Book Reviews: Tribute to Sufferers of the Great War; the 1st Royal Irish Rifles in the Great War by James W Taylor. Published by Four Courts Press, Dublin. 29.95 Euros (Approx. Pounds 20)

Article excerpt

Byline: Steven Moore

ON New Year's Day, 1921, the soldiers of the First Battalion Royal Irish Rifles paraded for the last time under that name.

Technically, they had already became the first members of the Royal Ulster Rifles, a name change which reflected the political times but which was not at all popular with the officers and men.

On this particular morning they assembled for a funeral. Inside the wooded coffin, borne by NCOs, was a copy of the regimental history, which they proceeded to bury with great pomp and ceremony.

A headstone was later erected on the spot - now occupied by HM Prison, Albany - which read: "To the memory of the 1st Royal Irish Rifles who departed this life on Jan 1st 1921 after a brief and glorious existence. Age 40 years. RUR."

The incident, one can't help but think, was indicative of the spirit of the battalion which, in 1914, went to war as one of only 18 regular army Irish units.

By drawing on the battalion's official war diary, complemented with extracts from personal accounts and with the addition of previously unpublished memoirs and diaries, James Taylor has recreated that special spirit much in evidence throughout the First World War in the professional soldier and the volunteers that followed in his footsteps. …