A Great War ID Tag - Private Lawlor, Leinster Regiment
In a previous post we looked at an unofficially Great War era aluminum identity tag. Today we will take a look at an officially issued ID tag, these round ID tags were initially issued signally on a length of cord in 1914. Later in 1916 a second green octagonal tag would accompany it, so in theory the round tag could be removed from the body of a dead soldier with the remaining green tag to serve as an ID for the body. Today we examine the ID tag of Private Lawrence Lawlor.
Lawrence was born in Tullow, County Carlow around 1889. He is recorded on the 1901 census as living on Old Chapel Lane in Tullow with his younger sister Mary, both living with their grandparents Lawrence and Mary Neill.
Lawrence enlisted in the Wicklow Royal Garrison Artillery militia on 9 April 1906. On his attestation he was described as being 5 foot 5 inches tall and as having blue coloured eyes and brown hair. Upon enlisting, Lawrence completed 76 days of drill and was later present for the annual militia training in 1907 and 1908.
He married Bridget Swayne in Tullow Church, Carlow on 6 November 1905. Both Lawrence and Bridget were recorded as minors (Bridget being around 15 and Lawrence 16). The next year Bridget would find herself in Mountjoy Prison for assault, her sentence being one calendar month.
Lawrence and Bridget had three children together, Katie (born 1 April 1909), Teresa (born 28 June 1912) and Lawrence (born 1 May 1915).
In 1911 Lawrence was imprisoned in Kilkenny jail for 7 days for being drunk and disorderly. He was discharged from the militia at Athlone on 8 April 1912, his address being listed as Tullow. A year later Lawrence enlisted in the 4th (Militia) Battalion, Leinster Regiment at Maryboro, Queen’s County (Laois) on 12 March 1913. With the outbreak of the Great War a year later, a lot of men from the 4th Leinsters were funneled into the regular battalions as replacements for casualties. As a militia man with prior military experience he would have been a valuable replacement.
In January 1915 Private Lawlor was listed in The Police Gazette as a deserter, it’s unclear whether he received any jail time for his desertion, but in February he found himself in France with the 2nd Battalion, Leinster Regiment.
Lawrence’s wife Bridget died in Athy Hospital on 9 March 1917 from tuberculosis, she was 27 years old, with her residence listed as Stradbally. Three months to the day later Private Lawlor was killed in action on 9 June. The Leinster Regiment War Diary entry for the day records that there had been enemy artillery. In addition to Lawrence 11 other men of the battalion were killed.
Lawrence’s name is commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial, Ypres, Belgium. It is likely he initially had a make shift grave as his ID tag was obviously recovered and later sent home, but his grave was probably subsequently lost, like countless others.
In absence of both parents, Lawence’s sister, Mary Callaghan became legal guardians of his children, and they received a small dependency pension in respect of his military service.