Victory Day commemorations in Dublin 100 years Ago Today
On 11 November, 1918, the guns fell silent across frontlines spanning several continents. Some ten million military personnel and eight million civilians lost their lives. Millions of others were severally wounded, many went on to live with hidden wounds that haunted them for the rest of their lives. The war to end all wars, however, did not officially end until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919 in Versailles between the Allied Powers and Germany; exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The remaining Central Powers signed separate treaties.
To celebrate the ending of the war and to pay tribute to the men and women who had fought and died during the conflict, Victory Day or Peace Day commemorations were held around the world. In Britain a Peace Committee met on 9 May 1919, and outlined a series of celebrations throughout the Great Britain and Ireland running over four days, including a Public Holiday, Victory Marches, a day of thanksgiving services, and other popular festivities. The main Victory/Peace Parades took place on 19 July, 1919. In Ireland parades were held throughout the country; the largest taking place in Dublin centred around College Green.
The Evening Herald, Saturday, 19 July, 1919 reported:
‘Dublin’s Peace Day
Huge Crowds Witness Military Pageant in the Streets
THE IRISH REGIMENTS CHEERED
The much-discussed military demonstration in celebration of Peace took place to-day in Dublin, and was witnessed by huge crowds who lined the streets in the vicinity of College Green. The chief centre of attraction was College Green, where a platoon was erected outside the Bank of Ireland, and was occupied Viscount French, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and other members of the Irish Government.
It is estimated that 15,000 troops and about 5,000 demobilised soldiers (all Irish) took part in the “Victory Parade.” The remnants of the Irish regiments were heartily greeted by the assembled crowds. Irish music by many bands was a feature of the proceeding.’
The papers noted the excitement in Dublin as people travelled to the city the previous day and took up roof top positions early that morning; crowds even trampled each other around O’Connell Bridge when they leaned the parade was not coming their way. A detachment of Irish Guards had been sent from London and it was their pipe band who took a pride of place. Amongst the guardsmen was a blinded comrade. Some of the units taken part included: the Royal Irish Regiment, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Royal Irish Fusiliers, the Connaught Rangers, the Royal Munster Fusiliers, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the Leinster Regiment also marched. Naturally the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, which were estimated at a 1,000, were greeted with cheer after cheer. For those wounded who couldn’t march a viewing stand was erected. The bands played a variety of Irish music; St. Patrick’s Day and the Wearing of the Green most noted.
The Irish Times noted: ‘Outside of London the whole kingdom saw no more heart-stirring celebration of the day than in Dublin. Our city’s Victory March furnished a noble answer to those who say that Ireland did not give her best to the cause of freedom.’
Around the country other smaller parades took place in Athlone, Belfast, Cork, and Limerick, just to name a few.
Not everyone was happy with the parades. Black flags were hung out in several areas to note those who had been killed. Between 3,000 and 5,000 nationalist veterans under Sir Henry Grattan Bellew boycotted the parade as they felt betrayed after fighting for the liberation of smaller nations and Ireland was still without Home Rule. Republicans too were not impressed and in places sneered at the troops and painted slogans such as ‘You fought for freedom where is it!’