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USS Sterett (DD-27) in rough seas off Ireland, 1918

USS Sterett (DD-27) in rough seas off Ireland, 1918

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U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, Norman Friedmann .The standard history of the development of American destroyers, from the earliest torpedo boat destroyers to the post-war fleet, and covering the massive classes of destroyers built for both World Wars. Gives the reader a good understanding of the debates that surrounded each class of destroyer and led to their individual features.

A brief history of the partition of Ireland

This month marks the centenary of the partition of Ireland in 1921, a seismic moment in the island’s history that divided Ireland and led to the creation of Northern Ireland. But what led to Ireland being divided? Professor Heather Jones explains the causes and aftermath.

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Published: May 5, 2021 at 5:11 pm

This month marks the centenary of the partition of Ireland in 1921, a seismic moment in the island’s history that divided Ireland and led to the creation of Northern Ireland. But what led to Ireland being divided?

A worsening devolution crisis

Before partition, all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom and governed by the British government in London. However, by the First World War, Irish nationalists, who were predominantly Roman Catholic, had succeeded in getting legislation passed for Home Rule – devolved government for Ireland within the UK. But Home Rule’s imminent implementation was suspended when the First World War broke out in 1914.

Home Rule was vehemently opposed by Ireland’s unionists, mainly Protestants, mostly based in the north, who wanted no change to Ireland’s direct governance by Westminster. Religious differences mattered greatly in Ireland and many unionists feared that ‘Home Rule’ would be ‘Rome Rule’, leaving them as a religious minority under a Dublin parliament dominated by Catholicism.

The situation dramatically radicalised when, at Easter 1916, an Irish republican uprising broke out in Dublin. Its leaders believed devolution – Home Rule – did not go far enough. They wanted a complete end to British rule in Ireland and an all-Ireland republic outside of the UK. The rising was quickly suppressed, but the British execution of its leaders led Irish nationalists to abandon Home Rule in favour of seeking full independence: in 1918, nationalists voted overwhelmingly for a pro-republic political party, Sinn Féin. In 1919, supporters of the rising mobilised an Irish Republican Army (IRA) and launched a war for an independent Irish republic. This brutal guerrilla conflict of ambush and reprisals saw Britain lose control of nationalist areas, while sectarian violence also broke out, particularly in the northern city of Belfast.

There were unionists all across Ireland however they were weak in numbers in the south and west. By contrast, in Ireland’s northern province of Ulster, unionism was politically very well-organised and had powerful supporters in London and a large population base. From 1912 Ulster Unionism became the most important strand of the island’s unionist movement. Yet those supporting Irish independence never developed a coherent policy towards Ulster Unionism, underestimating its strength and rejecting unionists’ British identity. Republican leader Éamon de Valera’s proposed solution was as follows: “The so-called Ulster difficulty is purely artificial as far as Ireland itself is concerned. It is an accident arising out of the British connection, and will disappear with it.”

The Government of Ireland Act and the creation of Northern Ireland

Desperate to end the war in Ireland, which was damaging Britain’s international reputation, the British government proposed a solution: two home rule parliaments, one in Dublin and one in Belfast. The details were outlined in the Government of Ireland Act in late 1920. Fearful of the violent campaign for an independent Irish republic, many Ulster unionists, who had been adamantly against any change to direct British rule, accepted this idea. It would create a border between the territory governed by the devolved northern home rule parliament and the southern one, but both areas were to remain within the United Kingdom. The border was also designed so that only a part of the historic province of Ulster – six counties chosen because they represented the Protestant Ulster heartlands which had a clear unionist majority – would be governed by the northern parliament, ensuring unionists would dominate it. In May 1921, this new Northern Ireland officially came into being. Sir James Craig, Northern Ireland’s new prime minister, stated: “I’m going to sit on Ulster like a rock, we are content with what we have got.” Home Rule’s greatest opponents in Ireland – Ulster unionists – had become its most fervent supporters.

The northern parliament took root, helped by heavy spending on security forces to support it from London. By contrast, its southern equivalent was a failure, proving impossible to start up as nationalists boycotted it. When the British government tried to open its new Dublin Home Rule parliament after holding elections in 1921, only fourelected representatives of its House of Commons – all southern unionists – showed up. The rest of those elected took seats in the Dáil instead, a rival clandestine parliament that Irish republicans had established in January 1919 as part of their planned republic, and which, by 1921, despite being illegal, had usurped many state powers and was thriving. Former British prime minister Herbert Asquith quipped that the Government of Ireland Act gave “to Ulster a Parliament which it did not want, and to the remaining three-quarters of Ireland a Parliament which it would not have”. Unable to get politicians willing to sit in it, the operation of the southern parliament was effectively suspended. The Government of Ireland Act thus proved impossible to implement in the south.

