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A Victorian Graveyard

Grangegorman Military Cemetery, situated on Blackhorse Avenue, was established in 1876 as a graveyard for the soldiers and workers, and their families, of the nearby barracks. It is composed of just under six acres. At first this was solely for the Royal Barracks (now Collins Barracks); from around 1892 the newly-built Marlborough Barracks (now McKee Barracks) was included.

In a manner typical of British military graveyards, most of the gravestones are uniform in appearance, and give just the name, date, and rank of the person interred. Casualties of conflicts such as the Crimean War, the Easter Rising, the Irish War of Independence, and the First and Second World Wars, are buried in Grangegorman. Because Marlborough Barracks was used as a place of recuperation for Commonwealth troops, there are soldiers of many different nationalities represented among the headstones. The cemetery is therefore divided into geographically-themed sections. There are over 1,100 headstones in the cemetery.

Part of the Lawrence Collection, Robert French probably took this image of Marlborough Barracks (now McKee Barracks) around 1900. National Library of Ireland.
The General Post Office Headquarters of the 1916 Rising. OPW.

A Witness to Twentieth-Century Conflicts

The graves of 613 soldiers who were engaged in the First World War are buried in precise rows. There are also twelve graves from the Second World War. The graves of three soldiers are unidentified. A memorial wall of Irish limestone, fifteen metres long and two metres high, commemorates those who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars and are buried elsewhere. In front of this wall stand eighty-three headstones in memory of those buried in Cork Military Cemetery. Plot 222 is the grave of Sgt. Major Martin Doyle from New Ross, who was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration.

The cemetery also contains a Turkish Hazel tree, planted in 2005 by the ambassadors of Turkey, Australia, and New Zealand, in a ceremony that commemorated the 90th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings. The Rising which occurred during Easter Week 1916 resulted in over a hundred casualties in the British army. Around seventy of these are buried in Grangegorman. These included eleven Sherwood Foresters and seventeen men of the South Staffordshire Regiment. Irish men who were serving in the British army, and who fought during Easter week, were also buried in Grangegorman. The Irish regiments represented in this way the cemetery were the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, the Royal Munster Fusiliers, and the Royal Irish Rifles.

The RMS Leinster. Courtesy of An Post Museum & Archive.

The RMS Leinster

The RMS Leinster was commissioned in 1895 by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, as one of four ships, each of which was named after an Irish province. She travelled between Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) and Holyhead, as a mailboat. When submarine attacks on British merchant shipping grew, all merchant ships, including the Leinster and her sisters were recalled to shipyards for a number of modifications. The ships were painted in camouflage, which gave them an appearance similar to that of a warship. To add to the warlike appearance, a 12-pounder (i.e. 3 inch) gun was mounted on a platform at the stern of each vessel, just behind the boat deck. Members of the Royal Navy were assigned to each ship, as gunners for the 12-pounder. The guns were put in place at a time when submarines made surface attacks. The guns forced German submarines to operate from beneath the surface of the sea. This in turn ironically rendered the guns useless for defensive purposes. The Leinster also had two signal guns.

A newspaper headline and clipping from the RMS Leinster disaster. Courtesy of Philip Lecane.

On the morning of the 10th of October 1918, there were 694 passengers and 77 crew on board under Captain William Birch. The majority of passengers on board that day were soldiers and nurses. The ship was twice struck by torpedoes from German U-boat UB-123, resulting in over 500 casualties. It was the greatest ever loss of life in the Irish Sea. Twenty-one of the dead were postal workers who had been in the on-board sorting office. In 2008, the 90th anniversary of the sinking, An Post issued a stamp to commemorate them. The postal sorters are also commemorated by memorial plaques in the museum of the General Post Office, and in the Dún Laoghaire post office. While returning to Germany, submarine UB-123 was lost in a minefield in the North Sea, with the loss of all of her 36 man crew. 145 of the military casualties of the RMS Leinster sinking are buried in Grangegorman, making it the cemetery with by far the greatest number of casualties of the sinking.

With thanks to Philip Lecane, author of Torpedoed! The RMS Leinster Disaster (2005).


Still Open for Business

Grangegorman is still open for burial, but under strict criteria. Application can be made to the Commissioners for Public Works either in a new grave, in the case of a person who has given service in the British Army prior to 1 April 1923, or in an existing grave in the case of a near relative of the deceased soldier buried in the grave.

Find a Grave

If you are interested in finding the grave of a specific person, there are a number of sources that can help. Memorial Inscriptions of Grangegorman Military Cemetery (Genealogical Society of Ireland, 2006) is an excellent guide. There is an incomplete list of burials available online at internment.net. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission also has a searchable database.

Bibliography

  • Memorial Inscriptions of Grangegorman Military Cemetery (Genealogical Society of Ireland, 2006)
  • Burnell, Tom. Irishmen in the Great War: Reports from the Front 1914 (2014)
  • Igoe, Vivien. Dublin Burial Grounds and Graveyards (2001)
  • Lecane, Philip. Torpedoed! The RMS Leinster Disaster (2005)
  • Stokes, Roy. Death in the Irish Sea: The Sinking of RMS Leinster (1998)

 

Useful Links

Plan for Grangegorman Cemetery, as published in 'Memorial Inscriptions of Grangegorman Military Cemetery' (2006) by the Irish Genealogical Society, and reproduced with their permission.

Gate Lodge

Section K: Modern

This section contains mostly gravestones from after 1950.

Section M: Wall Memorial

This honours those who died in both World Wars but who are buried elsewhere in Ireland.

Section N: Cork Memorials

These panels honour those who died in both World Wars, and who are buried in Cork Military Cemetery.

Section D: CWGC WW1 and Rising

This section consists of five rows of CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) headstones, of those who died in the First World War and in the Easter Rising.

Section C: COI/E and the 3 Unidentified

Church of Ireland and Church of England casualties of the First World War, the RMS Leinster sinking, and the War of Independence. Of particular interest may be the only unidentified casualty from the Second World War in Grangegorman, an RAF soldier, and two unidentified casualties from the First World War, one of which was involved in the RMS Leinster sinking.

Section H: Individual Graves

A small section, with individual gravestones spaced widely apart.

Section G: Roman Catholic CWGC

This section is mostly devoted to Roman Catholics who died in the First World War, and consists of uniform CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) graves.

Section F: Presbyterian and Modern

Including casualties of the RMS Leinster, those injured in the First World War who later died of their wounds while convalescing in Ireland, and those killed during Easter Week 1916, and in the Second World War. The majority of this section contains Presbyterian burials, and are individual gravestones rather than uniform. Of particular interest may be one of the few modern gravestones; that of Annie Whelan in 1974.

Section E: Australian, NZ, Canadian Graves

Including casualties of the RMS Leinster, those injured in the First World War who later died of their wounds while convalescing in Ireland, and those killed during Easter Week 1916. Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian soldiers are also buried here.

Section B: COI/E Officers and May Westwell

Church of Ireland and Church of England officers, including those who died in the First World War, the Easter Rising, the War of Independence, and the RMS Leinster sinking. Of particular interest in this section is the gravestone of the only female military casualty of the RMS Leinster sinking – Assistant Administrator May Westwell of Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps.

Section A: Oldest Section

This section contains the oldest headstones, dating from the nineteenth century.

Section J: WW2 and Victoria Cross

Burials from the Second World War, as well as the headstone of Martin Doyle, the one holder of the Victoria Cross medal in Grangegorman.

View more images of the cemetery, both current and historical, in the Gallery.

Browse the Gallery