18. Soldiers, sailors and airmen: Dunlavin’s military tradition

Soldiers on their way to the Congo 1961, including Christopher V. Lawlor of Dunlavin.
Irish Independent, 4 October 1961

A bit of military history today – a few of Dunlavin’s many servicemen are mentioned in this piece. The picture from 1961 includes my uncle Val [Christopher V.] Lawlor, who served as a peacekeeper in the Congo. Enjoy the read!

Glen of Imaal

Situated as it is, quite close to the military camps on the Curragh and in the Glen of Imaal, it is unsurprising that many young Dunlavin men (and women in more recent times) chose a career in the army. The Irish army has included many Dunlavin natives over the years, but the British army also attracted a considerable number of Dunlavin recruits, who joined up for a myriad of different reasons. Some also joined the British navy, and many readers may be surprised at just how far back Dunlavin-related military records extend. Sir Richard Bulkeley, the second Baronet Dunlavin, fought on the Williamite side at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.[1]

The National Archives in Kew (London) contain records relating to many Dunlavin men who served in the British forces from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. Here is a list of some of them, with the year of the record [usually dates of enlistment or discharge, but sometimes other documents such as soldiers’ wills etc.] or their periods of service given in brackets after each name:

  1. Patrick Reynolds, born Dunlavin Kildare, Royal Irish Artillery (1777)[2]
  2. William Thornton, born Dunlavin, 18th Light Dragoons (1784)[3]
  3. William Warde, born Dunlavin, 22nd Foot Regiment (1798-1820)[4]
  4. John Coghlan, born Dunlavin, 44th Foot Regiment (1803-21)[5]
  5. Christopher Toole, born Dunlavin, 44th Foot Regiment (1804-12)[6]
  6. Jeremiah Byrnes, Private Soldier of Dunlavin, County Wicklow (1808)[7]
  7. Edward Murray, born Dunlavin, 56th Foot Regiment (1809-23)[8]
  8. Peter FitzGerald, born Dunlavin, 88th Foot Regiment (1813-25)[9]
  9. Denis Neil [alias Neile, Neale, Neal], born Dunlavin, Wicklow Militia (1818)[10]
  10. Alexander Gray, born Dunlavin, 60th Foot Regiment (1821-40)[11]
  11. Peter French, born Dunlavin, 49th Foot Regiment (1822-44)[12]
  12. James Brown, born Dunlavin, 67th Foot Regiment (1825-47)[13]
  13. Abraham Kelly, born Dunlavin, 31st Foot Regiment (1827-39)[14]
  14. James Nowlan, born Dunlavin, 40th and 59th Foot Regiments (1827-49)[15]
  15. Michael Howard, born Crookstown, Dunlavin, Royal Artillery (1833-1854)[16]
  16. John Pearson, born Dunlavin, 8th Dragoons (1836-39)[17]
  17. William Powell, born Dunlavin, 6th Dragoon Guards (1841-44)[18]
  18. James Stanley, born Dunlavin, 58th Foot Regiment (1842-48)[19]
  19. Owen Griffin, born Dunlavin, 9th Foot Regiment (1843-47)[20]
  20. James Nowlan [alias Nowland], born Dunlavin, 60th Foot Regiment (1844-51)[21]
  21. John Ballard, born Dunlavin, 64th Foot Regiment (1846-52)[22]
  22. William Horner, born Dunlavin, 1st Foot Regiment (1846-48)[23]
  23. Laughlin Byrne, born Dunlavin, Madras Artillery (1846-54)[24]
  24. Matthew Powell, born Dunlavin, 6th Dragoon Guards (1847)[25]
  25. William Keough, born Dunlavin, 55th Foot Regiment (1848-50)[26]
  26. John Kelly, born 1885 Dunlavin, Navy (1914)[27]
  27. Patrick James Donlan, born 1892, Dunlavin, Navy (1916)[28]

