Ex-Servicemen and the Royal British Legion in the Irish Free State, 1924-1934

  • Pauline Gardiner

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The ex-service community in the Irish Free State has been predominantly understood through the lens of commemoration and remembrance. While this is the most tangible display of unity, ex-servicemen were not a homogenous group and were distributed across all societal and political strata. With no state framework for the support of Irish veterans, the British Legion attempted to embody the ‘brotherhood of the trenches’ at a national level, however competing identities, class, gender and politics complicated the organisation’s efforts to both organise and represent ex-servicemen in the Irish Free State. This study examines the role and impact of the Royal British Legion on the ex-service movement in Ireland during the period 1924 – 1934 and is structured in thematic chapters, each addressing a specific influencing factor.
The Legion’s approach to ex-servicemen and their dependents failed to take into consideration social changes caused by the war, and a rift in understanding existed between the leadership and the grassroots which was further exacerbated by the promotion of paternal and deferential relationships and conservative patriarchal discourses which dominated British Legion narratives of the war. Although its non-political stance was designed to appeal to all ex-servicemen, the vast majority were not members of the Legion and the symbolism it employed left veterans open to allegations of jingoistic imperialism. As such, the British Legion in the South of Ireland struggled to curate a unified and positive meaning for Irishmen’s war service in a complex political environment.
Date of AwardOct 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorEamonn O Ciardha (Supervisor), William Kelly (Supervisor) & Peter O'Connor (Supervisor)


  • Great War
  • First World War
  • World War One
  • Veterans
  • Ireland

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