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Not all war heroes fought on the front lines, or even saw battle. Some saw their heroism measured in the comfort they gave others, and in the difference they made using the limited resources at their disposal.
One Irish heroine of World War 1 who certainly deserves greater recognition is Monica Katherine Roberts. Monica was a young upper class woman who lived in Stillorgan, Dublin, with her father, the Reverend William Ralph Westroop, a fellow of Trinity College. Upon the outbreak of the War, Monica formed a volunteer group called The Band of Helpers to the Soldiers. Their mission was to send gifts and letters to soldiers on the front lines, in particular to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the Royal Flying Corps.
Monica and her companions held tea parties and concerts to raise funds, with which they bought small presents for the soldiers. These were practical things such as Vaseline, boracic ointment and socks to soothe their worn feet, Oxo, and pencils, pocket knives and handkerchiefs, dried fruits, playing cards and tobacco.
In addition to these little practical comforts, and perhaps more significantly, Monica included handwritten letters in the parcels she sent to the front lines. When the soldiers, who were mainly privates, corporals and sergeants replied, a correspondence was born. Monica’s devotion to her soldier pen friends was evinced in the awesome number of replies she amassed, which her daughter Mary Shackleton has since donated to the Dublin City Archives. The Monica Roberts Collection paints a vivid picture of the horrors of the front line, bequeathing a priceless historical legacy.
Some of the messages are heartbreaking in their depictions of life on the front line. A Private Edward Mordaunt wrote: “I landed in France 24 September 1914. I have suffered cruel since then, the worst of it was the winter out here, we were frozed and up to our chests in water. I think if I was made of iron I would not stick it out as well as I am doing but for all that I am far from home but happy. [sic]”
The Monica Roberts Collection is housed in Dublin City Library and Archive as part of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers’ Association Archive. Have you got a similar World War 1 hero in your family? Find out amongst the millions of fascinating World War 1 records on Findmypast.
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