Irish letters from the front: the McGrane brothers in the First World War
Title in English
Only one survived
Peter and Christopher McGrane were two Dublin brothers who served in the First World War. They were Roman Catholics who grew up in Knocklyon Castle, Templeogue Co Dublin, Ireland. Both enlisted in September 1915. Neither were married and Peter had worked as a bank official prior to enlistment.
Peter (known as Leo) was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Irish Regiment attached to the 3rd battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He received officer training in London and was sent to France in November 1916. His letters home from France describe playing sport behind the lines and how used he has become to the sound of the guns at nighttime. He describes the fun of the Brigades sports day during their period of rest and the 'extremely good music', remarking wryly that 'most people here thought on yesterday afternoon that this was a very fine war'. The awareness of danger was however ever present and he mentions how glad he is that there is a Catholic chaplain with them to provide services before going into danger. In April 1917 he was hospitalized for scabies and was due to be sent home but the hospital ships were cancelled and he remained in France. A month later Peter was dead. He was killed at the Battle of the Arras on the 19th May 1917 on the Western Front. He was aged twenty-eight. His final letter, collected here, was dated 13th May 1917, less than a week before his death, making it particularly poignant, especially his closing promise to write again at the first opportunity. Peter is commemorated on the Arras memorial in France.
His brother Christopher served with the Royal Flying Corps during the war. He enlisted at the age of twenty-one. He was based in France during the war, and his letter in this collection is written to his brother Jim who was back in Ireland. His letter suggests he missed home, evident by his desire for ‘all the local news’. Peter and Christopher were located less than 40 miles apart in France in May 1917 and had made plans to meet just before Peter's death. After the war Christopher left Ireland and moved to Rhodesia where he joined the police force. He did not return to Ireland except for a brief visit in 1939.
The war story of Peter and Christopher was passed down through the family and his relatives found Peter's photograph a few years ago, making the story more real to them. They were recently invited to a ceremony at the Arras memorial in France.
Summary description of items
1 photograph of Peter McGrane in his army uniform circa 1916.
2 letters from Peter to Dublin from France dated 6 April 1917 and 13 May 1917
1 photograph of Christopher at home in Dublin circa June 1917
Letter from Christopher to his brother Jim in Dublin, July 1917