Meanwhile, the new northern regime faced the problem of ongoing violence. The IRA waged a campaign against it, while sectarian violence, which had worsened from when the plans for the Government of Ireland Act first emerged, continued to rip apart northern society. Between 1920 and 1922, an estimated 550 people died in the six counties, approximately 300 Catholics, 170 Protestants and 80 members of the security forces. Unionists believed this period to be one of existential threat to their survival on the island. Little wonder that when King George V, opening the new Northern Ireland parliament in June 1921, before a unionist audience, called for peace and reconciliation, some of the women present wept. The epicentre of the violence was Belfast where, in July 1921, there were gun battles in the city between the IRA and pro-partition loyalist paramilitaries. Belfast’s Catholics made up only a quarter of the city’s population and were particularly vulnerable thousands were expelled from their shipyard jobs and as many as 23,000 from their homes.

Unable to implement the southern home rule parliament, the British government changed policy. In December 1921, an Anglo-Irish Treaty was agreed. It ended British rule in the 26 counties that had been meant to be under the southern devolved Home Rule parliament. This area now became an independent Irish Free State and, unlike Northern Ireland, left the UK. What had been intended to be an internal border within the UK now became an international one. However, the Free State was not a republic but an independent dominion within the British empire and the British monarch remained the Head of State the British government had only agreed to accepting Irish independence on these terms. This outcome split Irish nationalism, leading to a civil war, which lasted until 1923 and weakened the IRA’s campaign to destabilise Northern Ireland, allowing the new northern regime to consolidate.

The aftermath of partition

The first year of partition was a bloody one. Sectarian atrocities continued into 1922, including Catholic children killed in Weaver street in Belfast by a bomb thrown at them and an IRA massacre of Protestant villagers at Altnaveigh. As the Guardian newspaper noted in June 1922: “We cannot now pretend that this partition idea has worked: the whole world would burst into laughter at the suggestion.”

Partition created two new fearful minorities – southern unionists and northern nationalists. Tens of thousands chose or were forced to move refugees arrived in Britain, Belfast and Dublin. Ulster unionists felt guilt at the fate of those unionists left as a minority in the rest of Ireland, who had to integrate into the new Irish Free State as best they could some emigrated to Britain or Northern Ireland, while others slowly assimilated.

Yet it was Ireland’s other new minority – northern Catholic nationalists left within the UK – that proved the most vulnerable. Safeguards put in place for them at the time of partition, such as proportional representation in elections to the northern parliament, were swiftly removed they had virtually no protection from rampant discrimination and sectarian violence. Successive governments in Dublin also pursued a policy of non-recognition of Northern Ireland and demanded northern nationalists boycott it, heightening the minority’s difficulties.

The British government hoped that the border would only be temporary: both the Government of Ireland Act and the Anglo-Irish Treaty were designed to facilitate future reunification of the island if this ever became possible. Nationalists believed Northern Ireland was too small to economically survive after all, designed to fit religious demographics, the border made little economic sense and cut several key towns in the north off from their market hinterlands. In 1925, a Boundary Commission, established to fix the border’s permanent geographic location, effectively approved it as it stood. It ran through lakes, farms, and even houses. Its idiosyncrasies matched those of the implementation of partition itself. Most infrastructure split in two – railways, education, the postal service – and entirely new police forces were founded in the north and the south.

But a range of civic organisations, including the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches, the Irish Dental Association, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland, the Royal Irish Academy and Irish rugby continued to operate on an all-Ireland basis. Such connections became precious conduits of social communication between the two Irelands as the relationship between northern and southern governments proved glacial. By the time the Irish Free State unilaterally declared itself a republic in 1949, the border – a source of bitterness for nationalists – had become an integral aspect of northern unionist identity which viewed Northern Ireland’s survival as interwoven with unionism’s own.

Heather Jones is professor of Modern and Contemporary History at University College London.

The US Navy at Queenstown

On 4 May 1917 a flotilla of unusual vessels appeared off the Daunt lightship at the approaches to Cork Harbour. These were destroyers of the United States Navy with their low profile and four stubby funnels, they were quite different in appearance to the ships of the British Navy, so familiar in Cork Harbour after almost three years of war.

Submarine warfare
While the reasons why America entered the war against Imperial Germany are complex, one of the principal factors was the German submarine campaign. This had caused annoyance to the United States since its inception in 1915, and the horror and revulsion aroused by the sinking of the Lusitania nearly brought America into the war at that stage. It was therefore appropriate that ships of the US Navy were first into action, to take part in countering that campaign.

At the start of the war the submarine was really an unknown quantity, whether as asset or threat. As in so many aspects of that war, modern technology had far outpaced the rules and military doctrines drawn up in the previous century. Machine-guns, aircraft, radio, mines and submarines changed warfare in a way that officers and political leaders found very difficult to manage. The endurance of submarines was about three days away from base. Both sides considered the submarine as a tactical weapon, to be used in conjunction with the surface fleet. It soon became apparent that this tactical use proved less than satisfactory. Simply put, submarines could not keep up with the fleet, and primitive communication methods and equipment further restricted cooperation between surface and subsurface units. On the outbreak of the war the British had imposed a ‘distant blockade’, blocking off the North Sea to most shipping and cargoes bound for Germany, with increasing effectiveness. The German response was to attempt to impose the same on Britain. Using surface ships was out of the question—the German navy was not powerful enough—so it fell to the U-boat fleet to implement it.

