PRIVATE LAWRENCE FLANAGAN MM
LONDON REGIMENT, PRINCE OF WALES OWN CIVIL SERVICE RIFLES
22ND JUNE 1917 AGE 34
BURIED: ETAPLES MILITARY CEMETERY, FRANCE
This is a very curious inscription, one I've thought about for a long time. Others might disagree with me but I've come to the conclusion that Flanagan's father, Michael Flanagan, who signed for it, wanted to avoid any hint of patriotism, any suggestion of God or king, and any reference to honour, freedom, liberty or any other intangible quality that some people felt they had been fighting for. However, he did want to acknowledge that his son had felt a sense of obligation, of duty, to the state that had nurtured him.
Lawrence Flanagan, the son of Michael and Mary Flanagan, was born at the RA Barracks, Barrackpore, Bengal, India in 1881. In 1901 the family were living in Dublin but by the time they chose their son's inscription they were living in Borth-y-Gest, Portmadoc, Wales.
In 1911 Lawrence Flanagan was working as a Civil Servant on the staff of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in London; his name is on their war memorial in Millbank House, Westminster. He volunteered soon after the outbreak of war, served with the 15th Battalion London Regiment (Prince of Wales' Own Civil Service Rifles). The regiment joined the BEF in France on 17 March 1915. Flanagan died of wounds in hospital in Etaples eighteen months later.
Further rather tortuous research into Laurence Flanagan's family history has revealed that his cousin, Sinead Flanagan, married the anti-British, Irish republican leader, Eamon de Valera, one of the commanders of the 1916 Dublin Easter Rising and a member of Sinn Fein who ended his career as President of Ireland 1959-1973.
Michael Flanagan, Lawrence's father, was born in Ireland but his wife was English. He had been a school teacher in the British army in India. A Roman Catholic, he spoke both English and Irish, which indicates at the very least an interest in Irish culture. However, two of his sons, Lawrence and Stanislaus, served in the British army during the First World War. Lawrence was killed just six months after the Easter Rising in which de Valera was arrested and sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted. You can perhaps see why Michael Flanagan chose such a neutral, guarded inscription for his son ... and why he and his wife moved to North Wales.