Horror of trench warfare is brought to life
THE original cannons from the Battle of the Somme struck fear into the hearts of the soldier as they knew what was to come afterwards.
But yesterday they stood silent as the daughter of a Great War veteran led a candlelit procession through a rain-sodden battle "trench" to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War One.
Noeline English (75), from Virginia, Co Cavan, whose father John Moore and uncles Erwin and Charles Moore fought in the Great War, was one of the few surviving descendants of World War I veterans who attended the opening last night of the largest replica battlefield trench in Ireland and the UK.
The ceremony began at precisely 10pm yesterday, 100 years ago after Britain declared war on Germany. The war claimed the lives of over 210,000 Irish soldiers.
Using 6,000 sandbags and built to specifications used by the Irish Guards and Royal Irish Fusiliers at the Battle of the Somme, the 350-metre long trench is the centrepiece of the Cavan Country Museum in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, which houses a permanent WWI gallery to commemorate the 10,000 men from the county who fought in the war.
Measuring just a metre wide and six feet deep, it includes replicas of the frontline, communication and support trenches that were used during the war. Heavy rain at the weekend left the trench filled with rain and muck, conditions that were eerily reminiscent of the actual water-logged and disease-ridden state of the real trenches.
While the museum's Trench Experience exhibit isn't rat-infested or strewn with decaying bodies, the grim reality of waging war in the trenches is recreated, including the sounds of shots being fired and bombs exploding. The grim cries of the dying and wounded are replicated in audio installations at the exhibit, which also has visual images of real trenches.