A new memorial wall has just been installed in the old military cemetery overlooking Blackpool, previously attached to the old Victoria Barracks (now Collins Barracks) from where many local soldiers shipped out to battle a century ago.
The 83 names of men and women inscribed in the wall are all buried there, but were not all local, or even Irish.
Most died in local hospitals after being shipped here wounded from the trenches of Belgium and France, but 14 died between the November 1918 armistice and August 1921, when the last nation signed the Versailles peace treaty.
Two women from Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps, which was based at Victoria Barracks, are also honoured, as is boy soldier William Thomas Glover, of the Connaught Rangers, who died on today’s date in 1915.
The Kilkenny limestone screen wall was built in Co Laois by McKeon Stone for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It will be on view to the public when the Military Cemetery Park is reopened by Cork City Council at the end of the month after refurbishment work is finished.
It is a coincidence that its completion comes as the centenary of the First World War’s beginning approaches. But it is one that Gerry White, chair of the Cork branch of the Western Front Association in Cork, said is fitting.
“The Irish have a great tradition of remembering their dead, and 100 years after the start of the war, it’s appropriate that this is being done,” said Mr White. “The best way to describe this would be a closure on an element of our history that we never came fully to grips with.”
New memorial headstones were erected for the 83 named personnel in the old Grangegorman military cemetery in Dublin in the late 1980s, when the Commonwealth War Graves Commission found the originals damaged from vandalism and disrepair. But after restoration work by the council in recent years, its Irish representative Antony Rose says the Cork cemetery was deemed a fitting place to honour the war dead.
While Mr White believes most of those named are from England, he has identified some locals. For example, M (possibly Mary) Wright, was a worker in the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps when she died in 1919, and her mother lived at Sidney Place in Cork.
Some who died after 1918 were soldiers killed in the Irish War of Independence, including Royal Engineers sapper Albert Camm. He was 24 when he was shot dead near Cork City on the day of the July 1921 truce.
Around 900 people were buried in the three-acre site between 1849 and the late 1960s, most of them soldiers who served in the nearby barracks, but also some of their families and children. Robert Matthews, an English lieutenant in the Canadian infantry who drowned in the May 1915 Lusitania sinking, is also buried there and listed on the memorial wall.