who were joined for nationalistic reasons when the stats dont back this up. And the figure of 50,000 professional military men which included the likes of Gay Byrnes father were steadfast soldiers anyway.
As an aside no one pre 1922 called it joining the 'British' Army. It was just the Army. The British prefix is another add on from Modern Nationalism.
Also even though the full extent of the war was apparent by 1918...why did so many Irish join in 1918?

According to Padraig Yeates, a historian of Dublin in this period, the relative resurgence of recruitment in 1918, was mostly to non combat units such as the engineers and motivated by the fact that conscription had been introduced (though not implemented in Ireland in the end) and men were trying to avoid being drafted combat units.

PS nationalists of those days (though perhaps not the public at large) certainly referred to it as the British Army and discouraged people from joining. Including (prior to 1914) the IPP.

Last edited by LennoxR; 20-09-2019 at 13:03.
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21-09-2019, 00:32   #14
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As an aside no one pre 1922 called it joining the 'British' Army. It was just the Army. The British prefix is another add on from Modern Nationalism.
"The term British Army was adopted in 1707 after the Acts of Union between England and Scotland." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Army

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Also even though the full extent of the war was apparent by 1918...why did so many Irish join in 1918?
There was a minimum recruitment age, although it seemed to be widely flouted.
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21-09-2019, 08:38   #15
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There's a good article by Jason Myers here on WWI recruitment and casualties in Ireland. http://www.theirishstory.com/2015/03.../#.XYXS6H97nIU
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