This guide provides an overview of the sources relating to the topic of military history held in the Special Collections and Archives department at the Glucksman Library.
It outlines the various types of archival and printed material relating to military history held at UL, and suggests other archive services and online resources which may be of interest to researchers.
- First World War
- Irish War of Independence and Civil War
- Daly Papers
- East Limerick Brigade Papers
- West Clare Brigade Papers
- Healy Papers
- McGowan Papers
- O'Mara Papers
- Twomey Papers
- Spanish Civil War
- The Troubles
A number of our archival collections contain material of military interest, including correspondence, diaries, and photographs. We also hold a number of key reference texts to help get you started with your research. However, we do not hold any official military records:
- Irish pre-independence military records, such as service and pensions records and regimental diaries, are held in the UK National Archives. They also have a good range of research guides on how to search these records.
- Irish post-independence military records, including records of the Defence Forces, the Department of Defence, and the Army Pensions Board are held in the Military Archives in Dublin. You can browse or search their collections, download research guides, and search the Military Service Pensions Collection online.
This guide refers to material held in Special Collections and Archives only. For more information on the Glucksman Library’s main collection, including journals and databases, search the main library catalogue.
2. Key reference texts
There is a wealth of reference texts relating to military history in Special Collections and Archives. Here are just a few to get you started on your research:
- The Irish Sword (JOU/IRI/SWO)
- The widow’s penny by Patrick J McNamara (Leonard/B/1885)
- The Limerick Spanish Civil War archive edited by Barrie Wharton (Special Collections 946.08134194/WHA)
- A bibliography of regimental histories of the British Army compiled by Arthur S White (Special Collections/REF/016.355310941/WHI)
- History of the Royal Munster Fusiliers by Captain S McCance (Special Collections/356.110941/MCC)
- The Connaught Rangers by HFN Jourdain and Edward Fraser(Norton/B/1129)
Search the library catalogue here
3. Key archive collections and further reading
First World War
This small but poignant collection contains the diary, letters, and medals of Thomas Noonan (1891-1915) of Ballyguy, County Limerick, who emigrated to Australia in 1914 and within months of his arrival in Sydney enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force. He was wounded in the landings at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula in April 1915 and was transferred to a military hospital in Cairo for treatment. In July, he was returned to front line duty in Gallipoli, only to be killed in action on 9 August 1915. He is buried at the 7th Field Ambulance Cemetery in Gallipoli. His letters describe his daily life as a private, the training he received, his youthful courage bordering on fatalism, and his affection and longing for his family in Ireland.
This large estate collection contains almost 50,000 items relating to members of the Armstrong family of Moyaliffe Castle, County Tipperary, including Captain William Maurice ‘Pat’ Armstrong of the 10th Royal Hussars, who fought and died in the First World War. His diaries and more than 500 letters to his parents and sisters provide detailed accounts of the wartime operations of the 86th brigade in which Pat served as a staff officer, of the First and Second Battles of Ypres, and of the conflicts at Gallipoli, Somme, and Arras, where Pat was killed by a sniper in May 1917. The collection also contains letters from many of the high-ranking officers and other prominent individuals of the First World War, including General Sir Henry de Beauvoir de Lisle (1864–1955), Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas D’Oyly Snow (1858–1940), Major-General Thomas Tait Pitman (1868–1941), and the Victoria Cross recipient Captain Robert Gee (1876–1960). Equally interesting are the several hundred images taken by Pat Armstrong of field operations in Belgium, France, and Gallipoli. The diaries kept by his mother and middle sister Winona ‘Jess’ Armstrong provide insights into life on the home front during the war, much of which the family spent in Folkestone, Kent. Also included in the collection are letters written by ‘Jess’ Armstrong’s future husband Captain William Kemmis from the front line to his father during the First World War, and some 40 post-war letters from Field Marshal Earl Haig (1861–1928), with whom Kemmis enjoyed a personal friendship.
Further online resources relating to the First World War:
- Much of the wartime material in the Armstrong collection is available on our online exhibition It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, which follows lives of the Armstrong family during the First World War in ‘real time’ through weekly blog posts of letters, diary extracts, and photographs.
- Europeana 1914–1918 is a database of images, sound recordings, texts, videos, and objects from Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland, Slovenia, and the UK relating to the First World War.
- The Imperial War Museum online.
