The men and women from Inishowen area of Donegal who lost their lives in the First World War are remembered at the annual Armistice commemoration service being held by the Inishowen Friends of Messines (IFOM) at Fort Dunree every year.
In August 1914, the world was plunged into yet another European war which was shortly to become a world war, the Great War, the war to end all wars, the First World War. As it progressed, it brought with it new and devastating technologies and the armies became more and more expert in killing each other.
While the war was fought in many theatres across the globe it was most chillingly known by the “western front” that 500 mile long trench line that wove its way from the Belgian coast through France to Switzerland.
For four years the British and allied armies faced the German and central powers armies across no man’s land in deadly pursuit to push each other east or west. Men, machines and mud combined into an ever growing cauldron of death and destruction, which decimated a generation of youth in its path until an end was brought about by the armistice of 11th of November 1918 at 11.00am when all hostilities finally ceased.
In 1917 the great Irish Divisions, the 36th Ulster and 16th Irish had a very important role during the Battle of Messines Ridge and their actions there both collectively and personally have formed the basis of the peace and reconciliation programmes developed initially by the International School for Peaces Studies ISPS and extended more recently through the IFOM Remembrance Reconciliation and Renaissance programmes. The Island of Ireland Peace park out of their Journey of reconciliation Trust in the 1990’s and the subsequent Peace programmes that they have generated from it.
An IFOM spokesperson said: “We are all indebted to the great vision of the late Mr Glen Barr OBE and Mr Paddy Harte OBE, in developing the Island of Ireland Peace park out of their Journey of reconciliation Trust in the 1990’s and the subsequent Peace programmes that they have generated from it.
“We in IFOM were delighted to join with Glen Barr and the ISPS trip to Messines in June 2017 to take part in the centenary commemorations at the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Messines.
“This was to be Glen’s final trip to Messines, as he sadly passed away on October 24th. It was our privilege to be there in support when the Irish government officially recognised and honoured the joint work and contributions of Glen Barr and Paddy Harte to peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland.”
The Battle of Messines ridge in June 1917 led on to the Battle of Passchendaele in August 1917. The successes that the 16th and 36th Divisions achieved at Messines were to be mirrored by the horrendous disasters at Paschendale.
In barely two weeks in August the 16th and 36th divisions suffered in excess of 8000 casualties making their final stand at Frezenberg Ridge not far from Ypres.
The Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association decided to mark the final stand of the two Irish divisions and IFOM became associated with that project. PJ Hallinan and John McCarter joined with the RDFA at Frezenberg to unveil a permanent memorial to the 16th Irish and 36th Ulster divisions, commemorating not only their service and bravery, but also the lessons in peace and reconciliation they unknowingly laid down for the generations to follow.
In recognition of that armistice and all that had gone before it, the Inishowen Friends of Messines IFOM, holds its armistice commemoration for the men and women of Inishowen who went off to war and never came home at Fort Dunree.
Some 1500 people from the Inishowen peninsula went to war between 1914 and 1918, and almost 250 of them, whose names are cited on our Memorial at Fort Dunree, never returned.
For more than 10 years the loss of HMS Laurentic has been remembered in the Republic of Ireland by The Ulster Canada Initiative in ceremonies in the towns of Fahan and Buncrana where more than 70 of the men who died that night are buried.
After two years of fundraising The Ulster Canada Initiative unveiled the Laurentic Monument on the 6th of October 2019, to remember the men who lost their lives and also those who survived the ordeal. 32 family members made the journey to Donegal for the unveiling, from Arklow, Cork, Tipperary, Liverpool, Staffordshire, Kent, Sussex, Devon and as far away as Australia.