Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Irish Doctors in the First World War book launched at RCSI

22 April 2015

A new book, documenting the immense contribution of Irish medics in the First World War will be launched this evening in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2. Irish Doctors in the First World War, which has been published by Merrion Press, in association with RCSI, is the first publication to specifically address the role and breadth of Irish medics' war-time activity.

The book is co-authored by Joe Duignan, retired surgeon and former RCSI Council Member along with co-authors Patrick Casey and Kevin Cullen. Mary O'Doherty, Assistant Librarian, Special Collections, RCSI and Meadhbh Murphy, Archivist, RCSI were among the contributors to the book. From Europe to Africa and the Middle East, the book covers the extensive role of Irish doctors in the Army, Navy and Air Forces and features an introduction from columnist and author Kevin Myers, who is among the speakers at tonight's launch event.

Irish Doctors in The First World War tells the unique story of the thousands of Irish doctors and medical students who joined the British armed forces, which included a large cohort of RCSI staff, students, fellows, members and alumni. The book describes how they went from the relative calm of a pre-war medical career to witnessing and having to treat the awful injuries of that attritional conflict. More than 240 Irish doctors lost their lives during the war, many with no known grave. The courageous and selfless actions of these doctors when assisting their comrades under military fire is explored in a comprehensive yet human account of the key battles and the medical care developed to deal with the aftermath of battle. From The Western Front to Gallipoli, the book covers all services and all theatres of the conflict. There is also a roll call of honour in a special chapter on those decorated for their gallantry and service.

The second half of the book presents an indispensable directory of Irish doctors, painstakingly compiled from available records and publications. It features over 3000 names and each profile contains the name, family details and military record including medals and honours awarded where that information was available. This record, by its very nature and extent, is a fitting and lasting tribute to the Irish medical personnel who risked everything and gave their lives.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Mr Declan Magee, President, RCSI said: "The heroic contribution of Irish doctors who served in the First World War has largely gone unrecognised until now. It is timely as we commemorate the centenary of World War I, that we remember all Irish doctors who served in the conflict and made great sacrifices in service of their fellow-man, caring for the sick, wounded and dying. This period in history is of immense significance to our College with 1086 doctors and 180 students listed on the Roll of Honour for RCSI, who served in some capacity during the conflict."

"I congratulate the authors and contributors on this important historical work, including our past RCSI Council Member Mr Joe Duignan on bringing his expertise as retired surgeon to this landmark publication."

This new illustrated hardback title is available in bookshops and from priced €35.

RCSI is among the top 50 most international universities in the world (Times Higher Education University World Rankings, 2014-15). It is a not-for-profit health sciences institute focused on education and research to drive positive change in all areas of human health worldwide. RCSI is headquartered in Dublin and is a recognised College of the National University of Ireland. In 2010, RCSI was granted independent degree awarding status by the State, which enables the College to award degrees alongside its traditional powers to award licentiates.