Total War in Flanders - the Irish Connection

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Edward BrierleyThe Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association Archive held at Dublin City Library and Archive holds the personal papers of a number of Irish men who fought at the Belgium Front in 1917.

Dubliner, Edward Brierley fought at the Battle of Messines during his remarkable army career which included winning three Certificates for bravery. He survived the war and on returning to Ireland he went on to have a second notable career, signing for Shelbourne Association Football Club (AFC) in 1922 and playing in the FAI Cup Final on St. Patrick’s Day 1923. He also played for the Ballsbridge team St. Mary’s United (AFC).

Photo: Edward Brierley seated, in uniform (Ref. RDFA/09/27)

Throughout the war, he carried a neatly folded hand-held prayer into every battle  “Oh holy cross of christ ward off from me all dangerous deaths +give me Relief always”.

Edward Brierley's prayer

RDFA/099/05 Edward Brierley's prayer. (see larger versions of page 1 and page 2)

This remarkable piece of paper, along with other artefacts relating to Edward Brierley’s life were displayed in Dublin as part of our “Dublin Remembers: The Somme Exhibition”. Reflecting the shared history of Ireland & Belgium, the items have now been temporarily loaned to the municipality of Heuvelland where they will be displayed as part of major exhibition 'Irish blood and Flanders mud'. The exhibition from June-December 2017 and will run in a specially designed exhibition box in Kemmel Church, attached to the new Heuvelland visitor centre. Further information:  https://flandersfields1418.prezly.com/places-to-visit-in-flanders-with-i...

Richard BurkeSimilarly Kerryman Richard Burke (DCLA/RDFA/019) of the Royal Irish Regiment also fought at the Western Front at both the Somme and in Belgium.  He won a Military Cross in 1917 for continuing to lead his men despite being wounded in battle at Wijtschate. He was seriously wounded in October 1918 and was sent to Horton (County of London) War Hospital, where he remained for the rest of the war.  On returning to Ireland Richard became a co-ordinator of the Soldiers and Sailors Land Trust which was set-up to provide housing for ex-servicemen. During the 1920s and 1930s the Trust provided over 4000 houses throughout Ireland, including a development at Killester, County Dublin, where Richard and his family lived.  He died in 1977 at the age of 84 and is buried in Deansgrange Cemetery.

Photo: RDFA/019/008 Richard Burke seated, in uniform (click image for larger version)

 

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