Friday 10 January 2014

New free database of Irish soldiers who died in WW1

A new database of Irish soldiers who died in World War One has been launched online today following collaboration between Google and the In Flanders Fields Museum.

Today's launch was made by Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter D Robinson, his deputy Martin McGuinness, and T├ínaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade Eamon Gilmore TD, at Google’s European Headquarters in Dublin.

This record set dates back to 1923 when British Field-Marshall Sir John French, commander of the British Expeditionary Force, published a memorial book listing some 49,000 Irish soldiers who died during the First World War. He had ordered that these records should be made and published when he was Lord Lieutenant and General Governor of Ireland (1919-1922). French donated a copy of the finished records to the Belgian city of Ypres.

The Records were published in 1923. They had been compiled by The Committee of the Irish National War Memorial and were beautifully illustrated by Irish artist Harry Clarke. The 49,000 names are listed alphabetically in eight leather bound volumes, stored in a small cabinet. That cabinet is now on permanent display in the In Flanders Fields Museum.

These records are part of a much larger project at Flanders Field Museum called The List of Names. In that list, all fatalities of the Great War who died or were mortally wounded in Belgium are assembled. It is an inclusive list for all nationalities and for both military and civilian dead.

The museum launched the project in 2003. In the course of its research, it discovered that the records for Irish casualties of the First World War were neither fully correct nor complete. Of the 49,000 names, some 30,000 are born in Ireland; approximately 9,000 in England, 1,500 in Scotland and a little more than one thousand in other countries. For 7,400 cases there is no place of birth given.

The history has been corrected and brought online. Over 35,000 of the total number of records simply list France as place of death. It is now known, as a result of the research project, that many probably died in Flanders. In all, some 11,060 out of the 49,000 have now been identified as being killed, commemorated or buried in Belgium.

In July 2012, the Irish ambassador to Belgium, Eamonn MacAodha launched a project with Google to make the records freely available to all. The collaboration with Google ensured that the work could be financed and technically supported.

Log on to In Flanders Fields, type in a name and see the place of birth, rank, regiment, service number, date of death and place of burial/commemoration of each individual solider with that name, where the information is available.

You can search by name or by place of birth. Searching with my surname,Santry, brings up five entries, but only two are soldiers called Santry. The other three are soldiers who came from either Santry in Co Dublin or Santry in Hampshire (the latter being a place I didn't know existed!).