Thursday 27 November 2014

New exhibition to shed light on brave soldiers shamed for fighting 'England’s war'

Published 16/05/2014 | 16:55

THE 200,000 Irish men who fought in World War One were the forgotten heroes who returned from the horror of the trenches to a life-long silence about what they had endured.

They fought in Gallipoli, gazed into the chasms of hell on the Western Front and some 49,000 – almost one in four of the Irish who had signed up to fight for the rights of small nations - would never come home.

A forthcoming new exhibition at Glasnevin Cemetery is set to shed new light on the lives – or deaths - of those brave soldiers who were shamed in the new Irish Republic for fighting “England’s war.”

Digging deep into the attics, dozens of people responded to a call by the Glasnevin museum to bring along family artifacts and military memorabilia relating to World War One.

In their second ever Valuation day, historians and auctioneers appraised items in an “Antiques Road Show” style event, in the hope that some items could be lent or donated to the museum for the exhibition which will run beginning in July.

John Green Chairman of the Glasnevin Trust said “There are hundreds if not thousands of World War One artefacts currently residing in the homes of people nationwide.”

“This is a golden opportunity for anyone looking to find out the story behind their precious historical artefacts.”

Amongst those who turned up today was Rhona Darcy from Rathfarnham, whose maternal grandfather, Thomas Thompson Prestage fought in the Great War – and went on to serve as a high-ranking civil servant in the new Irish Republic in the Customs & Excise department.

He was part of the Irish delegation that travelled to Brussels for the setting up of the European Economic Community in 1957.

As his “favourite grandchild,” Rhona had been given his medals when he died and she brought those in to the museum for evaluation. Thomas served in the 17th Batallion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment, she said.

“He only ever told me two stories about the War,” she revealed.

“One was when he was travelling through Russia on a Troika (a horse-drawn sleigh) when the lady driver told him they would have to stop overnight. When she emerged in the morning, she had a bundle under her arm – it was a little baby. She had given birth in the night – and then she carried on driving.”

“The second story was that he once came face to face with a Red Russian solder in a wood – and they both just walked away from each other,” said Rhona.

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