Peter Berresford Ellis reviews Irishmen in War 1800-2000: Essays from The Irish Sword Volume II, introduction by Harman Murtagh, foreword Keith Jeffery, Irish Academic Press. ISBN 0 7165 2817 7, £39.50/€49.50
THIS IS the second volume of some of the best essays selected from The Irish Sword: the Journal of the Military History Society of Ireland. Like the first volume, this volume is full of `treasures' not merely for the military historian but from everyone interested in the historical development of Ireland.
Unfortunately, the publishers decided to compile it as a facsimile from the original essays in the journal and then print on a rather poor quality paper that reminds me of newsprint. I doubt that in this form the quality of the book can be sustained for very long which is a shame for the material is of intense interest.
Here are the details of John Holland, the inventor of the first practical submarine, who designed and built it for the IRB with their money as a warship to attack the Royal Navy. Here is the story of the now forgotten 10th (Irish) Division that was sacrificed by Churchill in his Dardanelles venture in 1914-15, one of the stupidest slaughters of WWI.
One essay that particularly fascinated me, following my article in the current Irish Democrat, is Colonel Hally's The Easter 1916 Rising in Dublin: the military aspects.
Contrary to what out 'revisionist' friends are trying to tell us, the Rising was not organised and led by impracticable intellectuals and dreams who impulsively led their followers into an unplanned and impossible military situation.
Sir Matthew Nathan, Under Secretary for Ireland, told the Royal Commission of Inquiry in London on May 18, 1916: "… the conduct of the insurrection showed greater organisation ability and more military skill than had been attributed to the Volunteers". Colonel Hally goes into detail in assessing the military position of the insurgents and we come to the sad conclusion that had the majority not obeyed O'Neill's mobilisation cancellation order, Dublin would not have fallen with a few days.
This is an excellent volume but one, of course, for the libraries as the price precludes it from the general bookbuyer.
Connolly Publications Ltd, 244 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8JR
Copyright © 2006 Peter Berresford Ellis