38 Above: The arrival of the first ships of the US Navy into Cork Harbour in May 1917. The USS Wadsworth is alongside the fuelling jetty at the bottom of the photo, with the USS Conyngham approaching to berth alongside. The USS Porter is mooring to a buoy in the middle of the harbour (US Naval Heritage and History Command).

The Hague Convention and ‘Cruiser Rules’
The Hague Convention had what were called the ‘Cruiser Rules’. These required, in time of war, that a naval vessel stop a merchant ship of an enemy state and make provision for the safety of the crew before sinking or capturing the ship. Neutral shipping could also be boarded and searched for ‘contraband’, cargo that could be of military benefit to the enemy. Initially the U-boat commanders attempted to apply the Rules, but of course this eliminated the submarine’s main defence, its invisibility. Besides, unlike a surface ship, a submarine could not take the crews of sunken ships aboard they had to be left to the doubtful safety of their ships’ lifeboats, often in bad weather and far from land. The British quickly sent out heavily armed disguised merchant ships, the famous ‘Q ships’, which had some success in sinking or seriously damaging U-boats. Britain also armed ordinary merchant ships and expected them to resist being stopped and boarded, which was contrary to the Hague Convention. This encouraged U-boat commanders to torpedo ships without warning. The sinking of the liner Lusitania horrified the world and served to limit the actions of German submarines to some extent, but in early 1917 Imperial Germany declared a war zone around the British Isles within which all shipping, belligerent or neutral, would be sunk without warning.

This had immediate and dire consequences for Britain. The US had sent Admiral William Sowden Sims, an enthusiastic Anglophile, to London to consult on the matter. He learned that, at the current rate of sinkings, Britain would be out of essential supplies by mid-1917 and might be compelled to seek some kind of armistice with Germany. This led to the decision to send destroyers to support the British Navy.

Above: British Vice Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly—seen here on board the US destroyer Cushing at Queenstown—was in overall command.

The first flotilla was quickly reinforced by further flotillas. The small naval dockyard and establishment on Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour and other dockyards and facilities in the area could not cope with this influx of ships and men. For example, the naval hospital on Haulbowline and the local hospital in Queenstown were overwhelmed by the requirements of US personnel for minor injuries and illnesses, and the local hospital was also considered primitive by them. Very soon the harbour was graced by a naval hospital, recreational facilities, stores and radio communications, with all the prodigality that was to characterise US military expeditions in the twentieth century.

There were soon two depot ships, dozens of large motor-launch ‘sub-chasers’, tugs and even a squadron of submarines with a depot ship (based in Berehaven). Later naval aircraft arrived, with air stations at Aghada in Cork Harbour, on Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay and other places. It is worth noting that this operation based on the depot ships, which provided administration, stores, repairs and fuel, was to demonstrate what was, in effect, a mobile naval base. The lessons learned in Ireland were to prove immensely valuable in the naval war in the Pacific Ocean 25 years later.

Trouble with the locals
The various accounts of the time portray remarkable cohesion and friendly cooperation between the two navies. That was the style of such writing in the period any disagreement was rarely, if ever, mentioned. No doubt there was some friction, where two navies with different cultures and traditions came together, but the only trouble mentioned was that between the US servicemen and the young men of the city of Cork. Sims, who had no time for Irish national aspirations, tried to ascribe a political motive to it, but by most accounts—and far more believably—the local boys were simply chagrined by the impact that attractive young foreigners with plenty of cash had on the young women of the city. After a few clashes, including one in which a US sailor was seriously injured, the city was put out of bounds to the US Navy men below the rank of lieutenant. It didn’t stop the young ladies taking the train to Queenstown, however.

Above: The USS Melville—one of two US depot ships—with destroyers alongside. They were moored west of Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour.

There was friction at the highest level within the US Navy, between Sims and Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels. Sims felt that the US Navy’s principal role was the protection of trade and the maintenance of the supply lines to Britain, while Daniels wanted the Navy to concentrate on protecting the transit of the army to France. Consequently a large part of the US Navy in European waters was based in Brest. As it happened, both objectives were achieved no US army personnel were lost on the way to Europe, although an empty troop transport was sunk by the Germans.

Above: The USS Trippe leaving Queenstown for the last time. Note the very long ‘paying off’ pennant, and men waving to those ashore.

Anti-submarine measures
At the start of the war there were really no effective weapons against submarines. The ‘Q ships’ and armed merchant ships mentioned above were two measures. Hundreds of fishing vessels and other craft, such as steam yachts, were commandeered, armed and sent on futile patrols, which the U-boats easily avoided. Depth charges were developed, and had some limited effect when a submarine was detected and was close enough. Hydrophones could be used to hear the submerged submarine, but if the listening craft was moving its engines and propellors drowned out the noise of the submarine. In any case, the hydrophones could only indicate with very little precision the direction from which the submarine noise was coming, and could give no range.