- FirstWorldWar.com provides a timeline, descriptions of battles, biographical directory of individuals, notes on weaponry, downloadable memoirs and diaries, vintage videos, and photographs relating to the First World War.
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission provides a searchable database of the fallen soldiers of the First and Second World Wars.
- Our Heroes is a searchable database of the contents of the publication Our Heroes containing biographical notes on Irish soldiers who fought and died in the First World War.
- The Illustrated First World War is a searchable issues of The Illustrated War News, The Bystander, The Illustrated London News, The Graphic, The Tatler, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, The Sphere, and The Sketch published during the war.
- Cartooning the First World War is a digitised collection of all the wartime cartoons by Joseph Morewood Staniforth which originally appeared in News of the World and Western Mail.
Irish War of Independence and Civil War
This collection provides a unique insight into the birth of the Irish republic and the country’s search for an identity in the first decades of its existence through the eyes of the Daly family of devoted republicans, who ran a bakery at No. 26 William Street in Limerick city. At the core of the collection is material relating to John Daly (1845–1916), a prominent Fenian, three-time Mayor of Limerick (1899–1901), and an inspiring figurehead of nationalist politics to the generation that followed him. Of particular note is Daly’s correspondence with the republican revolutionary Thomas Clarke (1858–1916), who married Daly’s niece Kathleen. Other items of note include Seán Mac Diarmada’s account of his part in the Howth gun-running operation; Edward (Ned) Daly’s last letter to his mother on the eve of the Easter Rising; and Kathleen Clarke’s letters to her sisters during her imprisonment in London’s Holloway Gaol in 1918–19. Kathleen’s letters illustrate the role of women in the formation of the Irish republic, as do several other items of correspondence in the collection.
Madge Daly’s draft memoirs provide a first-hand account of the events leading up to and immediately following the Easter Rising. Her account of a visit to Kilmainham Jail to see her brother Ned prior to his execution offers a moving insight into the hardship suffered by the families of the leaders of the Easter Rising. Added poignancy is provided by Ned’s pipe, toothbrush, pencil, and silver pocket case which were in his possession at the time of his execution and which were returned to the family after his death, and copies of letters by Kathleen Clarke in an attempt to reclaim the body of her husband after his execution. Madge Daly’s letters seeking compensation after repeated raids to the family home and business premises reveal the persecution to which the family were subjected by military authorities after the Easter Rising. A large volume of photographs of the key characters of this most turbulent of times is also included in the collection.
Material relating to the Dore branch of the Daly family opens a window into the young nation’s first steps as an independent state. Of particular interest are the military medals of Edward Dore, who married John Daly’s niece Nora, the letters he received while imprisoned in Frongoch for his involvement in the Easter Rising, and his determination to commemorate the Rising in Limerick City, which culminated in the erection of a memorial on Sarsfield Bridge in 1956. The collection also records the impassioned campaign of his son Éamonn de hÓir to promote the Irish language and his extensive contribution to the study of Irish place names. Also of note is de hÓir’s substantial research into the life of John Daly with a view to writing his biography, the publication of which was prevented by de hÓir’s untimely death in 1975.
Further reading relating to the Daly family:
- Limerick and the 1916 Rising is an online exhibition which tells the story of Limerick Fenian John Daly, his family, and their contribution to and involvement in the 1916 Rising. All of the material in the exhibition comes from the Daly Papers.
- Additional material relating to members of the Daly family can be found in the National Library of Ireland (NLI) in the following archival collections: Tom Clarke and Kathleen Clarke Papers; John Devoy Papers; and Kathleen Clarke Memoirs; as well as in the Kathleen Daly Clarke Papers and Collection of Thomas Clarke and Irish Political Matters 1897–1972 at Boston College, USA.
The East Limerick Brigade Papers contains documentation relating to the activities of the Brigade during the War of Independence, including its day-to-day organisation and military engagements. The collection documents the logistical problems of running an amateur guerrilla army with limited resources. It also paints the picture of the efforts made to maintain morale during the Truce of 1921. The collection includes a copy of the captured Strickland document, a British Military Intelligence report detailing an updated and comprehensive account of the state of Ireland in February 1921. The report was captured by the East Limerick Brigade in 1921, and was slightly damaged by the British forces in an effort to burn it before it fell into enemy hands. Other documents of note in the collection include the announcement of the Truce in July 1921 signed by Ernie O’Malley, and an order issued by O’Malley of the steps to be taken in the event of the collapse of the Treaty talks and the resumption of hostilities.
