The Irish military tradition and the British Empire
in ‘An Irish Empire’?
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In the early nineteenth century Ireland supplied a disproportionate share of the soldiers in the British army. During the period from the Second South African War to the World War of 1914-1918 criticism by nationalists of Irish recruitment to the British forces gathered strength. The Irish Republic remained a significant source of recruits, at least for the Irish infantry regiments. Family tradition has certainly sustained enlistment from Ireland, but also for those Irishmen who simply desired to pursue a military career, the British Army offered more exciting opportunities than the Irish army. Most of the accounts of Irish military service under the British Crown have been written by ex-British soldiers themselves. The inherent attractions of serving what remains of the British Empire still find some response, it seems, in the martial Irish breast.

‘An Irish Empire’?

Aspects of Ireland and the British Empire

Editor: Keith Jeffery


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