StoryBox : Waterford in World War 1

The causes of the First World War are many and complex. In the years leading up to the outbreak of the First World War tensions were high across Europe as countires struggled for security and power. A series of alliances were struck between countries that resulted in the spread of war across Europe and far beyond in 1914. The spark that ignited the outbreak of the First World War was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austria-Hungarian throne, on 28 June 1914. It was the belief of Austria-Hungary that the Serbian government were connected to those who carried out the assassination that lead them to declare war on Serbia on 31st July 1914. This, in turn, caused Russia to declare war on Austria-Hungary in support of their allies, Serbia. It was this system of alliances that pulled France, Germany and Britain into the war as well. Germany in support of its allies Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia on the 1st August and on France on the 3rd of August 1914.

Britain joined the war in support of its ally Belgium. In the Treaty of London 1839 Britain committed to defend Belgium and when Germany invaded Belgium in order to counter any possible movement by France, Britain called for Germany to leave Belgium. On 4th August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany following its failure to retreat from Belgium. Ireland was still part of Britain in 1914 and as a result Ireland was at war.

In 1914 the focus of Ireland was on the goal of Home Rule. John Redmond, MP for Waterford between 1891 and 1918 was the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. He had successfully manoeuvered to bring the Home Rule Bill, 1914 through the House of Commons and through the House of Lords, where the six counties of Northern Ireland were to be temporarily removed from the provisions of the Act, against the wishes of Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party. Despite the abstention of the Irish Parliamentary Party in the House of Lords, the Bill was passed and Home Rule was due to be signed into law with royal assent in September 1914 when the outbreak of the First World War intervened and postponed the enactment of Home Rule for Ireland. John Redmond called on the Irish Volunteers to support the Allies and Britain in the war effort and to join the British Army to fight.

Many in Waterford responded to this call to serve and left Waterford City and County to fight and die on the battle fields of the First World War. Information on those who gave their lives can be found on the database of the Waterford War Dead. To find out more about those who served during the First World War take look through the Permanent Digital Memorial Lives of the First World War. This digital memorial provides people with the opportunity to find out more about those who served in the First World War and also to add any information they have to that memorial.

The following exhibition from the archives held in Waterford City and County provides a glimpse into aspects of the First World War and life in Waterford from 1914-1918.