Historian looks back at Great War

A BANBRIDGE man is about to launch a book recalling the history of the Northern Irish Regiments in the Great War.

Gavin Hughes has written the book, ‘The Hounds of Ulster’ with the academic publisher, Peter Lang (Oxford) and is to be officially launched in Belfast at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution on November 22.

An academic military historian, Gavin is also an archaeologist whose research covers many different periods, from medieval warfare to the First and Second World Wars.

He says, “I’m a Banbridge man, educated up at Inst in Belfast and then over in Wales at Saint David’s University College, Lampeter, where I spent six very happy years and met my wife, Liz.

“Although I was brought up in Scarva, then Magherally - where my parents still live - we are now resident in the town with our young daughter, Catherine.

“I am currently a Research Associate at Trinity College Dublin and, in 2010, I co-edited a volume called ‘Southern Ireland and the Liberation of France: New Perspectives’ (Peter Lang, Oxford 2010) with Dr. Gerald Morgan, TCD.”

He added, “Professor Keith Jeffery [Professor of British History, Q.U.B.] examined my Ph.D - from which this book basically evolved - and has very kindly agreed to say a few words beforehand.”

At the outbreak of the Great War, the regiments of Ulster already boasted a proud tradition. The ‘Skins’, the ‘Inniskillings’, the ‘Faughs’ and the ‘Rifles’ had all fought with distinction from Waterloo to South Africa. In August 1914, the number of Northern Irish infantry battalions stood at just thirteen, six of which were Regular units.

By November 1918, this had increased to 46 infantry battalions, 30 of which had been deployed in the spiralling conflict overseas. Of this number, an incredible twenty-four battalions were raised from volunteers.

This book gives a concise thematic account of the complex experiences of the Northern Irish regiments at war, whether

they served in the quagmire of the Western Front, the dusty slit-trenches of Gallipoli and Salonica or the baking heat of the Holy Land. Above all, it tells the story of the fighting men themselves.

Whether they were veteran Regulars, apolitical volunteers or men who had drilled and marched with the Ulster Volunteer Force or the Irish National Volunteers, they were all swept into the maelstrom of ‘total war’.

The study provides a richly detailed analysis of the role played by the Ulster regiments in a conflict which shattered the old world order forever.

The book’s topics cover Ulster military tradition and identity, mobilisation, recruitment, Ulster cavalry and regular regiments on the Western Front, politics in the ranks, religion in the trenches, Gallipoli, Salonica and the Palestinian campaigns, Ulster traditions and cultural identity in the field, anti-recruitment and the Easter Rising, the Conscription Crisis and the Armistice and post-war conflict.