Lest We Forget? It Seems We Have

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<ul><li><p>Fortnight Publications Ltd.</p><p>Lest We Forget? It Seems We HaveThe Road to the Somme: Men of the Ulster Division Tell Their Story by Philip OrrReview by: Rob FairmichaelFortnight, No. 261 (Apr., 1988), p. 19Published by: Fortnight Publications Ltd.Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25551518 .Accessed: 24/06/2014 23:07</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.</p><p> .</p><p>Fortnight Publications Ltd. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Fortnight.</p><p>http://www.jstor.org </p><p>This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:07:37 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=fortpubhttp://www.jstor.org/stable/25551518?origin=JSTOR-pdfhttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsphttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>books </p><p>Lest we </p><p>forget? </p><p>It seems </p><p>we have </p><p>Rob Fairmichael </p><p>Philip Orr The Road to the Somme: </p><p>men of the Ulster division tell their </p><p>story Blackstaff, ?9.95 </p><p>ililiiiii </p><p>A life of close shaves?men of the Ulster division behind their lines in Essigny in 1918 </p><p>HOW WE remember the dead is probably quite a good indication of how </p><p>we relate to the living. There is little sign that in Ireland we have learned </p><p>how to commemorate all those who have died in political conflicts and </p><p>wars. In the Republic, how to remember those who fought under a British </p><p>flag in the world wars is still very much a live issue. And when, two </p><p>armistice days ago in Belfast, an Alliance councillor wore a red and a </p><p>white poppy it caused apoplexy among many unionists, and some mem </p><p>bers of his own party. </p><p>Philip Orr's book is of considerable service in adopting a matter-of </p><p>fact approach to how the men of the 36th (Ulster) division lived and died. </p><p>It is well illustrated with contemporary photographs, as well as cartoons </p><p>by a soldier, Jim Maultsaid. </p><p>I would challenge anyone to read it without feeling a lump in their </p><p>throat?as I did on several occasions. Some of the most poignant pieces are not about the battlefront but the home front: the father of a boy living near Bleary was journeying to Lurgan station to join up, and "to the sound </p><p>of receding hoofbeats on a country lane, one boy's father disappeared out </p><p>of his life". </p><p>But horror there was, and bravery, stupidity, cruelty and 'coward </p><p>ice'?at least one Belfast man was executed for desertion. Perhaps it was </p><p>Dark reflections?a brazier-lit </p><p>dug-out viewed from the darkness of the trench </p><p>a sane response to an </p><p>insane war but deser </p><p>tion was labelled by the nation state as </p><p>cowardice in the face </p><p>of 'the enemy'. At the other end </p><p>was Billy McFad </p><p>zean, from Cregagh, who instinctively threw himself on two </p><p>grenades whose pins fell out when a box of </p><p>them fell in the trenches. McFadzean </p><p>was instantly blown to </p><p>smithereens, but </p><p>saved all his comrades </p><p>except one who lost a </p><p>leg. He was awarded a </p><p>posthumous VC. </p><p>As for stupidity, the officers come in </p><p>for some stick from </p><p>those interviewed. </p><p>Tommy Jordan, from </p><p>Ballynafeigh, 'lost a </p><p>stripe' for losing his </p><p>temper with an officer </p><p>who gave out to him </p><p>for the state of his </p><p>boots. He had been at the front for days, returning tired and unkempt and </p><p>suffering from damaged eardrums. </p><p>But, while the book focuses mainly on the personal stories of the men </p><p>who fought at the Somme, it also looks at the policies and the propaganda. A short introduction explains the origin of the war in the rampant nationalisms and imperialisms of the European powers. It charts the </p><p>establishment in January 1913 of the UVF, drawing under one command </p><p>volunteer forces which had emerged in opposition to home rule. Carson </p><p>negotiated with the British before committing his followers to the Euro </p><p>pean fray. Unique amongst the army, the 36th division was set up in </p><p>September 1914, with