Friday 23 March 2018

The families from Co Wexford who answered the call

A recruitment poster
A recruitment poster

A NOTABLE aspect of Ireland's participation in the First World War was the large number of members of the same family volunteering for active service.

Several Wexford examples come to mind, to mention just a few – the four Hanton brothers from Emmet Place in Wexford; the Cullens from Enniscorthy and New Ross, the five Fenlons from Duke Street in Wexford (John, Michael, James, Richard and Luke), the three Mernagh soldiers from Mary Street, New Ross, the three Barry brothers from Neamstown, Kilmore Quay, and the three Letts.

The information that follows has been gleaned from the local newspapers, which carried weekly news of the Wexford men wounded or killed at the front, taken prisoner or were home on furlough.


The Hanton brothers, Peter, Thomas, Robert and Patrick, were sons of Mr and Mrs Thomas Hanton, Emmet Place. Private Peter was wounded in the early part of the war and recovered. Seaman Robert served on HMS Prince Edward which survived the war, having seen action in the Gallipoli Campaign; Seaman Patrick died in the Malta hospital from a compound fracture of the skull received at the Dardanelles.

Gunner James Mernagh of the Royal Garrison Artillery was at the front from the beginning of the war and went unscathed through many hard-fought battles and was killed on December 1, 1917. Before the outbreak of the war he was a maltster in the firm of Messrs P J Roche & Sons, New Ross. His brother John was in the Army Service Corps. A third brother, William, of the 2nd Royal Irish, was killed in action on October 19, 1914. Before joining the army he had worked in Cherry's Brewery in his home town.


Mr and Mrs Robert Cullen, Irish Street, Enniscorthy, received the sad news that two of their six serving sons, Ptes Thomas and Maurice, had been killed. It was reported that Maurice was buried on the battlefield by another of his brothers, Myles Cullen, assisted by a neighbour from Enniscorthy named O'Neill who was serving in the same regiment.

The Cullens of New Ross, between their own family members and relations, were said to have had 20 serving with the colours. Andrew Cullen, Mary Street, formerly a member of the National Volunteers, joined the Irish Guards a couple of months after the outbreak of war. He had been a prominent Gaelic player with the Camblin Rovers, the Ros Mhic Treons and the New Ross Geraldines.

Pte Jack Cullen, Main Street, enlisted in the 18th Royal Irish Regiment and took part in the early engagements of the war. He was taken prisoner in October 1914 after receiving severe wounds. John Cullen was badly wounded at the battle of Mons and died on October 11, 1917. Lance Corporal Martin Cullen from The Bullaun, New Ross, who had been in the Boer War, joined up a few months after the Great War started and was at the front in 1916. Ptes James and Michael Cullen, sons of James Cullen, Mary Street, also answered the call to arms.

It was officially stated that the number of New Ross men in the army in January 1915 exceeded 300.


Two sons and a nephew of Michael Staples, Rathjarney, Piercestown, were on active service. Lt Frank Staples, who relinquished a lucrative veterinary practice in Wexford, joined the Army Veterinary Corps in which he received a commission.

Pte John Staples of the 16th Middlesex Regiment was a teacher in Bridlington College but shortly after the outbreak of hostilities he volunteered for active service. He was later engaged in the Cycling Corps in France.

Lt Edmund Cyril Staples, son of Col Staples, formerly of Wexford, had been serving in India for some years prior to outbreak of war but was drafted out to the Persian Gulf. During the operations there he was twice wounded and his gallantry in saving the guns secured him the Military Cross.


Described as 'three fine specimens of young Wexford men' who answered the call to arms from far off Melbourne were the sons of the late George Saunders Lett, grand-

sons and nephews of Messrs H A Lett, Gilgibbon; W Lett of Balloughton and C H Lett of St Anne's, Enniscorthy. The three sons were born in Ireland but had been living in Melbourne for several years before enlisting in the Australian Expeditionary Force. The three volunteers were Charles, Alan and Cecil Lett.

Enniscorthy Guardian