This small collection consists primarily of manuscript and typescript biographical accounts of Volunteers and civilians who had links with the West Clare Brigade IRA and who died during the War of Independence and the Civil War. The accounts provide detailed information concerning the birth, early education, military career, and manner of death of each individual.
The collection illuminates a turbulent period in Irish history stretching from the later decades of the nineteenth century until the end of the Civil War in 1923. The inclusion of biographical details of Volunteers who were killed during the Civil War while fighting on the anti-Treaty side makes it historically significant, as information of this nature was rarely recorded.
This small collection was created by Michael Healy, a native of Limerick who joined the Irish Volunteers in 1917 when they were being reorganised following the 1916 rising. He was promoted to Captain in the Volunteers and was heavily involved in IRA activities during the War of Independence. Healy took the Anti-Treaty side during the Civil War. He remained in the IRA following the end of the Civil War and was involved in its reorganisation until at least 1924. Judging by the documents in this collection, he also appears to have been involved in helping to expedite the application process for military pensions for members of his company and battalion in c. 1940. Little is known about his life outside of the IRA except that he lived and worked as a shoe repairer at No. 38 Nicholas Street, Limerick City.
The collection comprises papers relating to the activities C Company 2nd Limerick City Battalion Mid Limerick Brigade between 1917 and 1924. It includes narrative accounts of the Brigade activities during the War of Independence and information on the reorganisation of the Limerick Brigades during and following the Civil War. The collection is unusual as the anti-Treaty IRA was considered to be an illegal organisation and their records as a consequence were usually kept secret.
Annie McGowan was the daughter of Patrick and Susan Browne of Limerick and wife of Michael McGowan. The couple lived on John Street, Limerick and had eight children. During and after the Irish Civil War, Annie and her daughter Sarah delivered food and parcels of books, magazines, and cigarettes to Republican prisoners in Limerick Jail and to those transferred from Limerick to the Curragh internment camp in County Kildare. This small collection contains thank-you letters and notes received by the two women from appreciative detainees, including Thomas Keane, Captain of the C Company of the Second Battalion of the Limerick City IRA.
In addition to being the managing director of the Bacon Company of Ireland, Stephen O’Mara Junior (1884–1959) played a prominent role in both local and national affairs. Unlike his father and elder brother James, he was opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and was prominently identified with the Sinn Fein movement after the Easter Rising. He was one of Eamon de Valera’s strongest supporters and a member of his Fianna Fail Party since its formation in 1926. When Lord Mayor of Limerick George Clancy and his predecessor Michael O’Callaghan were murdered by the British military forces in March 1921, Stephen decided to stand for election. He was re-elected as Mayor in 1922, and again in 1923, but resigned before the expiration of his third term of office.
In 1921, Stephen O’Mara was sent to America as Special Envoy to the United States to oversee one of the country’s biggest fundraising drives to finance the first Dáil and was Trustee of the funds. The funds-drive was terminated following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Considering himself as the exchequer to the Irish Free State, O’Mara refused to hand over the collected funds to the pro-Treaty administration, which resulted in his imprisonment in 1922–1923. In 1927, the bulk of the money collected during the Bond Drive was used to launch the national daily newspaper The Irish Press. Stephen O’Mara served on the paper’s Board of Directors until his resignation in 1935.
In 1932, Stephen O’Mara was once again sent to America on a mission involving the various consular and diplomatic offices maintained in the country by the Irish Government. Two years later, he was appointed a member of the Commission on Vocational Organisation, on which he served until 1943. In 1959, he was created a member of the Council of State following de Valera’s inauguration as President of Ireland. Stephen O’Mara died less than two months after his appointment, on 11 November 1959.
This collection contains correspondence and other documentation which illuminate the many aspects of O’Mara’s political career, including his three terms as Mayor of Limerick from 1921 to 1923; the second Bond Drive to the United States, his subsequent imprisonment in 1922–1923; the ensuing court case of 1927; and his later political involvement, particularly his role as a founding director of The Irish Press.
Maurice ‘Moss’ Twomey joined the Irish Volunteers on its formation in 1914 and within four years rose to the rank of Adjutant in the Fermoy Battalion. In 1919, he transferred as Adjutant to the Cork No. 2 Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. By 1920, Twomey was a staff officer on the general staff of the 1st Southern Division. He was heavily involved in operations during the War of Independence.
