Journal Volume 3 2000

They Answered the Call

By James Scannell

A lecture given to the Greystones Archaeological and Historical Society on Wednesday January 19th 2000 in the La Touche Hotel, Greystones, Co. Wicklow.


This lecture arose through researching a brief comment made at a Bray public meeting held in September 1939, to recruit volunteers for Bray Urban District Council's voluntary Air Raid Protection (A.R.P.) Scheme by B.U.D.C. chairman Mr Peter Ledwidge, who introduced Dr. G.P.G. Beckett as the man largely responsible for the Greystones A.R.P. Scheme. A study of the 1939 A.R.P. Act revealed that in Co. Wicklow, Wicklow County Council was the body which had the responsibility for preparing an approved A.R.P Scheme for the county, excluding Bray. Here the Bray Urban District Council was the responsible body and so the question arose - what was the Greystones A.R.P. scheme referred to and who operated it, since there were no references to it in The Wicklow People of the period. While researching another project, I read an account of the Greystones branch of the St. John Ambulance Brigade AGM in a January 1940 edition of The Wicklow People which had references to the Greystones A.R.P. scheme, and from it I have been able to assemble this lecture which deals with a piece of little remembered Greystones history.

The First World War or Great War (1914- 1918) was called " the war to end all wars", and following the establishment of the League of Nations in 1919 to resolve international disputes and conflicts, it was hoped that Mankind would never again witness a conflict on the scale of the 1914-18 war. But the victorious allies, Britain and France, assisted by America, flushed with success over a defeated Germany, imposed very harsh and draconian penalties on that country in the Treaty of Versailles which formally signalled the end of the conflict and the surrender of Germany. Far from preventing the outbreak of a future conflict, they were instead unwittingly sowing the seeds of German bitterness, which erupted 25 years later on with the outbreak of the Second World War, and which had a far greater loss of life than the First World War 1.

World War I was a conflict fought around the globe, involving many nations and embracing new technology and tactics. This conflict saw the era of the dominance of the large surface warship replaced by the submarine, and the introduction of unrestricted submarine warfare in which ships were sunk with out warning - this concept is still contrary to International Law but is an accepted naval practice/tactic. Aircraft which entered the conflict as mere devices for aerial observation of the ground evolved into fighters and bombers. The machine gun, poison gas and barbed wire transformed the face of the battlefield, while armoured cars and tanks which replaced cavalry roamed over it and wireless became the new important communications medium.

For the first time the civil population behind the front lines was exposed to bombardment by long-range artillery, as well as air raids from airships and bombers, and had to endure rationing of food and other essential items due to naval blockades.


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