First World War wills of 9,000 Irish soldiers will go online
Poignant reminders of all who lost their lives in battle
The wills of 9,000 World War I Irish soldiers who fought in the British Army will be posted online this week the Irish Sunday Times reports.
Many of the wills are very short said Hazel Menton, an archivist who has worked on the project for three years.
“The information is limited, but it is this very lack of detail that reminds us of a group of men who have been largely forgotten. “The men would simply write in the space provided to whom they wished to leave their effects,” said Menton.
“As many of the soldiers were very young, and they did not have wives or children, they left everything to a parent, siblings or friends serving with them.”
“There are 29 Boer War letters from men to their family and loved ones, and they are different from the wills of soldiers in the First World War as they are newsy, informative missives from a soldier to his mother, girlfriend or brothers,” Menton said.
One soldier wrote to his brother cutting his father out of his will because “he’ll just drink it”.
Robert Coffey of the National Archives said, “It is quite emotional. You are reading letters and wills of men who passed away but who had written them thinking they were going to come back.”
The archive is part of the state effort to commemorate the thousands of Irish soldiers who fought in the war.
Shane MacThomais, a historian and resident author at the Glasnevin Trust, where First World War and Second World War graves are located said: “All the commemorations, from Armistice Day to the National Archives launch, serve to paint a much clearer picture of the men who fought in these wars. The soldiers’ wills is another piece in the jigsaw.
“You have to remember there was an element of shame for some of the men who fought in the First World War. Some were ostracized by their families for joining [the British Army], even if it was for financial reasons.
“Others would have been enlisted automatically after serving in the Boer War in the 1890s.”
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