Royal Dublin Fusiliers in Naas

RDF at Naas 1919

RDF at Naas 1919

A new military barracks to accommodate 19 officers and 300 men was commenced on a site near Naas in August 1810. It replaced the old barracks on the south moat which had  been damaged in 1798. The architects were Messrs. Bernell, Browning & Behan and it was completed three years later at a cost of £17,900.

In 1881 the British army changes in regements resulted in creation of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers from units of the Indian Army. And the Dublin County militia regiments became the 3rd, 4th and 5th Battalions of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Naas was designated as the depot of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.

During World War 1, County Kildare people organised fund-raising to aid the families and soldiers involved. The work for the men of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers was inaugurated by the Committee of the Dublin Women’s Unionist Club at a meeting held in August, 1914, at the offices of the Club at No. 10 Leinster Street, Dublin. This Committee collected and dispatched newspapers, magazines and books to the Battalions of the Regiment serving with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders.

Four separate committees began work independently in Ireland from October 1914, with the object of supplying comforts for Royal Dublin Fusilier soldiers at the front or prisoners of war. A Central Advisory Committee of the R.D.F. was formed to co-ordinate the work of the following four groups:- The Royal Dublin Fusiliers Bureau, The Ladies Committee of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, The Dublin Women’s Royal Dublin Fusiliers Committee and The Co. Kildare Committee. The last Committee was the only one based in County Kildare and sent out fortnightly parcels of food to all the Royal Dublin Fusiliers prisoners of war, other than at Limburg, at over twenty different camps in Germany.

The Co. Kildare Committee of the RD.F. alone, dealt with 500 prisoners of the R.D.F. in 1916. Various fund-raising events were organised by the Committee to help the Soldiers in whatever way possible:-

“Today (Saturday) at 2.30 p.m. his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant will open the Fete at Carton, Maynooth, in aid of the funds for supplying food, etc., to 600 prisoners of war and comforts to six battalions now at the front, of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. A special train will leave Broadstone at 2 p.m. for Maynooth; return fare, 1s.” Leinster Leader - 2 September, 1916

On a purely local level, a fund named “Warm Clothing and Prisoners Fund” was set up for the Fusiliers and subscriptions were invited and “gratefully received by the Countess of Mayo, Palmerstown, Straffan; Mrs. Loveband, Barracks, Naas, and J. Whiteside, Dane, Naas”.( Kildare Observer - 14 November, 1914 ) A combination of “vests, socks, shirts, mufflers, belts, etc.” were received by the Committee and dispatched to soldiers either leaving Ireland, at the front, in hospitals or as prisoners.

The Red Cross organised fund-raising events around the country and Kildare. Baroness de Robeck was heavily involved in the Naas Branch of the Red Cross Work Guild and helped to raise many consignments of shirts, pyjamas, slippers, etc., which eventually found a home in the hospitals of France, Egypt and Lemos etc.

In the first week of the War Lady Weldon and the Countess of Mayo requested women around Co. Kildare to assist them in making garments from patterns received from the Central Red Cross Society.

The Naas Nursing Division of St. John Ambulance Brigade subscribed surgical dressings for hospitals at the front through the Red Cross.

“On Tuesday evening last grand concerts organised by Miss Gray, for the purpose of raising funds for the provision of comforts required for the soldiers at the front, was held in the town hall, Naas, when every available inch of space was occupied by those attracted by an elaborate programme.” Kildare Observer, - 14 November, 1914

In December, 1915 sub-depots of the Irish War Hospital Supply Depot were set up at Naas and Athy. These Depots were directly affiliated with the Joint British Red Cross and St. John Depot and registered under the scheme controlled by the Director General of the Voluntary Organisations. Men at home who could in no other way assist the effort found their patriotism was satisfied by involving themselves in such organisations. The Men’s division of the above group were formed for the manufacture of splints of all patterns, bed rests, bed tray tables, crutches, etc. Consignments were forwarded to relieve the suffering and add to the comfort of the wounded at the various clearing stations, field and base hospitals at the front.

The Technical Instruction Committee granted the use of their workshops and equipment at Naas and Athy Technical Schools. Subscriptions were forwarded to Mr. K Painting, St. Michael’s Tce., Athy and for the Naas Depot to Mr. John R. Halsall, Glenville, Naas. (Leinster Leader - 30 December, 1916)

Soldiers of course were very grateful for the efforts made by the organisers at home for the comforts they received and numerous letters of thanks were forwarded from the front. The following letter, received by Miss Gray, Naas appeared in the Kildare Observer, dated 26th December 1914:-

“Dear Miss Gray- Colonel Lindsay desires me to thank you on behalf of the regiment for the gifts of socks which you kindly sent, and I can assure you they were much appreciated by those who received them.- Believe me, yours truly, R.G.B. Jeffreys, Capt., Adjutant 3rd Royal Dublin Fusiliers”

As wounded soldiers returned home to convalesce in local hospitals, everything was done to ensure their comfort. The wounded soldiers of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers at Naas Military Hospital and those in the Curragh Military Hospital received presents of chocolates from Cadburys and cakes and other food from local women in Co. Kildare for Christmas of 1915. The first batch of wounded soldiers from the expeditionary force arrived in Naas during the week of the 10th July 1915, nearly all were from the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Locals tried to amuse those wounded and being cared for in either Naas Depot Military Hospital or the Curragh Military Hospital;

“On Thursday in the Town Hall, Naas, a very pleasing entertainment was given to the wounded soldiers who are at present in the Naas Depot Military Hospital. The entertainment was in the hands of a local committee of lady organisers and the presence of the band of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers added much to the enjoyment of the occasion. The hall was crowded with military and the surrounding gentry were in force. The entertainment (broke) the monotony of hospital life for those wounded Irish soldiers.” Leinster Leader., - 4 September, 1915

Committees mentioned only dealt with the R.D.F. but several other committees were set up to deal with other Irish regiments, and were similarly organised to avoid overlapping. There were many soldiers from County Kildare in various other Regiments but the R.D.F. was by far the principle recruiter of Kildare men.

Royal Dublin Fusiliers