Stories of Irishmen in World War I

Neil Richardson
A Coward if I Return, A Hero if I Fall

IRELAND’S FORGOTTEN LEGACY In 1914-1918, two hundred thousand Irishmen from all religions and backgrounds went to war. At least thirty-five thousand never came home. An award-winning collection of veterans’ stories as told by the families, with military records, surviving documents and letters.


Irish Book Awards: Non-fiction - 2010


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IRELAND’S FORGOTTEN LEGACY In 1914-1918, two hundred thousand Irishmen from all religions and backgrounds went to war. At least thirty-five thousand never came home. Those that did were scarred for the rest of their lives. Many of these survivors found themselves abandoned and ostracised by their countrymen, their voices seldom heard.

The book includes:

  • The first Victoria Cross
  • Leading the way at Gallipoli and the Somme
  • North and South fighting side by side at Messines Ridge
  • Ireland’s flying aces
  • Brothers-in-arms – heart-rending stories of family sacrifice
  • The lucky escapes of some; the tragic end of others
  • The homecoming – why there was no hero’s welcome

Neil Richardson studied Philosophy in University College, Dublin, before writing his first book, A Coward If I Return, A Hero If I Fall: Stories of Irishmen in World War I, which won the Argosy Irish Non-Fiction Book of the Year award at the 2010 Irish Book Awards. This was followed by Dark Times, Decent Men: Stories of Irishmen in World War II in 2012, and According to Their Lights: Stories of Irishmen in the British Army, Easter 1916 in 2015. A member of the Reserve Defence Forces, Neil has also written and produced plays with a Great War theme and has made several national television and radio appearances, including as consultant historian on RTÉ television’s centenary programme ‘My Great War’. He recently completed an MA in Military History and Strategic Studies (Maynooth University) and is currently studying for a PhD in History.

superb and heartfelt ... you need to read this book particularly if you are interested in Irish history and the history of the Great War (and make no mistake, this book details vital and important part of that history)


this book should be on the school curriculum both in Ireland and the UK so the truth of the role of the Irish in the Great War is finally known ... superb, poignant, informative, I can’t praise it enough, a most important book from a writer with the skill and courage to do his subject matter the justice it has so long deserved



Evening Echo

'well worth the wait'

Westmeath Independent

'Ireland’s deliberate amnesia surrounding World War One is at last being punctured and a fine book such as this serves a key role in humanising the suffering'

Westmeath Independent


Westmeath Independent

'exceptional new publication'

Westmeath Independent

'all in all, it’s a fantastic read'

Westmeath Independent

'a remarkable collection of stories'

Kingdom Newspaper

'Shows an 'extraordinary empathy with a generation that is gone''

Sunday Independent

'a moving collection of stories about Irishmen who fought in that war, backed up by photos, diaries and documents that bring us closer to these men than any book I have read before'

Sunday Independent

'remarkable ... Insightful'

Sunday Independent

'author Neil Richardson conveys the personal experiences of the soldiers and what life was really like facing enemy lines'

Irish Post

'this very rich text will be read with interest by all those seeking to understand the impact of the war on Ireland and the Irish'


'heart-rending stories about bravery, family sacrifice, lucky escapes and tragic ends'

Irish Post

'documents the life cycle of the war through the eyes of the Irish men that fought it'

The Longford Leader

'He [the author] writes: 'The best way to understand the Irishmen who fought in the First World War is to remember them, to finally acknowledge what they went through and allow their stories to be told.' Neil Richardson should rest easy, as he’s achieved

Munster Express


Munster Express

'beautifully designed'

Munster Express

'a stunning piece of research'

Munster Express

'given that the first casualty of any war is the truth, any attempt to honour the Irish who fought in The Great War can only be welcomed. 'A Coward If I Return, A Hero If I Fall' is arguably the finest modern effort to record the tales of the Irish who fo

Munster Express

‘this very rich text will be read with interest by all those seeking to understand the impact of the war on Ireland and the Irish’


‘one of the great achievements of the book is to present to the public some truly new material which has not been available before’


‘thoughtful comments on memory of the war and its place in Ireland today’


'a fascinating new book containing accounts of the activities of participants in World War I has just been released and it tells the incredible story of the involvement in the bloody conflict of three brothers from Kerry'

The Kingdom

'a wonderful book'

Drogheda Independent

'a poignant and sometimes harrowing collection of personal experiences from The Great War'

Sligo Weekender

'a fascinating, and indeed, saddening read'

Westmeath Independent

'Richardson has done Irish history a great service in this book. It has helped add flesh to a growing amount of books on the Irish contribution to the first world war.'

Books Ireland

'The O’Brien Press is to be congratulated on a very well produced book with over 150 photographs and other illustrations.'

Books Ireland

'It is a moving and often tragic tale ... A book to dip into and enjoy, and I would recommend it most strongly.'

Books Ireland

This book adds another dimension to the many recent books on the Irish experience during the conflict ...

Books Ireland

'At last a book that tells the truth about Ireland and a major part of our recent history' JK Flanagan


'fantastic reading' Five-Stars, Rebel in Blue



Reader Reviews

fantastic reading' Five-Stars, Rebel in Blue

Amazon.com on 17th June 2011

I have now started reading the book for the third time and it makes me sad and proud for those Irishmen who fought in that war. They should never ever be forgotton - let us all know of the part our brave Irishmen played and never let us forget. Well done

Eugene on 17th January 2011

An excellent book!

Derek on 5th January 2011

Delighted with this book and I appreciate the fact that Neil gave a voice to my grandfather and others like him. I am really enjoying reading it every chance I can get

Ger Holligan on 14th October 2010

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Other books by this author
  • Dark Times, Decent Men
  • A Coward if I Return, A Hero if I Fall

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