Remembrance month

Francis Edward Ledwidge

In our Library we hold a copy of Ireland's Memorial Records 1914-1918, being the names of Irishmen who fell in the Great European War 1914-1918, compiled by the committee of the Irish National War Memorial (1923). The book can also be viewed from home in SoG Data Online in Armed Forces > Army >  Ireland's Memorial Records 1914-1918.

As seen in the example page below, the book is beautifully illustrated and contains useful genealogical details on those remembered. The entries include men from all social classes and backgrounds.

Although conscription was never implemented in Ireland, over 200 000 Irishmen served in the war. It is believed around 30,000 men serving in Irish regiments died. However, attitudes to the war were complex, set against a backdrop of potential conflict over impending Home Rule and increasing nationalism.

Many in Ireland agreed with the words of poet Francis Ledwidge:

I joined the British Army because she stood between Ireland and an enemy common to our civilization, and I would not have her say that she defended us while we did nothing at home but pass resolutions.

Francis Edward Ledwidge was born in Slane, County Meath on 19 August 1887. Although he began paid work as a teenager, labouring and in the mines, he was a published writer from the age of 14.

Ledwidge held strong political views, serving as a trade union activist and later being elected to a local government post. Over time, his literary career developed and he became friends with W. B. Yeats. His first volume of poetry was published before the onset of war. In October 1914, he enlisted in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Ledwidge was killed in action at Pilckem Ridge during the Battle of Passchendaele on 31 July 1917. He was 29 years old.

Image of Francis Ledwidge (frontispiece) from The Complete Poems of Francis Ledwidge (1919)

Ledwidge’s entry in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database reads as follows:

LANCE CORPORAL

FRANCIS EDWARD LEDWIDGE

Service Number: 16138

Regiment & Unit/Ship

Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

1st Bn.

Date of Death

Died 31 July 1917

Age 29 years old

Buried or commemorated at

ARTILLERY WOOD CEMETERY

II. B. 5.

Belgium

Son of Patrick and Anne Ledwidge, of Slane, Co. Meath. A prolific poet noted for his pastoral pieces about Ireland; his last poems made subtle reference to war.

A collected edition of 122 of his poems was published in 1919. His contribution to the poetry of the Great War is such that Ledwidge was the only Irish poet represented in an Imperial War Museum exhibition of twelve prominent war poets, Anthem for Doomed Youth.

Sources

  • Ireland's Memorial Records 1914-1918, being the names of Irishmen who fell in the Great European War 1914-1918, compiled by the committee of the Irish National War Memorial (1923) in the Society of Genealogists' Library (Accession Nos. 22747-22755).
  • ‘Francis Ledwidge’; Wikipedia; URL https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Ledwidge.

 

Notes and comments

Please contact Emma Jolly for more information about this article

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