Like many, Peter pretended to be older than his years – he was just fifteen and not eligible for military service – and the Army was happy to play along with this. It happened again in WW2, my own uncle being one such boy soldier then. He was injured and discharged with a decoration. Young Peter in the First World War, like many others, was not so lucky.
Our picture shows Sean McAteer of Warrenpoint visiting the grave in Northern France of his forebear Peter McGuigan of Cecil Street Newry who was killed in the First World War.
That terrible slaughter of ‘lions led by donkeys’, was billed then as ‘the war to end all wars’. It was not true. Just a generation later another huge conflagration swept the world and killed over fifty million people. In that war too local young men enlisted, fought and died. There are more wars and needless deaths all over the globe today.
Colin Moffett did a worthy service in compiling and collating the excellent reference book, Newry’s War Dead. We owe him a debt of gratitude for a job well done.
Newry Journal is happy to allow Peter McGuigan, boy soldier of Newry, to take a proud place in our annals representing our own version of The Unknown Soldier who lies now in ‘the green fields of France'[remember too those who sank with the Connemara the following year – one of our very first stories on Newry Journal], whatever his reason for joining up. And there were many. Some thought, since they were told they were fighting for the freedom of small nations that a free and independent Ireland would be granted at the war’s conclusion. The Home Rule Bill had been passed before war’s outbreak.
Others fought for Britain and to preserve the link. Others to oppose fascism. Some to prevent German invasion and domination. Others joined up for the job, the pay, to escape their parochial surroundings, for the camaraderie.
We salute all the war dead, and the injured and the survivors.
In memory of Peter McGuigan of Newry – boy soldier.