Featured Institution: The Military Archives

Military Archives
Military Archives

There are a number of letters belonging to the Military Archives in the Letters of 1916 collection. In this featured institution profile, the Officers of the Military Archives, Commandant Pádraic Kennedy and Captain Claire Mortimer, told us about the Military Archives’ involvement with the Letters of 1916 project.

The Military Archives is the place of deposit for the archives of the Defence Forces, the Department of Defence and the Army Pensions Board, under the terms of the National Archives Act, 1986.

The collection policy of the Military Archives commences at the formation of the Irish Volunteers in November 1913 up to and including current records created at home and overseas.

Letter from William Pearse to Seán T. O'Kelly, 21 April 1916
Letter from William Pearse to Seán T. O’Kelly, 21 April 1916. Image courtesy of the Military Archives.

Key collections from the revolutionary period held in the Military Archives include the Military Service Pensions Collection, the Bureau of Military History, Civil War Captured Documents, the Collins Collection and a number of Private Collections. The Bureau of Military History Collection (1913-1921) is the source of the letters that were made available to the 1916 letters project. The letters are taken from the Captured Documents series of the collection and include a letter from Padraic Mac Piarais to his mother, a letter from James Connolly to Eamon Ceannt on Easter Sunday and a letter from Sean Heuston written on the eve of his execution to Mr. E. Walsh amongst many more. In total, the website www.militaryarchives.ie has nearly 500,000 pages relating to the period 1913-1923 alone providing the largest online collection of Irish Revolutionary records in the world.

The Military Archives has a long history of collaboration with third level institutions and students conducting undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. The Military Archives remain keen to continue this mutually beneficial relationship and were delighted when we were approached to contribute to the Letters 1916 project.

Letter from James Connolly to Éamonn Ceannt, 23 April 1916. Image courtesy of the Military Archives.
Letter from James Connolly to Éamonn Ceannt, 23 April 1916. Image courtesy of the Military Archives.

Our involvement has provided an opportunity to have the letters transcribed and to create awareness of the letters and our collections in general. The letters are part of the Contemporary Documents (CD) collection which forms a part of the Bureau of Military History which took place between 1947 and 1957. The objective of the Bureau was ‘to assemble and coordinate material to form the basis for the compilation of the history of the movement for Independence from the formation of the Irish Volunteers on 25th November 1913, to the 11th July 1921.’ Items in the CD collection were often handed in along with a contributor’s witness statement, and provides a fascinating insight into many aspects of the revolutionary period.

Letters; memos; (now) rare publications; pamphlets; propaganda material; drill manuals; posters and even contemporary currency are included in this series. In total 109 letters were identified from the CD collection which are being transferred in phases to the 1916 letters project as the items are digitised.

If you would like more information about the Military Archives, please visit their website here.

We recently featured a post about a particular letter from the Military Archives collection.  The featured post was written by Sean Driver. It takes a letter from Joseph Michael Stanley to George Bernard Shaw which was written on 28 March 1916 and provides background information about the events outlined in the letter. Read more here.

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