The most effective measure that served to neutralise the submarine campaign was the adoption of convoys for merchant ships. For several years there had been advocates for this, but the British naval authorities were largely against it for several reasons. Its adoption soon after the Americans entered the war would seem to suggest that they had some influence on the decision. When Taussig first arrived, before the adoption of the convoy system, he was amazed at the quantity of shipping to be seen every day on the south coast of Ireland. After the adoption of convoys, one German submarine commander wrote that ‘suddenly the sea was empty of ships’.

By the time of the armistice in November 1918 there was a huge US naval presence in Ireland, principally in Queenstown. It far outnumbered the British Navy in Irish waters but remained under the command of a British admiral. The Americans departed Queenstown and Ireland in early 1919. Their presence has left little lasting effect it’s as if they were never there. Many of the shore establishment buildings were temporary and made of timber, and most of these were dismantled. There are a few, but very few, tangible indicators to be seen today: the flying-boat bases at Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay and Aghada in Cork Harbour have left concrete aprons and slipways, and at Aghada there are two small concrete gateless gateposts, with ‘US Naval’ engraved on one and ‘Air Station’ on the other.

Daire Brunicardi is a former Senior Lecturer at the Cork Institute of Technology/National Maritime College of Ireland.

Greatest killer of the twentieth century: the Great Flu of 1918–19

As the First World War was entering its final stages, a pandemic of unprecedented virulence, which we now know to be the H1N1 influenza virus, infected one billion people around the globe and may have killed approximately 100 million. It spread with remarkable speed, striking in three almost simultaneous waves in various parts of the world. It initially appeared in the late spring and summer of 1918. It then returned in full strength in the autumn and early winter of that year, and reappeared for a final deadly bout in the early months of 1919. The helplessness of the medical profession (which only discovered that influenza was a virus two decades later) irreparably punctured positivist confidence in modern science.
It was misnamed ‘Spanish influenza’ because newspapers in neutral Spain freely reported on the epidemic (including the illness of King Alfonso XIII), as opposed to the belligerent states, which suppressed news reportage in order not to demoralise the war effort. Although its provenance remains uncertain, a disease with similar symptoms was documented among British troops during the winter of 1916 in Étaples and Aldershot. Current research, however, highlights the outbreak in US military cantonments in March 1918 and suggests that it may have spread from there through networks of worldwide mobilisation.

Local impact

It is often said that the pandemic killed more people than the Great War, which had an estimated death toll of ten million. Although this is true globally, it was not the case in a regional perspective, as European war casualties outnumbered the over two million estimated influenza fatalities across the continent. In Ireland 20,057 people were reported as having died of influenza in 1918 and 1919 (the average annual rate for the preceding years of the war had stood at 1,179). In addition, an increase in deaths caused by related illnesses, most notably pneumonia (from which over 3,300 died above what would usually have been expected), can be attributed to the epidemic.

Catherine Moran aged 16, c. 1910—she later married Lance Corporal Charles Heatley (pictured below) of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916—and her death certificate of 4 November 1918. She died from influenzal pneumonia in her parents’ house in Nicholas Street, with her three young sons at her bedside. (NAI)

