On July 28th 1914 the Austria-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia and precipitated a chain of events which saw most European nations in a state of war within a week.
Over the course of the following five years war raged on fronts as close as England where some south eastern English towns and cities were bombed, to the Western Front straddling France, Holland and Belgium, the Alps, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Iraq and even naval battles off the coast of Chile. By wars end, there were 16 million deaths and 20 million wounded ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.
It is thought that as many as 7000 Clare men enlisted in allied forces during the war and as many as 700 lost their lives. As the centenary of remembrance of WW1 begins, The Clare Peace Park Initiative unveiled plans this week for a planned permanent memorial to all those who took part and lost their lives from the county in WW1.
The committee plan to create a solumn space, reflecting on the soilders heritage and roots in the green area on Friars walk which is situated across from Glor in Ennis. They plan to erect three large standing stones, onto which the names of all those from Clare who died in the conflict would be engraved. Along with other site works, landscaping, engraving and artwork, the committe hope that they can erect a fitting memorial to finally remember now, 100 years on the sacrifice and suffering that people from the county made at that time and the many survivors and families of those who lost loved ones endured for years afterwards.
Commenting on the planned memorial, committee chairman, Dr. Keir McNamara said: “Hopefully, now after so many years we can remember this part of our counties and countries history with a permanent memorial. For 100 years we have relied on people in other countries to maintain the graves and memorials that contain the remains and names of Clare men and women. It is time to bring all the names together in our county in one place and include those that have not until now had any memorial”.
“Many other counties have similar plans as ourselves. Comprehensive memorials have been unveiled in recent years in Castlebar, Thurles and Dungarvan remembering those from counties Mayo, Tipperary and Waterford respectively. Plans for memorials are at an advanced stage in Wicklow and Kilkenny, and at earlier stages elsewhere.”
The committee had been working with Ennis Town Council over the past few months to bring the plans to this stage. Over the next few months they will be announcing and engaging in fundraising activities aimed at putting together the finances to complete the memorial. They have given themselves a deadline of having the memorial in place no later than July 2016 to coincide with the centenary of the battle of the Somme, where 44 Claremen died in a few short months. Nearly 75% of Clare’s casualties were on the Western front.
Efforts by the committee at attaining funds through grant aid at a local and national level which is how other counties have part funded their memorials have proved fruitless to date. It is hoped that by getting local support for fundraising efforts and through private donations, sufficient funds will be gathered to erect the memorial.
Dr. McNamara commented that “We have gone for a design that hopefully will carry great impact and symbolism but one also within a realistic budget. The committee have estimated that the memorial could be erected for as little as €25,000, and that this figure could be greatly reduced by individuals and groups donating their skills and expertise. There are plans for a privately funded South East Asia memorial in the same green as our planned memorial to remember all those from Ireland who died in the Vietnam War. This memorial was put out to tender last year for €130,000. From what I understand no Clare person thankfully died in this conflict. It would be a great pity if we miss this opportunity to give so many Clare people their rightful place in our counties history.”
Plans for the memorial can be seen on the initiative’s website www.clarepeaceparkinitiative.com and their facebook page, where details of fundraising events and their online fundraising campaign can be seen. They would welcome submissions and feedback from anyone on the memorial plans and design. Also on the webpage are lists of all those from Clare who died in WW1 and WW2. The committee are particularly anxious to hear from anyone who has additional names and further information on existing names as their endeavour to build a comprehensive database on all those from Clare who were involved in the wars.
A booklet on the Clare war dead from WW1 is available for €5 and can be purchased via the groups website at www.clarepeaceparkinitiative.com.