Tuesday 23 January 2018

'This is the cigarette case that saved dad's life in WWI'


Marie Dunne, daughter of Sapper Jim Burrows, pictured at the launch of The 'Fragments; Stories from Gallipoli 1915' Exhibition at The Pearse St Library yesterday.
The cigarette case that saved the life of Jim Demsey Burrowes during the battle of Gallipoli in 1915

A cigarette case that stopped a bullet from killing an Irish soldier is one of the many items on display in Dublin to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign.

Battered and tarnished, the little silver case is an example of how chance and fate decided who would live or die in the bleak chapter of World War One.

But because of that little case, the soldier, who had it in his pocket, went on to marry and have a daughter years later, and that proud daughter was at the launch of an exhibition to re-tell the story.

"My dad, Jim Dempsey Burrowes, trained as a carpenter in Dublin but was looking for a bit of excitement so he went off to England and trained to be a soldier," said Marie Dunne (87), from Inchicore.

"And while he was there he met a lovely English girl and she fell for him and gave him a beautiful silver cigarette case before he came back home to Clara, Co Offaly.


"He went to see the nuns there and told them he was going off to war and asked them to pray for him, and they gave him a picture of St Teresa which he put behind the case.

"While he was in Gallipoli, a bullet hit the case but didn't go through it, and he always felt it was St Teresa who saved him."

Jim was with the Royal Engineers and contracted malaria while fighting, but he lived and later married and had Marie.

Two Gallipoli exhibitions are on at the Dublin City Library and Archives on Pearse Street. The first, Fragments: Stories From Gallipoli 1915, draws on sources from the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association to highlight the personal experiences of some Irish-born soldiers.

The second, Battle of Canakkale, is a photographic exhibition funded by the Turkish embassy in Dublin in remembrance of the gallantry and friendship that flourished on Turkish land.

"We've come a long way in telling this story and I think it's a reflection of where we stand as a mature nation looking back on our past," said Tom Burke, chairman of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association.

"We suddenly realise that period of 1914 to 1918, including the Easter Rising, was a terrible period of massive change in Ireland, and Gallipoli was one tragic story lost within a tragic story.

"One of the tragedies of the campaign is that it deprived Ireland, Turkey, New Zealand and Australia of a generation of young, bright people, many of whom went off as volunteers, there was no conscription."

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