A memorial to “The Boy Soldier”, Private John Condon, was unveiled at a special ceremony on Sunday May 18th with both Mayors of the City and County in attendance. Despite the inclement weather the ceremony went ahead. It was moved indoors to Waterford’s Christ Church Cathedral with the kind permission of Rev. Dean Maria Jansson. Created by Artist Pat Cunningham the sculpture stands over four metres in height and is situated on the Western side of Cathedral square in the City’s Viking Triangle.
While the sculpture is dedicated to the youngest recorded Allied soldier killed in World War I, it is primarily a memorial to the 1,100 Waterford Men, Women and Children who fought and died in the armed services of many nations but principally serving with the British Army on the Western Front.
The project to honour the war dead was conceived over 15 years by Waterford City Council. The Memorial has as its intention, not to glorify the events of war, but to solemnly and respectfully honour those who died and the families and communities that they came from. While it remembers those who paid the ultimate sacrifice it seeks also to illustrate the indiscriminate brutality of war by highlighting the very young age of many of the combatants.
Private John Condon, from Wheelbarrow Lane, Ballybrickan was killed in the Second Battle of Ypres, Belgium, on Monday May 24th 1915. Known as the ‘Boy Soldier’, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Archives record that he was the “youngest known battle casualty of the war.”
He enlisted in the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment at Waterford on Friday the 24th of October 1913. This was a reserve battalion composed of soldiers who served on a part-time basis but were liable to be called up for regular service in the event of mobilisation.
On Wednesday the 16th of December 1914, he was drafted to the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment. The battalion was posted to France at the outbreak of hostilities as part of the 4th Infantry Division in the British Expeditionary Force and in December was holding part of the line in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front.
In the early hours of the 24th of May 1915, the Germans commenced a heavy artillery attack followed by clouds of lethal chlorine gas along a 4.5-mile front, part of which was held by the 2nd Battalion. John Condon was among the casualties of this attack on the second last day of the battle. He was buried on the battlefield in a temporary grave near St Julien.
The photographs below follow the progress of the installation of the sculpture and how things progressed during the day and the ceremony. Photographs are by Keith Currams and Conor Nolan (Waterford City Council Arts Office).