The tragic story of the 16th Irish Division, which ended with its expungment from Irish history, could not have had a worst start when the British military establishment refused to recognise, in even the smallest detail, Irish willingness to provide an autonomous formation as the reborn nation's contibution to the 'Great Fight for Civilisation'. Lloyd-George, who was the British Prime Minister for the latter part of the war, included the following damning indictment of Kitchener in his War memoirs:


"......But unhappily for the country, [Kitchener] maintained his dislike for the Irish Division. This formation represented poor John Redmond's last effort to bring Ireland effectively into the war. He addressed recruiting meetings throughout Ireland, and his eloquence won thousands of young Irish Nationalists and Catholics to fight under the standard of freedom and justice raised by the British Empire. His brother, William Redmond, one of the best loved members of the House of Commons, took a commission in this new unit, and he subsequently fell fighting under the British flag in France. But Lord Kitchener did his best to damp the ardour of the Redmonds. He refused commissions to educated young Irishmen of the class and type who were being made officers in England, Scotland and Wales, for no conceivable reason except that he distrusted and disliked their nationalism. The culminating incident will take an invidiously prominent place in the tragic history of Irish relations with Great Britain.

Nationalist ladies, fired with enthusiasm for the new Irish Division, for Mr Redmond and for the cause to which they were devoting themselves, embroidered a silken flag with the Irish harp emblazoned upon it. At the same time the patriotic ladies of Ulster were embroidering the Red Hand of Ulster on the flag which they designed to present to a division which was being raised in Ulster. In due course the two flags were presented to the respective divisions. One was taken and the other left.

When Lord Kitchener heard of the green flag and its Irish harp he ordered that it should be taken away. But the Ulster flag was allowed to wave gloriously over the heads of the Orange soldiers of the Protestant north. Ireland was deeply hurt. Her pride was cut to the quick, her sense of fair play was outraged, her sympathy with the Holy War against the military dictatorship of Europe was killed, and John Redmond's heart was broken. He ought to have appealed to Parliament, but he probably knew it was too late to avert the evil. From that moment the effort of Irish Nationalism to reconcile England and Ireland by uniting the two peoples in a common effort for the oppressed of another land failed, and Lord Kitchener's sinister order constituted the first word in a new chapter of Irish history."

David Lloyd George: British Prime Minister


Source: War Memoirs of David Lloyd George, 1938, Odhams

Music:"Wearin' of the Green"

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