Sir William Thompson, the registrar-general, admitted that the official influenza mortality rate was a conservative estimate, and there are reasonable grounds to assume that additional influenza deaths in Ireland were uncertified, attributed to other illnesses, and often simply not recorded at all. The overall number is probably lower than fatalities of Irish servicemen in the First World War but exceeds deaths in the War of Independence and the Civil War.
Applying to official mortality figures an estimate that only 2.5% of those who caught influenza actually died suggests that there were over 800,000 influenza cases in Ireland, 20% of the population. Between June 1918 and April 1919 the epidemic, which further taxed a health service already struggling with war-related shortages of medical personnel and hospital beds, temporarily incapacitated urban and rural communities across the island.
The first wave, which hit Ireland in the early summer of 1918, was the least destructive, although severe enough for schools and businesses to close. The earliest verifiable record of its arrival in Ireland can be found in US naval archives, which document an outbreak on the USS Dixie, docking outside Queenstown (Cobh), in May 1918. On 12 June the Belfast News-Letter reported that Belfast had been struck by a mystery illness resembling influenza. By the end of June there were reports that it had reached Ballinasloe, Tipperary, Dublin, Derry and Cork. Nevertheless, by mid-July the first wave had abated.
The second wave, from mid-October to December, was the most virulent of the three and, as in the first wave, Leinster and Ulster were worst affected. The almost equally severe third wave, which lasted from mid-February to mid-April 1919, affected Dublin again, as well as the western part of the island (in particular Mayo and Donegal). As influenza moved through towns and communities, schools, libraries and other public buildings were closed, and court sittings were postponed. Businesses closed sporadically on account of staff illnesses. Medical officers of health, mainstays of the Poor Law medical system, worked around the clock to treat their patients, paying 100,000 more home visits during the epidemic than in the previous year. Hospitals and workhouse infirmaries struggled to cope with the numbers of patients, pharmacists worked long hours to dispense medicines, and mortuaries, undertakers and cemeteries had to queue the dead for burial.
Some areas suffered severely during all three waves, notably Dublin, where troops returning from the war may have been a major factor. Dublin county and borough had in 1918 a death rate of 3.7 per thousand living (1,767 flu deaths) and of 2.3 per thousand living (1,099 deaths) in 1919. At 3.85 per thousand, Belfast had one of the highest death rates in 1918, but in 1919 it had one of the lowest—0.79 per thousand. Some counties almost escaped the epidemic. Clare, for example, had the lowest death rate from influenza of any county in 1918, at 0.46 per thousand. Kildare had the highest influenza death rate in 1918—3.95 per thousand (263 deaths). Water and power shortages in Naas during the height of the second wave contributed to a particularly severe local outbreak in the county.
Whereas influenza mortality is typically high among the elderly and very young, a global peculiarity of the 1918–19 pandemic was its targeting of normally healthy young adults. In 1918, 22.7% of all deaths from influenza in Ireland were of people aged between 25 and 35 in 1919 the figure for this age group was 18.95%. The registrar-general estimated that there were more male than female deaths from influenza in Ireland, which contrasted with the rest of the United Kingdom, where slightly more female than male deaths were recorded. Ulster followed the British pattern, as the female influenza mortality was slightly higher than the male, especially in the more industrial areas of the province. There were high proportions of women textile-workers in Belfast, Derry, Lurgan and Lisburn, and the overcrowded, hot, damp conditions of linen workshops encouraged the spread of influenza. In Belfast females between 25 and 35 had a higher influenza mortality rate than any other age or gender group in the city.
Individuals employed in occupations involving close contact with the general public were more likely to contract influenza. Doctors and nurses were particularly exposed. The high number of Dublin teachers suffering from influenza in October 1918 led to the closure of schools in the city. Absence owing to influenza depleted police forces throughout Ireland. Public transport employees were also vulnerable, and in Belfast 100 tramway employees were absent with influenza during July 1918, and 120 in November. Priests and clergymen were also in the front line, and a lot of them died. Staff illness forced the closure of shops, with many shopkeepers and assistants dying.

The epidemic and republican politics
In a curious coincidence of history, the epidemic in Ireland became intertwined with the mass arrests and internment of Volunteers and Sinn Féin members in relation to the alleged ‘German Plot’. Although the internees escaped the summer wave, newspaper reports that over 100 Sinn Féin prisoners in Belfast Jail had contracted influenza during October 1918 prompted questions in parliament as to their treatment. Arthur Samuels, attorney-general for Ireland, dismissed Sinn Féin allegations of neglect and claimed that special treatment and diet were provided and that two extra doctors had been engaged to assist in the prison. Fionán Lynch, one of the inmates, attributed the prisoners’ preferential medical treatment to Sinn Féin’s highly efficient propaganda, as the British authorities wanted to avoid the negative publicity that would follow prisoner deaths. Ironically, with not a single fatality among the prisoners, Belfast Jail seemed to be the safest place in the city during the epidemic.
The Irish internees held in Usk Prison, Monmouthshire, were not as fortunate. Six prisoners at Usk fell victim to flu in late November but were not provided with regular access to a doctor until 1 December. The death of Richard Coleman from Swords on 9 December bolstered Sinn Féin’s allegations of prisoner mistreatment. The timing of Coleman’s death was opportune: the general election was to be held on 14 December. Newspaper coverage of the circumstances of his death and Sinn Féin’s orchestration of his funeral procession through the streets of Dublin bought the party valuable publicity. Frank Gallagher, assistant in Sinn Féin’s propaganda department, maintained that it turned the tide of public opinion by influencing undecided voters to vote Sinn Féin.

The shortage of medical personnel led to calls from many boards of guardians for the release of three Defence of the Realm Act internees—doctors Richard Hayes, Bryan Cusack and H. Russell McNabb—to do flu duty (the three were subsequently elected Sinn Féin MPs), and for Dr Kathleen Lynn, who managed to evade the initial round-up, to be permitted to come off ‘the run’ to treat flu victims. Lynn was arrested for a few hours on 31 October 1918 and was released on condition that she work with the ill during the crisis. She set up a vaccination centre and hospital for flu victims at Charlemont Street.
The epidemic did not reach Reading Jail, where many of the leaders were detained, but during the third wave several prisoners contracted influenza at Gloucester Jail. Arthur Griffith tried to lift the spirits of the younger sufferers by fighting the flu on his feet, self-medicating with large quantities of quinine (which may have contributed to the health problems that led to his early demise). The death of Tipperary East MP Pierce McCann on 6 March 1919 was thought by many to have persuaded the authorities to order a general release of the Irish internees held in British jails (though in fact the orders had been signed on 4 March).

