Each year on 25 April, Anzac day commemorates Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in wars. And in particular, those who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War One. Among them were thousands of Irish born men and women who enlisted in the Anzacs.
Prof Jeff Kildea, who holds the Keith Cameron Chair of Australian History at UCD has researched the connections between the Anzacs and the Irish in World War One. He joined Myles to talk about some of those who were involved.
Jeff estimates that 6,600 Irish-born men and women served in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) during the First World War, of whom approximately 970 paid the ultimate price. Most already called Australia home, having emigrated to the new land of opportunity in the South Seas.
Some, however, found themselves in Australia by chance when war broke out and enlisted here rather than returning home to join up, perhaps fearful that the war might end before they did so or in the hope that they might get a free passage home when the AIF sailed.
The Australian Irish generally supported the war, they had generally prospered in Australia under the British crown, and tended to put the conflicts of the old world behind them.
One Irish-born soldier, Martin O'Meara, won the Victoria Cross - that's the highest award for gallantry that a British and Commonwealth serviceman can achieve.
- In August 1916, at the battle of the Somme, he reportedly went out and brought in wounded men from 'No Man's Land' under intense fire.
- He was wounded several times during the war.
- He returned to Australia in late 1918, soon after he was admitted to a mental hospital. He spent the rest of his life in mental institutions.
The AIF or "Australian Imperial Force" had 68 Generals during the First World War, two of whom were Irish. One of these was Lieutenant General James Whiteside McCay.
- Born in Ireland in 1864, he grew up in Castlemaine in Victoria.
- He was elected to parliament and served as Minister for Defense
- Oversaw a disastrous AIF attack on the Western Front in 1916.
Many Chaplains of various denominations served in the Australian forces throughout the war. Although they weren't combatants, that didn't stop them being killed or wounded, or receiving awards for their service. A good example is Father John Fahey.
- He was originally from Tipperary. Noted for his bravery at Gallipoli
- Some doubt the veracity of his 'gung-ho' reputation
- Experienced numerous close calls, he narrowly avoided being killed.
A leading character in one of the war's great stories of daring was Dacre Stoker, an Irish-born submarine captain who was a cousin of Bram Stoker.
- He captained a submarine, the AE2, during the Gallipoli campaign
- He surrendered and spent the rest of the war in Turkish captivity. He escaped twice and was recaptured on both occasions.
Another Irishman who became a prisoner of war was David Curran from Tipperary.
- He emigrated in 1902, eventually settling in Melbourne
- After enlisting he was posted in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) on 18th Sep 1915
- He was captured when the Siege of Kut ended in April 1916
- His parents corresponded for years with the Australian Department of Defence, trying to find out details of his death.
Trinity College 1916
The first Anzac Day, commemorating the Australians and New Zealanders who fought at Gallipoli, took place on the 25th of April 1916 - in the midst of The Easter Rising. That week, Australian soldiers fighting in WW1 for the British Crown werew on leave in Ireland. They were called to arms to help put down the Easter Rising in Dublin.
One incident, the shooting of a rebel bike messenger, Gerald Keogh, by an Anzac sharpshooter who was positioned on the roof of Trinity College, inspired a song - Digger in Dublin was written by Kevin McCarthy and Geoff McArthur.
Anzacs and Ireland by Jeff Kildea is published by Cork University Press
Irish Anzacs: the contribution of the Australian Irish to the Anzac tradition
Click here to read Jeff Kildea's article
Jeff Kildea's website: http://jeffkildea.com