The Disparity of Sacrifice

BookThe Disparity of Sacrifice

The Disparity of Sacrifice

Irish Recruitment to the British Armed Forces, 1914-1918


July 1st, 2020



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During the First World War approximately 210,000 Irish men and a much smaller, but significant, number of Irish women served in the British armed forces. All were volunteers and a very high proportion were from Catholic and Nationalist communities. This book is the first comprehensive analysis of Irish recruitment between 1914 and 1918 for the island of Ireland as a whole. It makes extensive use of previously neglected internal British army recruiting returns held at The National Archives, Kew, along with other valuable archival and newspaper sources.

There has been a tendency to discount the importance of political factors in Irish recruitment, but this book demonstrates that recruitment campaigns organised under the auspices of the Irish National Volunteers and Ulster Volunteer Force were the earliest and some of the most effective campaigns run throughout the war. The British government conspicuously failed to create an effective recruiting organisation or to mobilise civic society in Ireland. While the military mobilisation which occurred between 1914 and 1918 was the largest in Irish history, British officials persistently characterised it as inadequate, threatening to introduce conscription in 1918.

This book also reflects on the disparity of sacrifice between North-East Ulster and the rest of Ireland, urban and rural Ireland, and Ireland and Great Britain.


'This is a tremendously important and academically rigorous book, which will come to be seen as a seminal text in the study of Ireland's First World War. It punctures a number of myths about recruitment, and also has significant relevance to wider studies of the Irish Revolution.'
Professor Richard S. Grayson, Goldsmiths, University of London

'The book offers a fertile breeding ground for further studies. It represents a valuable historiographical contribution through its engagement with nationalist and unionist responses to the war effort.'
Emmanuel Destenay, Journal of British Studies

‘This is a fine piece of scholarship. It significantly advances our understanding of recruiting in Ireland in 1914–18, and sheds light on the wider British war effort as well.'
Gary Sheffield, English Historical Review

Author Information

Timothy Bowman is Reader in modern British military history at the University of Kent. William Butler is the Head of Military Records, The National Archives, UK. Michael Wheatley is an independent researcher and writes on early twentieth-century Irish politics.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
1. ‘Gone for a soldier’: Irish Recruitment to the British Armed Forces, 1903–191430
2. ‘They could only look for a moderate success’: Recruiting in the South and West of Ireland57
3. For Empire, Ulster or Ireland? Recruiting in Ulster101
4. Bureaucracy, Propaganda and the Conscription Crisis148
5. ‘The only privilege we have’: Wartime Officer Appointment190
6. A Divided Kingdom: Comparisons of British and Irish Recruiting213
1. Army Recruitment by Regimental Districts in the United Kingdom, August 1914–April 1916*260
2. Voluntary Recruitment to the British Army by Army Command Area, August 1914–November 1918279