Forgetting the Great Flu
Summing up the local effects of the epidemic in its immediate aftermath, Sir William Thompson noted that ‘Since the period of the Great Famine with its awful attendant horrors of fever and cholera, no disease of an epidemic nature created so much havoc in any one year in Ireland as influenza in 1918’. But, surprisingly, it has not featured in Irish historiography. The ground-breaking documentary Aicíd, screened on TG4 in November 2008, was the first programme to introduce the topic to public debate in Ireland.
The 1918–19 pandemic poses a paradox for world history. Killing more people in a twelve-month period than any other calamity of similar duration, it could be considered the greatest catastrophe of all time. Remarkably, however, it has been mostly forgotten. In contrast to the worldwide large-scale commemoration and memorialisation of the First World War, there are no museums, heritage centres, exhibitions, national monuments or remembrance days dedicated to the pandemic. Unlike the extensive cultural memory of the Great War, the Great Flu has barely had a passing mention in literature. Edvard Munch’s self-portrait [front cover] is one of the few works of art on the subject. No epic feature films depict the ravages and human suffering caused by the pandemic. Memory was mainly confined to private spheres, and the personal grief for lost loved ones, long recalled in family traditions, was not vented in public.
There are many possible reasons that could explain this social amnesia. Globally, the Great Flu was overshadowed by the upheaval of the Great War, while political turmoil in Ireland during this period may also be a factor in its omission from Irish historiography. It was a passing episode—striking suddenly and then just as mysteriously disappearing. Social psychology shows that memory is often founded on schemata, or templates of earlier memories, but, unlike other diseases, influenza was not lodged in popular memory as a cause of terror. Moreover, high politics dominated history-writing at the time and influenza did not kill any famous national figures.

Contemporary Ernest Noble cartoon- ‘God evening, I am the new influenza”.

While it is possible to politicise a natural disaster, the global dimension of the pandemic overruled incrimination of local villains (despite Irish republican attempts to finger Perfidious Albion). In recent years, however, the looming threat of an outbreak of a new influenza pandemic has reawakened general interest in the Great Flu of 90 years ago.

Guy Beiner is a senior lecturer at the Department of History in Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.

Patricia Marsh is a Ph.D candidate at the School of History and Anthropology, Queen’s University, Belfast.

Ida Milne is a Ph.D candidate at the Department of History, Trinity College, Dublin.

Further reading:

J. M. Barry, The Great Influenza: the epic story of the deadliest plague in history (New York, 2004).

N. Johnson, Britain and the 1918–19 influenza pandemic: a dark epilogue (Oxon, 2006).

H. Phillips and D. Killingray (eds), The Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918–19: new perspectives (London and New York, 2003).

By Emily Martin

Located in the U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive is a record of a long-forgotten naval base, a naval aviation base to be precise. Perhaps the reason Naval Air Station Queenstown—situated at Aghada, four miles from Queenstown (present-day Cobh), Ireland, in County Cork—was forgotten is because it existed for less than a year. Established in 1918, after the United States had entered World War I, the antisubmarine base closed a few months after Armistice Day.

Queenstown was one of four naval air stations the United States established in Ireland under the command of Navy Commander Francis McCrary. It consisted of six hangars for Curtiss H-16 flying boats, which patrolled for U-boats off Ireland’s southern coast. Beginning operations in the last months of the war, the station’s aircraft would fly a total of 64 war patrols and record three bombing attacks against German submarines.

Below is a small sampling from H. H. Jalbert’s photo album documenting life at the air station. D. M. Jalbert donated the album, without the photos showing H. H. Jalbert except for one, to the Naval Institute Photo Archive in the mid-1980s. One can only assume D. M. is a relation of H. H. Jalbert and wanted to keep the personal photos with the family.

Ireland’s response: Admirable advice

A man prepares anti-flu spray for London buses.

Public authorities must “reorganize their services at once”, be “mentally alert” and “physically active”, declared The Freeman’s Journal on 8 November. But it acknowledged that 90 year-old Sir Charles Cameron, Superintendent of Public Health, lacked “the energy and physical powers necessary to deal with the task”. Dublin GP, Kathleen Lynn, called for returning soldiers to be quarantined, as in Australia, and their uniforms fumigated to avoid infecting family and friends.

“The inside of the nose should be washed with soap and water”, recommended the Limerick Leader.

Dublin householders were encouraged to wash their floors with Americus disinfectant, and flush the toilet with carbolic. Streets were sprayed with Jeyes fluid, and trams and railway carriages scrubbed, though authorities stopped short of “generously” spraying passengers with disinfectant, as happened in Spain. Nor was handshaking or kissing outlawed, as in Arizona and Richmond, Virginia.

Meetings of large groups of people risked spreading the disease therefore markets, fairs and election rallies were called off.

Many local boards of health recommended that schools be closed. But headteachers were slow to comply since the disease was described as “virulent but not dangerous”.