After the Anglo-Irish Treaty and during the Civil War, Twomey was a staff officer to General Liam Lynch. He was a member of the occupying force in the Four Courts in 1922, the action that precipitated the Civil War. He had however left the building before it was bombed by the Free State Army.
Following the Civil War, Twomey was tasked with the entire root and branch reorganisation of the IRA, including the West Clare Brigade. Twomey succeeded Frank Aiken as Chief of Staff of the IRA in 1927, a post he would hold until 1936, when he was interned by the De Valera Government. While incarcerated in the Curragh Camp, Twomey argued with the IRA leadership concerning its policy of supporting Nazi Germany and resigned his position as Chief of Staff. Upon his release, Twomey left the IRA but remained sympathetic to the Republican cause. He subsequently opened a general confectioners and newsagents in Dublin, which became a centre for Republican activities.
The Moss Twomey Papers consist mainly of correspondence with IRA Chief of Staff Frank Aiken and Mr McAuliffe, Acting Officer Commanding Limerick Brigade IRA. The letters are almost solely concerned with the reorganisation of the IRA command structure in Limerick, Clare, and Kerry owing to the shortage of men and equipment during and following the Irish Civil War.
Spanish Civil War
The Robert Stradling collection was compiled by Professor Robert A. Stradling between 1992 and 2000, and formed the basis for his publication in 1999, entitled The Irish and the Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. The collection was deposited in the University of Limerick in 2002.
Stradling sourced his material from surviving Irish veterans of the Spanish Civil War, their friends and families. In addition, copies of documents were assembled from numerous library and archive services, including the Archivo General Militar at Ávila, Archivo del Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores (Madrid), Archivo General de la Guerra Civil Española (Salamanca), National Library of Ireland, and National Archives, Dublin. The oral accounts were recorded during visits to Ireland in 1994 and 1996, with the exception of the recording of Jimmy Kavanagh by his son James in 1992, and the Radio Éireann interview with Phil McBride in 1986. A large quantity of published sources were also assembled and reproduced, including newspapers, books, periodicals, and magazines.
Divided into three main sections, the collection focuses on documentation from Irish Brigadiers, administrative documentation, and media coverage of the Spanish Civil War in Ireland and abroad.
This collection successfully assembles documentation relating to the role of the Irish Brigade in the Spanish Civil War from a range of different sources. The body of material provides a number of different perspectives of the war, including the personal accounts of the Brigadiers, the official documents of the administration of General Franco and the Irish Brigade, and the views of the media at home and abroad. In addition, it provides access to copies of documents that in many cases remain in private ownership.
This collection comprises correspondence, press cuttings, press releases, reports, TV and radio broadcasts, and photographs which reconstruct in considerable detail the events surrounding the kidnapping and release of Dr Tiede Herrema and the subsequent trials of his abductors.
Dr Herrema was appointed managing director of the newly constructed cord manufacturing plant Ferenka Ltd. at Annacotty, Limerick in 1973. Two years later, on the morning of 3 October 1975, he was abducted on his way to work by IRA leader Eddie Gallagher and his accomplices Marion Coyle, Brian McGowan, and John Vincent Walsh. The objective of the abduction was to secure the release of three republican prisoners, including Dr Rose Dugdale, by whom Gallagher had a son. Herrema’s status as manager of a large multi-national corporation was hoped to bring international pressure on the government to yield to the demands.
For the next two and a half weeks, Herrema and his captors moved from location to location. Their whereabouts remained unknown until 21 October, when Herrema, Gallagher, and Coyle were traced to a house in St Evin’s Park, Monasterevin, County Kildare. On the evening of 7 November, after prolonged negotiations directed by Chief Superintendent Laurence Wren, the kidnappers surrendered and Herrema was released after 36 days in captivity. The kidnapping and the trials that followed caused an international media storm.
The material in the collection includes police surveillance tapes recorded during the siege at Monasterevin, and interior photographs of the house in which Herrema was held captive. Also included are correspondence, press cuttings, speeches, reports, photographs, and audio-visual material which illustrate Herrema’s career prior to and following his kidnapping, and his personal interests in later life. These items, in particular the considerable amount of material relating to Herrema’s appearance in the media, reflect the dramatic way in which the kidnapping changed the course of Herrema’s life.
Herrema passed away in April 2020. Read more about his life here.