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Sunday 4 December 2016

Forgotten pals sent for slaughter in Gallipoli

A naive sense of war and camaraderie cost young Irishmen their lives and legacy

Claire Mc Cormack

Published 26/07/2015 | 02:30

GALLANT: Actor Kevin C Olohan, who plays Captain Paddy Tobin in the historical theatre production of ‘Pals — The Irish in Gallipoli’ in Collins Barracks, Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney
GALLANT: Actor Kevin C Olohan, who plays Captain Paddy Tobin in the historical theatre production of ‘Pals — The Irish in Gallipoli’ in Collins Barracks, Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

On April 25, 1915, hundreds of young, gallant, spirited Irish soldiers marched out of the Royal Barracks in Dublin to serve under the British in World War I.

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Crowds of supporters waved the Union Jack and cheered for their Royal Dublin Fusiliers - made up of both nationalist and unionist volunteers - as they filed down the Quays, up Dame Street and out towards Dun Laoghaire to catch their boat to the continent.

They felt invincible, like heroes, a feeling they usually mustered up before playing a rugby match.

But it wasn't a game, it was war.

The battle is remembered as the bloodiest military disaster of the last 100 years.

And the sacrifice of these Irish men has largely been omitted from history.

But now, a riveting theatrical and visual art show, presented by ANU productions at the National Museum of Ireland in Collins Barracks, aims to change that.

Pals: The Irish at Gallipoli, back for a second run by popular demand, tells the stories of a group of young Irishmen who found themselves "sent for the slaughter" in autumn 1915.

Paddy Tobin, Jasper Brett, Ernest Hamilton and Charlie Brady all volunteered to join the British army under 'D' Company, the 7th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.

The unit enlisted young men from sports clubs, schools, universities and other community groups .

The incredibly effective recruitment technique was regularly used in the UK, but this is the only time it was used in Ireland.

Actor Kevin C Olohan, who plays Captain Paddy Tobin, said: "They exploited that idea of team ethos - you didn't want to be the one member of your team that didn't sign up".

Paddy, a native of St Stephen's Green, was a 20-year-old medical student at Trinity College Dublin, when he joined through his rugby club at Lansdowne Road.

Standing on set in Collins Barracks, in the very dormitory Paddy shared with his fellow officers, he said they thought it would be a "great adventure".

But they soon realised the horror they faced after washing up on the desert beaches of Turkey. Many died within days.

Owen Boss from ANU Productions said: "It was written out of history for reasons of establishing a Republic free from colonisers. This whole population of 200,000 who served in the British army has been forgotten".

'Pals - The Irish at Gallipoli' runs from August 4 to September 6

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