its basis in an oathbound paramilitary organisa tion?the UVF. </p><p>Orr quotes conflicting statistics as to whether more Prods or Teagues </p><p>joined the British army. Certainly the 36th was almost all Protestant, but </p><p>if some figures are right higher proportions volunteered from some </p><p>southern, 'Catholic' counties than from the Protestant heartlands of </p><p>Antrim and Down. Both loyalist and nationalist leaders saw participation as guaranteeing a favourable reaction to their political claims when the </p><p>war was over. </p><p>Orr remarks on this naivete: the price paid was to no avail. While </p><p>sentiment may have played a part in the political 'settlement' of partition, brute politics probably paid little note to such niceties. And the UVF, set </p><p>up to defend 'Ulster' against 'Rome rule', had faced slaughter in defence </p><p>of Catholic France. </p><p>The author deals in detail with the 'big push' of July 1st, 1916. The massive bombardment of German positions was meant to leave a </p><p>walkover for the British forces; instead they met stiff resistance and </p><p>merciless machine-gun fire from higher ground. The battle plan was </p><p>inflexible and contributed to the carnage on the British side. </p><p>The 36th division did relatively well, in military terms, in reaching the </p><p>German fifth line of defence. But the further it pushed the more isolated </p><p>it became, since the divisions on either side made little progress. Orr </p><p>postulates that the 36th got so far because it had been ready and waiting, in no man's land, when the whistle went. Heavy German reinforcements </p><p>and counter-attacks, plus lack of British support, meant the survivors </p><p>were almost all back at their original trenches by nightfall. If the figures Orr quotes for those from the Ulster division who went </p><p>'over the top' are typical, men stood around an 80 percent chance of being killed, wounded or captured on July 1 st, 1916. Altogether 21,000 British troops died that day, with 35,000 wounded and 600 taken prisoner. The aftermath is traced: the buff envelopes arriving at home, the heartbreak for </p><p>those at the front and those left behind. </p><p>The memories of the hell of battle stayed with the survivors. As one </p><p>wrote 50 years later, "we were locked in chains for execution". Another, </p><p>George McBride, pointed to the continuity between the Great War and the </p><p>Cold War of the 80s: "Even with all the weapons we have now, we can </p><p>only do on a bigger scale what we did in the last ones." </p><p>As NATO rearms Europe with new nuclear weapons not proscribed by the Euro-missile treaty of last December, the question remains of whether </p><p>humankind has learned the lessons of the Great War, of the inhumanity so </p><p>well documented by Philip Orr. The answer, seemingly, is no. </p><p>Fortnight April 19 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:07:37 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p><p>Article Contentsp. 19</p><p>Issue Table of ContentsFortnight, No. 261 (Apr., 1988), pp. 1-32Front MatterBack to the Drawing Board [p. 2-2]Selective Interment [p. 3-3]BriefingSect behind CEC Split [p. 4-4]Pope's Man for Dublin [p. 4-4]'Jesuitical' Judgment [pp. 4-5]Joint Action against AIDS [p. 5-5]Forum for Feminism [p. 5-5]The New Republic? [p. 5-5]</p><p>Cover StoryPoll Shock for Accord [pp. 6-8]</p><p>A Month of Living Dangerously [pp. 10-11]Taoiseach Must Urge Devolution [p. 12-12]Agreement Review Holds the Key [p. 13-13]CJ and Jim Have Much in Common [pp. 13-14]Contradictions and Contortions [p. 14-14]Just How Firm Is Affirmative? [p. 15-15]Diary of Events [p. 16-16]Letters [p. 17-17]BooksReview: Lest We Forget? It Seems We Have [p. 19-19]Review: Sorcerer's Apprentice [p. 20-20]Review: Turbulence, Tranquillity [p. 21-21]Review: The Greatest Leveller [p. 21-21]Review: Face to Face with Tonto's Expanding Headband [p. 22-22]Review: Rescued and Recognised [p. 22-22]</p><p>Poetry and the Beggar at the Gate [pp. 24-25]The BBC: What's Next? [pp. 26-27]Splicing Culture and Commerce [p. 28-28]Art for Money's Sake [p. 28-28]Poems [p. 29-29]Arresting Parts of the Furniture [p. 29-29]Sidelines: What's in a Name? [p. 31-31]Back Matter</p></li></ul>