A long way from Tipperary
Yesterday, it was a fine summer’s evening in the North Tipperary town of Templemore; an evening when there was time to pause and ponder. Walking from the Church of Ireland parish church, which lies at the Roscrea end of the town, a small stone cross close to the pathway caught the eye; inscriptions in German are not frequent in Irish churchyards.
“Hier ruht unter lieber kamerad L. Spellerberg vom Inf Regt 212 21e Komp am 21 Feb 1895 aw 21 Jan 1915”
Below here lies our dearly loved comrade. A German infantryman, dead a month short of his twentieth birthday and lying buried in Templemore, how did he come to be in a place so far from home?
A History Ireland piece by John Reynolds of the Garda Síochána College in Templemore reveals that his name was Ludwig Spellerberg and that he was among 2,300 German prisoners of war who were held at Richmond Barracks in Templemore in conditions that seemed very humane in violent times. Ludwig Spellerberg died not through wounds from military action, but from food poisoning. Presumably a Protestant, he was buried with full military honours by members of the Leinster Regiment.
The German General Staff account of the first battle of Ypres in the autumn of 1914 say the 212th Infantry was involved in the capture of the Belgian village of Gits on 19th October. Perhaps it was in those fields of Flanders that Ludwig Spellerberg fell into allied hands and from there found himself transported to a small town in Ireland.
Templemore was not to be Ludwig Spellerberg’s last resting place. The German War Graves Commission, the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, opened a military cemetery at Glencree in Co Wicklow in 1961 and the mortal remains of German soldiers buried in various parts of Ireland were brought to a place of beauty and tranquility. Permission was given for the cross in Templemore to remain in place. The Glencree cemetery has a commemorative poem by Stan O’Brien’s inscribed upon a memorial stone:
It was for me to die
Under an Irish sky
There finding berth
In good Irish earth
What I dreamed and planned
bound me to my Fatherland
But War sent me
To sleep in Glencree
Passion and pain
Were my loss my gain:
Pray as you pass
Searching the Internet for information on Ludwig Spellerberg revealed something interesting. A photograph of the cross in Templemore churchyard taken in 2007 show a memorial stone spotted with lichen, and an inscription not easily legible.
The cross as it now stands is cleaned and fresh, and its inscription has been relettered. The men of the Leinster Regiment who buried their former enemy with full military honours would undoubtedly have approved of such respect for the dignity of a soldier.
I searched out Stan O’Brien’s poem and found this page.
Very interesting website.
Well done nice job, Leinster Regiment .
Proud Irish Dub. Abroad.
Last week my partner and I tried to find the two German POW graves in Templemore. I was visiting her so had limited time. I searched the cemetery by the Sacred Heart church and then as an after thought headed for St Mary’s. Unfortunately the main gates were pad-locked and we could not see any other way in. I know that there were two POWs who sadly passed away and that both stones were allowed to remain by the German War Graves Commission in recognition of the care and kindness of the people of Templemore after the bodies were exhumed and reburied in Wicklow. Where I wonder is the other one? I understand that the POWs were more or less split fifty fifty between Protestant and Catholic so it could be there is one grave in each area. Thank you for this site, I will visit St Mary’s next time and in the meantime if anyone knows of the second grave I would be grateful. Thanks Bill
The History Ireland site says,”Private A. Gierzweski died of diabetes in December 1914, and Private L. Spellerberg died of food poisoning in March 1915. Both were buried in Templemore cemeteries with full military honours. . . .”
I assume that the reference to “cemeteries” means Gierzweski’s grave was in the Sacred Heart Cemetery. If I get a chance, I’ll ask someone from the area.
Thank you for the care of Ludwig. We share the same surname, but our family have lived in the UK since 1700.