Enlistment (Paul-Dubois, 1908)

1.695-96, 703. L. Paul-Dubois, Contemporary Ireland, with an Introduction by T.M. Kettle, M.P. (Dublin: Maunsel and Company, Ltd.; New York: The Baker and Taylor Co., 1908), pp. 172-73. BL 8145.ee.35

An extract from L. Paul-Dubois, Contemporary Ireland (1908), on Irish attitudes towards enlistment in the British army.

Although Seymour is accepting a commission rather than simply joining the ranks, suggesting him to be of a rather higher class than the Irishmen willing to accept the “Saxon Shilling” in the following extract, his motives may be much the same. This passage explains the ways in which Irish attitudes towards Irishmen serving in the British army, already complex, were further complicated in the aftermath of the Boer War:

Only a few years ago the honour of the British army was saved in South Africa by Irish soldiers; notably by the Inniskillings at Pieters, the Connaught Rangers at Colenso, and the Dublin Fusiliers at Talana Hill. Of this last regiment a thousand went to the front, and only three hundred returned. Yet throughout the whole war the Irish people were aggressively “Pro-Boer.” They elected as member of Parliament for Galway a man who had just returned from fighting for the Boers. When the newly-elected County Councils met in 1898, they immediately voted addresses of congratulation to President Kruger. . . . Hatred of England still exists in Ireland. At the commencement of the twentieth century the nation is still rebellious and indomitable. Every year clever young men who see no prospect of success at home go over to England, where they know there is some scope for their talents. Every year there are Irish mercenaries who will accept the “Saxon Shilling” either in a spirit of adventure or because work is scarce. But all this effects no fundamental change. If Ireland was proud of the bravery of her soldiers in a cause which was not her cause, the Irish recruit is thought little of by his own people. It is only the good-for-nothings who enlist, and it is an insult to a man to say that he is in the militia. When those poor fellows sailed from Queenstown on British transport ships for the Cape in 1900, they cried “Three cheers for Kruger!” Indeed it is doubtful if they knew for whom or for what they were going to fight.