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Over 126,000 Irishmen have served since outbreak of war
Men from the Royal Munster Fusiliers received news that they were to go to the front with enthusiasm in December 1914 Photo: Irish Life, 11 Dec 1914. The full collection of Irish Life is available from the National Library of Ireland

Over 126,000 Irishmen have served since outbreak of war

Lord Lieutenant provides overview of Irish involvement

Dublin, 1 February 1916 - More than 126,000 Irishmen have served in the British army since the beginning of the war.

The Lord Lieutenant’s Report on Recruiting in Ireland, dated 14 January 1916, has set out the scale of Irish recruitment and the capacity for its expansion.

When the war commenced in August 1914 there were 20,780 Irishmen serving in the army. These were immediately joined by 17,804 reservists and 12,462 special reservists, making a total mobilisation of 51,046 men. Three new divisions were then organised – the 10th, the 36th and the 16th. Each of these divisions have 12 battalions, bringing the overall number of Irish battalions to 52.

By October 1915 enlistment in the army was so great that the number of Irishmen serving, or who had served, since the beginning of war amounted to 126,339. At that point a new structure of recruitment was put in place with the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Wimborne, at its head.

A centralised Department of Recruitment replaced local efforts and the result has seen more than 1,000 Irishmen enlist every week.

400,000 men of military age
Lord Wimborne is clear that there is great scope for future enlargement of numbers given that there are now more than 400,000 unattested single men of military age in Ireland. Particular criticism is made of farmers for their failure to enlist and consideration is being given to the establishment of a farmers’ battalion.

Finally, Lord Wimborne notes that the figures cited do not include the thousands of Irishmen who have been recruited in Great Britain and Australia.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.