|dc.description.abstract||The 8th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles was formed in Belfast in September 1914, part of the 36th (Ulster) Division, and participated in several major battles on the Western Front. This is a socio-military study, placing the 8th within the context of East Belfast, showing how migration, industrialisation, religion and politics gave the battalion a defined local identity.
New archival sources are utilised: the 1911 Irish Census and British Army Records, recently digitised and placed online. Database technology collates and cross-references multiple sources, enabling the new methodology of casualty analysis to discover battalion membership. This information helps produce detailed casualty maps of the East Belfast locale, illustrating the social geography of death, the locality of service and illuminating hitherto unseen networks and patterns. Traditional archival sources – memoirs, letters, medal citations and contemporary newspapers – tell the story of the battalion’s war service and thematically analyse the experience of the serving soldier from enlistment to demobilisation.
The battalion formed around a core of East Belfast Ulster Volunteer Force men, but contained troops from other areas of Belfast, Ireland and, latterly, south-east England. The battalion was tied to the fate of its parent division, experiencing the ferocious battle of The Somme, rebuilding its losses and enduring the attrition of the Western Front, before being restructured in 1918. The memorialisation of the battalion in East Belfast is examined, surveying and mapping the many memorials featuring the battalion in East Belfast and beyond. The 8th continue to be commemorated in East Belfast today, due to the linkage of modern Loyalist paramilitaries with the Ulster Division.||en