Theatres were shut in Cork City, and the Lunatic Asylum banned all visitors – except to the dying.

Limerick City ordered cinemas to close their doors dances were cancelled in Fermoy, Co. Cork for several weeks and the GAA final between Tipperary and Wexford was postponed.

USS Sterett (DD-27) in rough seas off Ireland, 1918 - History

USS Tenadores , a 10,000 ton (displacement) troop transport, was built in 1913 at Belfast, Ireland, for the United Fruit Company of New York as the 7782 gross ton passenger-cargo steamer of the same name. She was taken over by the Navy in April 1918 and placed in commission at that time. During the rest of World War I she was employed taking American troops across the Atlantic to the European war zone. Following the 11 November 1918 Armistice she reversed the flow, bringing home more than 1600 veterans of the "Great War". On 28 December 1919, while approaching Brest, France after a voyage from New York, Tenadores ran aground in a fog. Though all on board were rescued, the ship could not be saved and was soon broken up by the sea.

This page features all available views concerning USS Tenadores .

Click on the small photograph to prompt a larger view of the same image.

Underway in 1918, while painted in "dazzle" camouflage.
Photographed by E. Muller Jr., New York.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 74KB 740 x 455 pixels

Underway in 1918, while painted in "dazzle" camouflage.

Collection of Arthur J. Rozett.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 45KB 740 x 450 pixels

Wrecked off Brest, France, where she ran aground on 28 December 1918.
The original image was printed on postal card ("AZO") stock.

Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2006.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 50KB 740 x 475 pixels

"St. Patrick's Day at Sea on U.S.S. Tenadores 1918"

View looking toward the bow over the ship's forward well deck. USS Tenadores was not yet in commission in March 1918, so she was probably still a civilian ship serving as a chartered troop transport at the time this photograph was taken.
Note that the troops visible are wearing campaign hats.

  • OFFICIAL NAME: Ireland
  • FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Constitutional Democracy
  • CAPITAL: Dublin
  • POPULATION: 5,068,050
  • MONEY: Euro
  • OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: English and Gaelic
  • AREA: 26,592 square miles (68,890 square kilometers)
  • MAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGES: Macgillycuddy's Reeks, Wicklow Mountains
  • MAJOR RIVERS: Shannon, Liffey, Boyne, Moy, Barrow


Ireland is an island nation on the westernmost edge of Europe. It is the continent's second largest island (after Great Britain). The Republic of Ireland occupies 80 percent of this landmass, while a large chunk of land in the north is part of the United Kingdom.

Ireland is known for its wide expanses of lush, green fields. In fact, its nickname is the Emerald Isle. But there are also large areas of rugged, rocky landscape. About 15,000 years ago, Ireland was completely covered by thick glaciers. The movement of these giant sheets of ice stripped the soil, leaving huge tracts of flat, limestone pavement.

The midlands and west coast of Ireland are dotted with damp peat bogs, the soggy remains of dried-up ancient lakes left by the glaciers. Ireland's highlands rise mainly in the southwest, often ending at sheer cliffs that plunge thousands of feet into the Atlantic Ocean.

Map created by National Geographic Maps


Ireland is a nation of storytellers. The tradition dates back to Celtic bards, who would record and recite the country's history. Many famed writers come from Ireland, including four winners of the Nobel Prize for literature. The Irish also excel in music and sports.


The Irish have a great affection for nature and rural life. The country's first coins even featured pictures of animals. Low levels of development and pollution in Ireland have left most of the nation's open spaces relatively undisturbed.

Did you know that there are no wild snakes in Ireland? The sea has stopped many animals common on mainland Europe from reaching the island. There are also only two wild mouse species, one type of lizard, and just three kinds of amphibians.

Irish wildlife is protected by government conservation programs. To preserve natural habitat, the government has established six national parks and hundreds of national heritage areas throughout the country.


The government of Ireland consists of an elected parliament, which makes the laws, and a president, who is head of state. The head of the government is the Taoiseach (pronounced tee-shuck), which means "chief." The Taoiseach is the leader of the political party with the most parliament members.

For most of its history, Ireland's economy has been based on farming and agriculture. But since the late 1950s, government efforts to attract business have turned the country from one of Europe's poorest nations to its second wealthiest. The amazing turnaround earned Ireland the nickname "Celtic Tiger."


Archaeologists think the first people to settle in Ireland arrived around 6000 B.C. By 3500 B.C., settlers were using stone tools to clear farmlands. Around 700 B.C., a diverse and technologically advanced culture from central Europe called the Celts began to settle the island. They would thrive there for nearly 2,000 years.

In the ninth century A.D., Viking invaders began raids into Ireland. They established settlements that later became some of the country's main cities, including the capital, Dublin. The Vikings and Celts fought often for 200 years until a battle in 1014 united the country. Peace broke down quickly though, and Ireland was divided into many kingdoms.