World War One

The final two names on the list above bring the entries up to World War One. Of course, many Dunlavin men joined the forces during the First World War. Men such as Private James Christie of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who was killed at Gallipoli on 29 August 1915, Sergeant Philip Nolan of the Irish Guards, who died near Ypres on 20 June 1916 and Private Michael O’Neill of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who lost his life in the Bailleul area of northern France on 18 March 1917, were all from Dunlavin.[29] Henry Underwood, who was born in Dunlavin, also made the ultimate sacrifice. Underwood, attached to the Connaught Rangers 1st Battalion, lost his life in Mesopotamia on 7 May 1916. He is interred in the Amara war cemetery in Iraq.[30] Dunlavin men joined other services during the war too. For example, W. D. Shot [?], born in Dunlavin, was serving in the merchant navy in 1915.[31] Earnest Molyneux of The Decoy joined the Royal Flying Corps (precursor to the RAF), and survived the war, despite being wounded twice.[32]

World War Two

There was also Dunlavin involvement in World War Two – Walter Coleborn, for example, joined the Royal Navy. He served on convoy protection duty in the North Atlantic, on the Murmansk route to Russia. Walter also served aboard the ‘Arethusa’ during the D-Day landings. The ‘Arethusa’ led the Invasion of Normandy on the left flank, and Walter was aboard a landing craft, which went ashore to Sword Beach several times.[33] Walter returned to Dunlavin after the war.

1922 onwards

From 1922 onwards, of course, the Irish army was also accepting recruits, and Dunlavin men joined up from the very first year of the national army’s existence. My own grandfather, Pat Lawlor, joined on 14 August 1922 and remained in the army until 9 July 1940.[34] His son, my uncle Val, served on the peacekeeping mission to the Congo in 1961 [see illustration].[35] Today, many Dunlavin residents have army backgrounds – men such as Noel Keogh,[36] to choose but one example, have served their country well at home and abroad on peacekeeping missions – and there are Dunlavin people currently in the three branches of the Irish Defence Forces [army, navy and air corps], continuing the village’s long and proud military tradition!





[1] John Lynch, The life of St. Patrick from Walter Harris’s translation of Sir James Ware’s works together with the Confessio Sancti Patricii and the Epistola ad Christianos tyranny Corotici subditos Sti. Patricii (London, c.1870), cited in Eamon Kiernan (ed), A guide to St. Doulagh’s church, (nd), p. 18. See also http://www.malahide.dublin.anglican.org/blog/?page_id=32 (visited on 5/7/2002).
[2] National Archives, Kew (hereafter N.A.), WO 69/620/156
[3] N.A., WO 97/132/92
[4] N.A., WO 97/425/103
[5] N.A., WO 119/62/165
[6] N.A., WO 119/18/19
[7] N.A., PROB 11/1482/262
[8] N.A., WO 97/786/133
[9] N.A., WO 97/970/37
[10] N.A. WO 118/58/201
[11] N.A., WO 97/730/51
[12] N.A., WO 97/631/26
[13] N.A. WO 97/426/90
[14] N.A., WO 97/498/102
[15] N.A., WO 97/720/74
[16] N.A., WO 69/128/373
[17] N.A., WO 97/106/97
[18] N.A., WO 97/109/67
[19] N.A., WO 97/712/28
[20] N.A., WO 97/306/22
[21] N.A., WO 97/738/38
[22] N.A., WO 97/772/18
[23] N.A., WO 97/227124
[24] N.A., WO 97/1209/184
[25] N.A., WO 97/109/56
[26] N.A., WO 97/683/52
[27] N.A., BT 377/7/28046
[28] N.A., ADM 188/933/33247
[29] Tom and Seamus Burnell, The Wicklow war dead: a history of the casualties of the world wars (Dublin, 2009), pp 54, 232 and 239
[30] Ibid, p. 293.
[31] N.A., Bt99/3156/3
[32] Tom Molyneux, ‘Ernest Molyneux of the Decoy’, in Journal of the west Wicklow Historical Society, ix (Naas, 2017), p. 121.
[33] I am indebted to members of the Coleborn family of Dunlavin for this information.
[34] Certificate of discharge for Patrick James Lawlor, dated 9 Jul 1940. Lawlor was discharged ‘in consequence of the expiration of his term of enlistment’, and was given a ‘very good’ character. Author’s collection.
[35] Irish Independent, 4 Oct 1961.
[36] Personally known to the author.

Comments about this page

  • My Dad in phot also John Patrick O’Hara RIP

    By DERMOT OHARA (14/01/2021)

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