The Curragh Military Cemetery, Co. Kildare, Ireland

The great expanse of land known as The Curragh is home to The Curragh Camp, an army base and military college that has been on the go since 1855. Established at the same time as Aldershot in England, it’s here that the Irish Defence Forces are put through their training.

History Ireland has a fascinating account of one royal guest:

The drill period of 1861 was destined to become the most remembered in the history of the camp: the twenty year old Prince Edward, heir to Queen Victoria, was to spend time on the short grass. Having been greeted on arrival at the camp by a salute from a field battery of the Horse Artillery he settled in to daily routine with the first battalion Grenadier Guards, to which regiment he had been attached. It was also intended that while on the Curragh the prince would be educated on the requirements of his station. It was ordained how he was to occupy each evening of the week: on two evenings he was to entertain senior officers to dinner; he was to dine with the regiments in strict rotation on three days, and on the remaining two evenings he was to dine privately in his quarters, after which he might read or write. He participated in the daily training routines, but his progress was not satisfactory and his superior officer had ‘abandoned all hope that he might be fit to command a battalion by the end of the month’ when his parents were due to arrive on a visit. But his social life prospered, he participated (under the name Captain Melville) in a horse race, he swam under the falls at Poulaphouca, and he climbed the Hill of Allen. As well as dining with his companions in the evenings he joined in their fun, and his dalliance with the actress Nellie Clifden was to cause his mother great distress when she learnt of it. She concluded that the death of Prince Albert later that year was hastened by the prince’s indiscretion as he had worried that Edward’s matrimonial prospects had been damaged by the scandal.

Photos are forbidden so you’ll have to take my word that there are myriad signs warning motorists that if flags are up, shooting exercises or other manoeuvres are in progress.

The place has intrigued me for years. A substantial part of the housing seems closed up, unoccupied. The main street, with its two churches, a shop, and a post office, seems unlived. In 2021, in an interview with the Irish Examiner, independent senator Gerard Craughwell called it

“the most derelict town in Ireland” and “an international embarrassment.”

But it wasn’t the Camp I’d come to see, it was the military cemetery, on the eastern side of the camp near Donnelly’s Hollow on the road between the towns of Newbridge and Kilcullen.


Last used in 1922, the markers show wives and children of British Army offices based in the Curragh Camp are buried here. Most of the graves are difficult to read except for the new markers that run across the brow of the hill, all of them marking WWI deaths. I suspect that the Commonwealth War Graves had a hand in this. According to their site, there are 103 graves from WWI, but all of those interred died in the camp or the military hospital.

Back in 2003, while Mick Dolan was attached to the camp, he took a month to inventory the cemetery. He transcribed all the inscriptions, including family members. A man after my own heart. Mick, if I ever meet you, I’ll buy you a pint. This sort of work is invaluable.

Most of the Commonwealth markers give the rank of the man buried – Serjeant, Private, Corporal. There was even a Trumpeter and a Shoeing Smith and a Sapper. I had to look that one up.

A sapper, also called pioneer or combat engineer, is a combatant or soldier who performs a variety of military engineering duties, such as breaching fortifications, demolitions, bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, preparing field defenses, and road and airfield construction and repair.

What intrigued me, though, was A.C. Kettel – a boy. Where is your imagination taking you? How old was he? How did he end up here? What did he do?

Edward Shurey of the Welsh Regiment died when he was 27. He left a wife behind in Leamington Spa.  Alfred Eric Max Herrig died when he was 20. They died a week apart in July 1918. At the Camp. I wonder why? What happened?

Sons, daughters, wives, and soldiers. All lie together, seemingly forgotten. There wasn’t a flower in sight. That said, some of the non-Commonwealth markers looked rather new.

Mick did great work; many of the inscriptions are very hard to read.

Sacred to the memory of Marion the beloved child of Major O. H. Oakes The Worcestershire Regiment who fell asleep in Jesus 11th June 1892 aged 10 years who is here laid to rest in the sure hope of a joyful resurrection through faith in a crucified and ever loving saviour. For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 11, 8. Ask and ye shall receive.

Dealgan de Paor did some more research for their blog post on the cemetery. It’s worth a read. And if you find yourself in the area, drop by and say hello to the souls of the 103 people who now call this home.

It’s a beautiful spot.

@ 2024 Mary Murphy