In 1170, Norman Vikings who had taken control of England invaded Ireland and made it an English territory. In the early 1600s, England's official religion became Protestant while most Irish remained Roman Catholic. This would create tensions that would eventually lead to revolution and Ireland's independence.

By the 1820s, British laws unfair to Catholics had sparked a mass movement for Irish sovereignty. In 1829, many of those laws were overturned, but Ireland still wanted freedom. In 1922, after violent uprisings, the Irish Free State was created within the British Empire.

In 1948, most of Ireland became an independent country, while six mainly Protestant counties in the northeast remained a British territory.

USS AL-1, 1918, Bantry Bay, Ireland [1280 x 1280]

This is the USS L-1 (temporarily redesignated as AL-1 while in European waters) while she was stationed in Bantry Bay, Ireland, sometime in 1918.

The United States sent a division of Submarines to be stationed in Ireland called "Submarine Division 5". They patrolled the Irish Sea, Bristol Channel, English Channel, and Western Approaches, from March, 1918 until the Armistice. They encountered German U-Boats twenty times, but did not manage to sink any of them.

Heh. Back in the day when these things were surface vessels which could submerge for a short while.

They weren't "surface vessels which could submerge for a short while".

They were submarines through and through, and the idea that they aren't doesn't a great disservice to both their designers and operators - and not to mention that it obscures how exactly they were used in both World Wars.

This is from a post I've made on BadHistory

"What exactly is a submarine?

I’d like to start this off with a discussion of what a submarine actually is, as I find in online discussions of both World Wars that the submarines used weren’t “real” submarines, but were instead just “submersibles”. The main thrust of the argument is that they weren’t able to stay underwater for an extended period of time and it is often backed up sources such as this. It makes the claim that U-Boats could only be submerged for “two hours at a time”. Even for the start of the war, that isn’t correct. Submarines from all nations were able to be submerged for a day or more, although by the 24 hour mark it wouldn’t necessarily have been the most comfortable. American submarines were supposed to spend roughly 12-18 hours submerged a day, surfacing for a noon-sight and to clear out any messes/refresh O2, and at midnight for a midnight sight. However, if the weather was bad at night they were supposed to stay submerged. So that could mean an entire day was spent under the waves, and these were on submarines not designed for the task they were given.

But, I’d go even farther and argue that having a shorter submerged endurance than modern nuclear-powered submarines doesn’t make them “not submarines”. They were principally designed to operate underwater, except generally while transiting to and from station, and were generally better controlled under the waves. They were not attached to another vessel like “submersibles” generally are, they were autonomous (in the sense that they did not need to be hooked up to another vessel for O2, electricity, etc…).

Even further, it’s important to remember that they were called submarines by people during the war. At the time there wasn’t much of a distinction within the English language between submersible and submarine and I’ve seen both terms used interchangeably in [some] period works, but submarine does seem to be the dominant term.

Thus, for these reasons I maintain that they are actually submarines. Sure, they don’t have the endurance of modern submarines, but that’s a given and doesn’t retroactively make them “not” something."

New identities

Now, prosperous Slovenia is looking forward to EU and NATO membership. Croatia is recovering from war, and its territory is intact, although most of its Serbs have fled or been driven out. Bosnia is divided into two, a shattered land still struggling to overcome the legacy of the war. Macedonia has been riven by ethnic conflict - but spared all-out war - between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians returned to Kosovo after the war there, but then 230,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians were forced to flee.

Whether two republics of such unequal size can work together in one federation remains to be seen.

Serbia and Montenegro have been impoverished by the wars and even today - as their new union is being formed - their future state is far from assured. Serbs and Montenegrins have much in common, especially their common Orthodox heritage, but Serbia is a land of some eight million people, and Montenegro has only 650,000 citizens. Whether two republics of such unequal size can work together in one federation remains to be seen. The new deal is for a loose union for three years, after which either republic can opt for independence. On paper it is a sensible compromise. In reality it will be hard, but not impossible, to make it work - if there is enough goodwill.

The new deal, however, makes no provision for Kosovo, a UN protectorate since 1999, but still nominally part of Yugoslavia - or now its successor state. Its majority Albanian population has no intention of ever entering any new union with Belgrade, while its Serbs have no intention of permitting it to take the path of independence. If they can't prevent independence they (and the policymakers in Belgrade), would probably like to partition it, with the northern Serbian inhabited areas staying within Serbia. So, the final disintegration of the old Yugoslav state is not yet complete.

Having taken their different paths, the people of the former Yugoslavia will look back on the past with different and mixed emotions. The final end of Yugoslavia will barely be noticed in much of the old country, and in Serbia and Montenegro most people are simply too exhausted by the conflicts of the past and the difficulties of life to really care.

The final end of Yugoslavia will barely be noticed in much of the old country.

But throughout the old Yugoslavia, and especially amongst those who grew up under Tito (except perhaps the Kosovo Albanians), the passing of its name will leave many with a wistful feeling - a feeling for which, indeed, they already have a name: Yugonostalgia.



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