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O'Flaherty V.C. : a recruiting pamphlet by George Bernard Shaw
page 1 of 37 (02%)


It may surprise some people to learn that in 1915 this little
play was a recruiting poster in disguise. The British officer
seldom likes Irish soldiers; but he always tries to have a
certain proportion of them in his battalion, because, partly from
a want of common sense which leads them to value their lives less
than Englishmen do (lives are really less worth living in a poor
country), and partly because even the most cowardly Irishman
feels obliged to outdo an Englishman in bravery if possible, and
at least to set a perilous pace for him, Irish soldiers give
impetus to those military operations which require for their
spirited execution more devilment than prudence.

Unfortunately, Irish recruiting was badly bungled in 1915. The
Irish were for the most part Roman Catholics and loyal Irishmen,
which means that from the English point of view they were
heretics and rebels. But they were willing enough to go
soldiering on the side of France and see the world outside
Ireland, which is a dull place to live in. It was quite easy to
enlist them by approaching them from their own point of view. But
the War Office insisted on approaching them from the point of
view of Dublin Castle. They were discouraged and repulsed by
refusals to give commissions to Roman Catholic officers, or to
allow distinct Irish units to be formed. To attract them, the
walls were covered with placards headed REMEMBER BELGIUM. The
folly of asking an Irishman to remember anything when you want
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