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Old 11 January 2005, 05:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question Irish pilots flying for the Central Powers?

Lets try some more...Were there any Irish pilots who flew for Germany or Austria against the English? I was thinking since the Germans attempted to help with the Uprising during that same time, perhaps...who knows? Any thoughts on that one? Thanks so much.
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Old 11 January 2005, 07:31 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Anything is possible but it is highly unlikely because

Popular sentiment in Ireland was in favour of Britain in WW 1, until the post Easter 1916 executions started anyway. After that, anti British sentiment was directed into resistance in Ireland.

A lot of Irish and Irish born volunteers enlisted in British and Commonwealth forces

Pilots made up a tiny proportion of the participants. Looking at the names, it looks like most who flew in the RFC/RAF/RNAS were of Anglo-Irish stock and would be unlikely to throw in their lot with Britain’s enemies

Germany tried unsuccessfully to enlist an Irish brigade from among Irish prisoners.
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Old 12 January 2005, 11:47 AM   #3 (permalink)
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On a side note, a friend from Dublin told me that members of his family saw U-boats taking on supplies in Ireland during the last war.
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Old 12 January 2005, 01:24 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Ireland remained neutral during the war because she lacked the means of defending herself. De Valera was strict on maintaining formal neutrality, to point of sending condolences to Germany on Hitler’s death. Stupid but consistent with strict neutrality. Whatever the citizens of Ireland chose to do privately was their own business and they joined the British forces in large numbers. There is a thread floating about on “Paddy” Finucane.

Whilst there are stories that float around about U Boats taking refuge in Ireland, I doubt it. That would invite a raid from the RAF, the last thing that the Free State wanted. As a neutral, Ireland would be entitled to sell produce to Germany as she did to Great Britain anyway.

To get an idea of the state of Ireland’s air defences during “the Emergency”, look at

http://www.military.ie/aircorps/history3.htm

Handy way for a small, impoverished nation to build up an air corps
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Old 13 January 2005, 11:05 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I forgot all about Julius Mac Arigi, Joe O’Kiss and Frankie Na Graeser and the sassanach Frank Linke-Crawford.
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Old 14 January 2005, 01:18 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Wink Celts, one and all...

When I was in Bulgaria a friend informed me that the Slavs had introduced the bagpipes to the Scots. O fcourse, this isn't true. All early groups figured out how to fill a goatskin up with air and squeek it out, like a children's ballon today, or one of us, providing we have the right diet. Throw in some burning castor oil and the stress of a dawn patrol and you have a flying Scotsman! Amazing Grace, indeed! See you on the ground! JDC
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Old 20 January 2005, 08:15 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vin
Anything is possible but it is highly unlikely because

Popular sentiment in Ireland was in favour of Britain in WW 1, until the post Easter 1916 executions started anyway. After that, anti British sentiment was directed into resistance in Ireland.

A lot of Irish and Irish born volunteers enlisted in British and Commonwealth forces
Although I agree with you on the likelihood of Irish aviators in the Luftstreitkraft, Vin, I think your analysis of Irish sentiment in general is way off. Looking at the details of Irelands contribution shows a distinct LACK of support for the UK in general, prior to the Easter Rising. Irish Home Rule had been a divisive element in British politics for 50 years, and dominated debate in the Commons throughout 1914, even after FF's assasination. Coupled with the events surrounding the Curragh Mutiny, Ireland's popular sentiment was a long way from backing England.

Here are some numbers if you are interested . I have used "active" and "service" interchangeably in the text below.

Looking at recruitment within the UK, we see the following (I can't do html tables, so I hope this comes out)
"Country"......Est. male pop.........Enlistments.....Percent....Conv*
England...........16,681,181...........4,006,158.. ......24.02....13.21
Scotland...........2,351,843..............557,618. .......21.52....11.84
Wales...............1,268,284..............272,924 ........23.71....13.04
Ireland..............2,184,193..............134,20 2.........6.14......3.38

Canada.............3,400,000..............458,218. .......13.48
Australia...........2,470,000..............331,814 ........13.43
New Zealand........580,000..............112,223....... .19.35
South Africa.........685,000...............76,184....... .11.12

The Figures come from Bean's Official History of the A.I.F. Vol 6. (For Commonwealth countries that is WHITE male population only. )

*To relate the two halves of the table, one needs to be aware that the Commonwealth figures are troops sent on active service, where the UK ones are ALL enlistments. Approx 940 out of 1693 battalions raised by the UK were Service battalions. To equate the figures generally, multiply British numbers by 55%. The conversion is pretty rough, as the proportion of active to reserve battalions is not necessarily the same as active soldiers to Home Service. But it's a useful indicator.

Applying this conversion, all the numbers fall with a range of 11 - 19%, except Ireland, who enlisted 6%, or around 3.3% on active service. A quarter of the level of the others.

Looking at battalions, it is quite difficult to come up with a total number of battalions recruited as many were transitory, reserves who served actively, actives who saw no action etc. But my numbers, taken from the The Long, Long Trail compared to the population figures above show a pattern:

"Country"...Service Bns...Res. etc...Total.....Tot Bns/Mill...Act Bns/Mill
England................719.........552....1271.... ..........76.2.............43.1
Scotland...............109.........119.....228.... ..........97.0.............46.4
Wales....................53...........45.......98. .............77.2.............41.8
Ireland...................59...........37.......96 ..............44.0.............27.0

That makes Irelands contribution a bit over half of the rest. All of which suggests that underrepresented as they were in Infantry, Ireland's contribution to other services was probably even lower - since their total battalions was half, and total enlistments was a quarter, it would seem that the few recruits they got were directed into infantry. This would be consistent with lower educational (art, eng) and social (cav) standards.

