Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson: A Political Soldier – Keith Jeffery

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Having just completed my second reading of Keith Jeffery’s 2006 biography of Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, two thoughts are prominent:

What a misunderstood man, Henry Wilson was – until this biography came out, finally correcting the image of this intelligent, mischievous soldier away from the malicious intriguer portrayed in Charles Callwell’s edition of his diaries, which were rushed out at the behest of Wilson’s angry widow in an ill-conceived attack at those she felt had let her husband down. What comes across is Wilson’s early awareness of the political turmoil that was beginning to engulf Europe and the likely course it was to take – alongside his occupation of the space between the brass hats and frock coats at a time when strategy was still the province of the generals and before it became the use of war for the purposes of policy. Wilson was a man ahead of his time.

What a grievous loss to the historical world, Keith Jeffrey’s premature death in 2016 was – particularly to the history of Ireland in the twentieth century. Jeffrey was to go on to write an official history of MI6 as well as his global history of the key events of 1916 but his death at 64 has deprived us of anymore of his insightful historical analysis – which is a great pity.

Very highly recommended.

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“The Country House and the Great War: Irish and British Experiences” by  Terence Dooley & Christopher Ridgway (Editors)

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An interesting collection of sixteen pieces from Four Courts Press of Dublin, focussing on the effect of the Great War on the Country House which is aimed at the general reader but is fully annotated as to the sources used. Edited by Terence Dooley, director of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates, based at Maynooth University, and Christopher Ridgway, curator at Castle Howard, the chapters cover ten Irish houses and six in Great Britain and all illustrate the devastating familial and society-changing impact that the war had on the families that inhabited the Edwardian “big house”.
A good introduction to a subject that needs more research.

The Maps, Plans & Drawings collection of Military Barracks in Ireland

The Defence Forces Ireland have started to make their archives available online on their website – http://www.militaryarchives.ie/home – with two areas released to date: The Bureau of Military History & The Maps, Plans and Drawings collection of Military Barracks in Ireland.

The Irish Military Barracks Maps, Plans and Drawings Collection is described as “a unique collection pertaining to the construction and maintenance of military barracks in Ireland from c.1830 to c 1980” and “contains many previously unseen architectural drawings from the British War Office, the Royal Engineer Corps, the Ordnance Survey and latterly the (Irish) Defence Forces Engineer Corps.” Of their collection of 4,000 maps and drawings, 650 have been released online already.

From a Great War point of view, there are several gems hidden within the collection, three of which are highlighted here.

Clandeboye Camp, Down, Ireland

This plan is dated 5th May 1915 and captures the layout of the camp right before the 36th (Ulster) Division vacated the camp on its way to Seaford in Sussex before embarking for France in October 1915.

Ballykinler Camp, Down Ireland


The other two plans show Ballykinler Camp – the overall map is dated 1903 while the plan of the camp layout is from 1919. Ballykinler was also used by the 36th (Ulster) Division for training before becoming an internment camp initially during the Irish War of Independence, this use continuing after partition in 1921.

For any researcher looking into the activities of the British Army in Ireland, the online archive can be highly recommended.