Historians and an Garda Siochana (the National Police Service) in Ireland are teaming up in hopes of tracking down relatives of the some 2,600 prisoners of war who were interned in Ireland during World War I.
The Irish Independent reports that the search comes as part of a major campaign to mark the centenary of Ireland's connections to the 1914-18 war.
About 2,300 captured German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war (POW) were shipped to Tipperary and Meath, though they were only there for a few months in the early stages of World War I. Richmond Barracks in Templemore, Co Tipperary (presently the Garda College) and Oldcastle in Co Meath were the main facilities used to imprison the prisoners of war.
The Leigh Reporter says as the war began in August 1914, the British government implemented a policy of interning all Germans, Austrians and Hungarians of military age who were living in Britain and Ireland as they were viewed with suspicion and feared they might have been sympathetic to the German war effort.
Initially only 300 of these interned people were placed in the Richmond Barracks, but as the war progressed and enemy soldiers were captured on a larger scale, the British government had the civilian internees transferred first to Oldcastle, but then later to the UK.
Behind the major research project is the Garda College’s Sgt John Reynolds, Tipp FM’s Tom Hurley and historian Gerry Boylan. The team has already tracked down some relatives of those who were locked up in Ireland.
Hurley explained, "The British decided to transfer the civilian internees (from Templemore) to a camp in Oldcastle, Co Meath, and instead use Richmond Barracks solely for the purpose of imprisoning the captured German soldiers and military personnel.”
"These prisoners of war began arriving in Templemore in September 1914 and were gone by March the following year.”
Following their brief time imprisoned in Ireland, many internees and POWs were transferred to detention camps in the UK were many fell victim to disease and despair.
Researchers are hoping that a documentary by Tipp FM called ‘Turnhalle Barracks - German Prisoners of War in Templemore’ will further their reach to relatives of more detainees.
Sgt Reynolds added that the Garda College would like to create a special historical exhibition on the period next year.