11 November 2007
A small piece of family history for Remembrance Sunday
My Grandfather was a regular soldier who went to Flanders with the 2nd Battalion of the Munster Fusiliers in August 1914. He was one of a few hundred Munsters (plus a small number of cavalry and artillery mend) who fought a desperate rearguard action at the village of Etreux on 25 August 1914. The actions of this brave band ensured that the safety of the British Expeditionary Force in its retreat from Mons to the Marne. My grandfather was fortunate enough to be taken prisoner. Like other Irish POWs he was held at a camp in Limburg near the Dutch border. It is almost certain he was addressed by Sir Roger Casement who, before his ill fated attempt to ship German arms to Ireland in 1916 (and for which he was hanged), attempted to raise a brigade of Irishmen to fight on the German side. a grand total of 55 men volunteered for this brigade. My grandfather was not one of them. He spent the latter part of the war working as a labourer on a nearby farm. I understand he remained in contact with the family until his death in August 1927.
This list of men taken prisoner at Etreux was printed in the Times in 1915. My grandfather's name is among them. He was very fortunate to have been taken prisoner. It is very likely he would have been killed during one of its subsequent engagements: the 2nd Battalion was wiped out several times over during the course of WWI