Tuesday 28 January 2020

Trinity war dead memorial urged

A total of 111 people from Trinity College died in the Second World War
A total of 111 people from Trinity College died in the Second World War

A memorial should be erected to the Second World War dead from Ireland's oldest university, campaigners said.

The Irish Republic remained neutral in the conflict between 1939 and 1945.

But thousands of soldiers left the country and the Irish army to join the British forces, including hundreds from Trinity College Dublin. A total of 111 from the city centre university died.

A spokesman for the campaign said: "The list of the Trinity dead is a record of the judgements of such individual consciences, for in many cases these men and women could have chosen careers and lives undisturbed by the European conflict.

"Their willingness to hazard and indeed to lose their lives in a cause they saw to be both necessary and just is beyond all admiration. But they have suffered a fate that most assuredly they did not deserve.

"They have been written out of the story in which they were so conspicuous a part."

When war broke out the Irish Free state had just finished a protectionist trade war with Britain and wanted to carve out a foreign policy independently from its former rulers.

During the conflict Ireland pursued non-alignment between the warring parties but did make concessions to the Allies, including an air corridor for military aircraft accessing the Atlantic.

The approach to citizens who left to fight the Nazis was unforgiving.

They were found guilty by military tribunals of going absent without leave and branded deserters.

After the war they faced discrimination, lost their pensions and were barred from holding jobs paid for by the state.

But since then attitudes have softened and a pardon was issued recently for thousands of soldiers who deserted the Republic to fight.

Campaigners said a Trinity College memorial would be the final piece in the jigsaw of a decade of commemorations in Ireland.

A spokesman added: "It is time to put matters of public concern as a matter of public record, and indeed to put the record straight.

"There is no merit in disguising from public view the principled defence of freedom and democracy.

"By now even Sinn Fein has paid honour to the Irish dead of two World Wars.

"Ireland and Trinity College played its part and often more than its part in the battle for freedom in Europe in 1939.

"Now that the Irish government has granted amnesty and immunity and apologised to former defence force personnel and addressed issues of concern surrounding world war two, its time for Trinity College to address its failure to adequately remember its own dead by erecting a memorial to their memory."

Among those who died were a top-class footballer and a brilliant linguist.

Ronald "Biffy" Fox from Dublin was an RAF pilot killed in action in April 1942.

He was "serenely happy" and destined for a career in football until the sudden death of his father cut this short and he entered into business, according to a book by researcher Dr Gerald Morgan.

Tony Boyle, a captain in the Inniskilling Fusiliers from Dublin, was killed in action in the Far East in 1942.

Had he been able to complete his course at Trinity, there is little doubt that he would have attained First Class Honours in Modern Languages, according to an announcement of his death republished by Mr Morgan.

Hampton Dougan, a Lt-Col from Portadown, died on active service in the Far East in November 1944.

He had already seen service in France, and won the Military Cross for gallantry and devotion to duty.

After this he had been drafted to West Africa and finally to India and Burma. He abandoned the research lab for the theatre of war and lost his life.

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