After the Battle of the Somme, the campaigns of the Great War continued to take their toll on South Dublin County. This being the centenary of two of the most decisive battles to take place after the Somme, we in Local Studies have identified thirteen men from the county who were killed in Belgium during these iconic battles of the Great War. One was killed at Messines, twelve perished at the Third Battle of Ypres.
The Battle of Messines was considered a successful offensive of the Great War mainly due to the much-improved accuracy of British Artillery, and the extensive use of underground mines. In all, 19 were detonated under the German defences at the Messines Ridge causing extensive damage. In Irish terms, it was also the first battle where Unionists and Nationalists fought together against a common foe. Among their number was the only known Messines casualty from the South Dublin County area – a Tallaght man – William (Billy) Barrett who spent his early years living in Tallaght Village. His mother ran a pub which was then called Barratt’s. The premises still exists as the Dragon Inn, and is virtually unchanged since then.
The Dragon Inn today
We have located and transcribed personal letters from Billy to his brother in Wicklow, along with some very moving letters from his comrades to his mother detailing the confusion surrounding his last hours.
Billy Barrett’s panel and letters home
The Third Battle of Ypres, also known as Passchendaele, lasted from the 31st of July to the 10th of November 1917. The battle was characterised by persistent mud and heavy losses . The Allies sustained over 320,000 casualties, while German losses were between 260,000 and 400,000.
Twelve men who were born or lived in our county were killed at Passchendaele:
Daniel Brady and Robert Christopher Butler (Rathcoole), James O’Toole (Templeogue), John Nolan (Saggart), Joseph Redmond, Richard Rodgers and Thomas McCann (Rathfarnham), Thomas Stoney (Tallaght), John Monahan and William Carroll (Lucan), Ralph Mulligan and Richard Rumgay (Clondalkin)
Panels showing the life stories of British Army casualties from South Dublin
Their life stories are detailed on panels illustrated with newspaper cuttings, photographs and contemporary documents. Earlier census returns from 1901 show them as small boys still at school. The occupations of their fathers include an RIC pensioner, an army pensioner, a dairy farmer and general labourers.
Some examples of food from the Great War
If these men were to return and walk round our county’s villages again, the surroundings would no doubt be very familiar to them. Their streets are our streets, and this exhibition reclaims their memory, presenting their stories in an accessible way.
The exhibition runs at the County Library, Tallaght until the end of September.