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Saturday, August 15, 2020

WW1 : The Collins brothers from Waterford

The Collins brothers were from a large, working-class Catholic family who lived in the heart of Waterford (Ireland) when World War One broke out in 1914. Six of the oldest brothers signed up to fight with the British Army, volunteering for service as there was no conscription in pre-partition Ireland. 16-year-old Stephen Collins was the youngest of the brothers to enlist, and was killed only two months into the war in Flanders, sometime in October 1914. In 1915, Stephen’s 24-year-old brother Michael was also killed in Flanders while fighting for the Royal Irish Regiment – the same regiment for which Stephen had laid down his own life. In September 1916, their 22-year-old brother John perished at the infamous Battle of the Somme while fighting with the Royal Munster Fusiliers. The family’s eldest son – 30-year-old Patrick Collins – was later killed in March 1918 while fighting for the Royal Engineers, only eight months prior to Armistice Day. A fifth brother, Joseph, was missing presumed dead after sustaining serious injuries on the Eastern Front. After receiving five separate telegrams informing her of the grave news, Mrs Collins was informed that William – presumed at that time to be her only surviving son – would be sent home on compassionate grounds.

The story of the Collins Brothers is Ireland's own Saving Private Ryan event. However for William there was no hero's welcome for since he enlisted. Ireland had changed dramatically and support for Irish men fighting with the British army had waned.
This commemorative glass sculpture by Sean Egan was commissioned by the Collins family and displayed at Bishop's Palace Museum in Waterford (Ireland).

The Collins brothers

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