Why was the R.M.S. Leinster forgotten?
|Leinster departing from Kingstown.
Within a year of the Leinster sinking, armed conflict broke
out between Irish Nationalists and British forces. An independent
Irish state was created at the end of the conflict. It later suited
each side to deliberately forget the part played by Irish men and
women in the First World War. (Irish officialdom wanted to tell a
story of perpetual Irish resistance to British rule down through the
centuries. The fact that large numbers of Irish men served in the
British forces directly challenged the myth, so this awkward truth
was written out of Irish history. British officialdom, still smarting
from the fact of Irish independence, did nothing to highlight the
contribution made by the Irish during the First World War.) The sinking
of the Leinster became part of the general memory loss.
The scale of the Leinster tragedy has been hugely understated
by historians. Several books - and the records of the Commonwealth
War Graves Commission - mistakenly say that 176 people died in the
sinking. The error by these authorities is probably due to their use
of His Majesty's Stationary Office publication "British Vessels
and Merchant Ships lost at sea 1914-1918" (London 1919) as a
source. This publication records 176 deaths for the Leinster sinking. At the beginning of the book, however, is a note that casualty
numbers do not include any troops onboard ships at the time of their
sinking. As most of those who died on the Leinster were military
personnel, they are not included in the figure published by H.M.S.O.
The huge under statement of casualties, published by eminent authorities,
has helped to hide the scale of the Leinster tragedy in official
The Leinster disaster has also been largely forgotten due
to lack of information about the people who died. The sinking is remembered
to some extent in Dun Laoghaire and Holyhead, the towns from where
most of the ship's crew came. Local historians refer to "Those
who died on the Leinster." Unfortunately, it is difficult
to remember nameless people. True remembrance could not take place
until the names and stories of those who were on the ship are known.
Fortunately, due to a book published in 2005, this situation has been
rectified. See More Information part of site for details of the book Torpedoed! The R.M.S. Leinster
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