1: Leaving Ireland
He bid us all goodbye and wished us good luck, if that counts for anything.
Watch: Private James Purvis of the Royal Irish Fusiliers writes to his mother on 25th April 1915, before his departure from Dublin for the front. Read by Oisín Mistéil. Letter courtesy The National Archives of Ireland.
2: Dearest Biddy
Watch: Rifleman Jack Madden writes to his sweetheart Biddy in Dublin from Tadworth Camp in England on 10th August 1914. Read by Mícheál Ó Drisceoil. Letter courtesy The National Archives of Ireland.
I have made my will and you are my heir to anything I have.
3: News from the Front
It is too awful to think of him only 20 in the midst of such horrors…
Watch: Letter from ‘May’ to her aunt, Lady Clonbrock of Galway on 17th July 1916 with news of a loved-one at the front. Read by Alanna McDermott. Letter courtesy National Library of Ireland.
4: Life at War
An old battlefield of the French, utter desolation and plenty of legs and arms and bones and old boots & none too pure an atmosphere.
Watch: Captain Charles Wydham Wynne of the Royal Garrison Artillery writes to his aunt ‘Sophy’ about conditions at the front in France. Read by Oisín Mistéil. Letter courtesy Trinity College Dublin.
5: News of a Rebellion
Watch: Seaman Gerald O’Driscoll writes to his father from HMS Temeraire on 24th May 1916 and gives his reaction to news of the Easter Rising in Dublin. Read by Mícheál Ó Drisceoil. Letter courtesy Denis McGrath, private collection.
I was of course shocked by the Dublin rebellion and indeed not a little anxious for the safety of those near and dear to me.
6: The Wounded Home
…leg cut off at the hip, has absolutely no stump and I think it would be quite impossible to give him an artificial leg
Watch: Emma Armstrong of Lavistown House Kilkenny writes to Lady Clonbrock on 23rd February 1916, describing her work with wounded soldiers. Read by Alanna McDermott. Letter courtesy National Library of Ireland.
7: Facing the enemy
Watch: Recollections of Private John Page of the Royal Irish Rifles, who describes going over the top and the chaos of confrontation with the German enemy. Read by Mícheál Ó Drisceoil. Taken from 'The Western Front: Irish Voices from the Great War' by William Sheehan published by Gill & MacMillan.
At the blast of our signal whistle everyone seemed to go mad…
8: Wounded at
Canal du Nord
I was sitting on the bottom of the trench, half-asleep, when I woke up, by receiving a terrible heavy, hot thump on the left thigh, and another in my left hand.
Watch: Recollections of Lance Corporal Thomas Healy of the Royal Irish Regiment in 1918 describing the horror of a shell attack in the trenches and being injured. Read by Oisín Mistéil. Taken from 'The Western Front: Irish Voices from the Great War' by William Sheehan published by Gill & MacMillan.
About this project
With thanks to The Letters of 1916 project, the first public humanities project in Ireland creating a crowd-sourced digital collection of Irish letters from around 1916.
Note: These letters and recollections have been edited for clarity and brevity