Northern Ireland

Ireland's Great War: Photos of Belfast soldiers marching to battle

A new two-part BBC television series brings into sharper focus the story of Ireland's role in World War One.

More than 200,000 Irishmen from all parts of the island marched to war, unified in their commitment to fight but deeply divided in their reasons for doing so.

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Image caption Red Cross wagons pass Belfast City Hall as thousands of people look on
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Image caption This detail from the photograph above shows how a few brave souls, not fortunate enough to get a balcony seat, went to daring lengths to get a better view
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Image caption In another detail, the tramlines and horses give a sense of how things have changed in the space of a century. Notice how almost everyone is wearing a hat.

As the war was being fought on the fields of mainland Europe, Ireland was breaking apart.

While it was still a part of the British empire, the country was on the verge of a civil war between nationalists and unionists.

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Image caption This photograph of soldiers marching to war was also taken on Chichester Street in Belfast
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Image caption This close-up view of the photograph reveals how some ladies - and one small boy - gathered to watch the march outside the women's underground lavatory...
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Image caption ... while these gentlemen took a vantage point at the railings of the gents lavatory

When Britain declared war on Germany, many nationalists and unionists found a unified cause and joined up to fight.

While soldiers were doing battle abroad, political turmoil at home continued to brew and the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin was a pivotal point in history.

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Image caption This scene is at the top of Royal Avenue, across from where the Belfast Telegraph's offices are now. The International Bar and adjoining buildings have long since been demolished, and the land is now a green space outside the University of Ulster's art college
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Image caption Across Ireland, about 210,000 men marched off to war. Since there was no conscription, about 140,000 of these joined during the war as volunteers

The story of Ireland and World War One has often been shrouded in myth, but since the peace process in the past 20 years or so, new voices have been shedding light on that history.

The programme brings together three Irish history experts to take a fresh look at the story of Ireland and the Great War: Diarmaid Ferriter of University College Dublin, Richard Grayson from University of London and Timothy Bowman from the University of Kent.

Ireland's Great War begins on BBC One Northern Ireland at 18:00 GMT on Sunday 1 February, and will be available on iPlayer afterwards.

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