It is also worth noting that NO Irish regiments had territorial forces attached. This is true of only two other (non-Guard) regiments - The Royal Fusiliers (who used the London Regiment as their territorials) and the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. I can only presume that the British authorities did not want well-armed weekend warriors running around the Emerald Isle.

Finally, if you look at where regiments were raised, you see an interesting pattern. While the recruitment of pre-war regiments is unclear to me, wartime recruitment indicates 3 regiments (Iniskillens, Royal Irish Rifles, Royal Irish Fusiliers) based in Ulster (ie the six counties that remain part of Britain) and 6 regts (Irish Guards, Royal Irish, Connaught Rangers, Leinster, Royal Munster Fusiliers, Royal Dublin Fusiliers) from "the rest". We see that a total of 43 Bns (30 active) came from Ulster and 52 (28 active) from the rest. 3(Reserve)/Irish Guards was raised in London.

Given that Ulsters population is less than half that of the rest, it would seem that Ulstermen enlisted slightly lower proportion as the rest of the UK - 64.1 Bns per Million, 44.7 active Bns/Mill (using current proportions with 1914 numbers). The rest of Ireland managed 34.4 Bn's/million or 18.5 active Bn's/Mill. I don't have any numbers to validate the following, but it seems to me likely that the Ulster numbers are skewed by protestant enlistments - there is no doubting their loyalty to the crown. Allowing that fudge factor, Catholic recruitment in Ulster, probably matched the rest of the country.

Even allowing for the "Tyneside Irish" (4 Bns of the Northumberland Fusiliers) etc - many of whom were not Irish - Ireland clearly did not provide the same committment as the others

My own grandfather was born in Australia to Irish immigrants, and refused to serve for two reasons:
1. As a union member, he felt it was wrong to fight a war in which working men would die to make the rich richer (a common enough sentiment)
2. Sympathy for Ireland. (also a common sentiment, and one which I believe reduced Australia's ability to recruit - 24.3 active Bn's/million - although those numbers are affected by other concerns - Light Horse regts, Navy, AFC etc - which were not as much of a factor in Ireland).

FWIW - looking at Aces (this website), Ireland produced aces at about half the rate of England (Scotland and Wales were also at this lower rate). There doesn't seem to be a significant difference between North and South compared to population (6 v 17 with 13 unknown or born outside Ireland), but the numbers are small and may not be representative.

Just my take on it all.
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Last edited by duckman; 20 January 2005 at 09:46 PM. Reason: verbosity - more of it!
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Old 20 January 2005, 09:58 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Admirable research. My comment about popular sentiment was in response to JDCMaster’s comment “I was thinking since the Germans attempted to help with the Uprising during that same time…” The implication being that Irish citizens would join up and fight for Germany. My response was that of the two, popular sentiment was in favour of Britain.

Popular sentiment might have favoured Britain over the Central Powers but that doesn’t mean that the Irish wanted to join up and fight Britain’s war for her – as your figures illustrate. The Irish didn’t feel part of the empire, unlike other parts of the British Isles. There is a huge difference between being more sympathetic towards Britain than Germany and joining up.

The response of the Dublin population to the Post Office and Customs House survivors in 1916 bears out popular sympathy towards Britain. The rebels were booed and abused as they were led off to prison. Irish support only turned after the executions commenced.

I've never seen statistics on the issue that I remember. I was aware that many joined up but I didn't think that that many did.
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Last edited by Vin; 20 January 2005 at 10:01 PM.
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Old 23 January 2005, 05:14 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vin
Admirable research


Thanks. It was educative and amusing for me too. I must try this "research" thing more often before posting....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vin
There is a huge difference between being more sympathetic towards Britain than Germany and joining up.
True - this was a point that occurred to me while I was laying out that data, but I thought that I might as well finish once I'd started. "Popular sentiment in Ireland was in favour of Britain in WW 1" was the sentence that caught my eye, though, and prompted the reply.

Your references to failed attempts to raise Irish P.O.W. regts etc pretty clearly show that, lukewarm as Ireland may have been to England, they were not pro-German, although one could argue a line that since these were selected from the fewer numbers who had strong feelings for the Empire, and was therefore doomed from the start. Quite a different situation to Russia raising units of A-H p.o.w's (Poles, Czechs etc). Those minorities had not volunteered for the K.u.K. but were conscripts.

Vin, do you know what the deal was when conscription was enacted in the UK? I assume that it was not enforced in Ireland.

cheers

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Last edited by duckman; 23 January 2005 at 05:21 PM.
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Old 24 January 2005, 06:16 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I posed a similar question--pilots from America and other spots, but I got the impression that the Germans were less inclined to accept help from outside the Fatherland. In fact, I don't recall hearing about any outside help. One odd item having to do with Germans and Irishmen and the war swirls around the writer Erskine Childers. I've read that Childers ran German arms to the Republicans then turned around and flew for the RNAS. Not the first character in the war to take opportunities as they presented themselves.
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