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Old 4th Sep 2009, 17:46   #1 (permalink)
 
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Irish participation in World War 2

As is commonly known, the Republic of Ireland remained neutral throughout World War 2. What is less well-known on the British side of the Irish Sea is that tens of thousands of Irish citizens volunteered to fight in the British armed forces, and later in those of the USA. Many Irish aircrew served in the RAF, and 10 of these flew in the Battle of Britain. Casualties are difficult to estimate, but a figure of 10,000 put forward in the 1990s is probably as good a guess as any.

After the war, those who had served had a mixed reception at home. For many years the Irish government tried to play down its citizens' role in hostilities, maintaining the neutral stance it had adopted in 1939, and it is certain that many of those volunteers experienced hostility in republican circles. There has always been unease towards outward signs of remembrance, the wearing of the poppy, for example, being seen as unacceptable and associated with British imperialism. War memorials, where they existed at all, were allowed to fall into disrepair, although I understand this situation has been reversed of late.

I would be most interested to hear from Irish contributors how these attitudes have modified over the years, if indeed they have. My sole point in starting this thread on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of war is to commemorate those Irish volunteers who risked their lives and social ostracism in what they considered a worthy cause, and to find out if they are now better recognised in their homeland. I would hope it would not be used as a stick to beat the Irish government of the time, that horse has been well and truly flogged over the years.
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Old 4th Sep 2009, 19:31   #2 (permalink)
 
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This side of the water I think you'll find an enormous gratitude for the contribution of those from across the way who paid a very heavy price.

My Grandfather fought in both wars (like many he lied to get involved in the first one), being one of the early members of the flying corps he had vived memories of life therein and despite what Biggles might say, it wasn't big and it wasn't clever.
One thing he always mentioned in every one of the many stories he used to tell us, was of the bravery of the Irish who came across to help us.
When the 2nd World War finished, many of them couldn't "go home" as they would suffer retribution, as many of their families did, from the Republican movement.

It's a shame that the Irish government of the day decided they didn't have the guts to get involved, had they done so I suspect that life today for the decent folk across the water, whatever their political opinion would be a lot better.
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Old 4th Sep 2009, 19:42   #3 (permalink)
 
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I can think of at least two Irishmen who were Victoria Cross winners in World War 2
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Old 4th Sep 2009, 20:01   #4 (permalink)
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Quite a few Irish Americans stepped up during WW2. Audie Murphy, Medal of Honor, was Scots-Irish.
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Old 4th Sep 2009, 20:05   #5 (permalink)
 
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Audie Murphy was American.*
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Old 4th Sep 2009, 20:36   #6 (permalink)
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Yes he was, indeed!
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Old 5th Sep 2009, 09:05   #7 (permalink)
 
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It's a shame that the Irish government of the day decided they didn't have the guts to get involved
With the British occupying Northern Ireland, and the Irish having fought against them for independence, you couldn't really expect the Irish Republic to come running to Britains aid. Had Hitler won, a united Ireland as a reward for staying neutral would have been a real possibility. Why would they declare war on Germany when a British defeat would have suited them ideally ? Try and see it from their point of view.

Similar situation in South Africa at the time as well. The Boers were in no mood to support their old enemy, and after what the British did during the Anglo Boer war who could blame them ?
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Old 5th Sep 2009, 09:25   #8 (permalink)
 
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I suspect it would have been politically impossible for the Irish government of the time to have come out on the Allied side. Notice they didn't stop Irishmen enlisting in the British or US armed forces though. Apparently the stipulation many Irish made was that wouldn't be expected to serve against the Republic of Eire - understandably.
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Old 5th Sep 2009, 09:40   #9 (permalink)

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Had Hitler won, a united Ireland as a reward for staying neutral would have been a real possibility
....and I'll stop calling you Alice when you stop living in Wonderland!
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Old 5th Sep 2009, 09:44   #10 (permalink)
 
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It would have been 'united', there's no doubt, only under Nazi rule. And probably much more trouble to them than the French resistance were, but in a different way.
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Old 5th Sep 2009, 09:47   #11 (permalink)
 
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I would be most interested to hear from Irish contributors how these attitudes have modified over the years, if indeed they have.
I'm still hoping to get a contribution from someone which addresses my main question. Other than that I notice that dead horse has a few fresh scars.
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Old 5th Sep 2009, 12:30   #12 (permalink)

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But did President De Valera really have to sign the book of condolence in Dublin's German Embassy when Adolf topped himself in the Berlin bunker .....
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Old 5th Sep 2009, 12:59   #13 (permalink)
 
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I think it's important to remember Republicans fought on both sides. And, in my opinion, those that fought with the Germans, although a minority, should be remembered in the same esteem by Ireland as those that fought with the British and I'd like to put emphasis on the 'with' and not 'for'. My reason for saying this is that the Republican's prime motivation at the time for fighting was subsequent independence for Ireland on the back of their participation and I suppose on a more basic level it was a job.

I was at a play last week called 'Tom Crean'. He was one of the explorers to go with Scott and Shakelton to the Antartic and in the play he mentions how for a while he had to live in the anglified Dublin and not Kerry, his home, as a result of the Republican movement there and their disregard for the British and those that participated with them. The play went into his motivation for joining the British army. I don't know how accurate it was but it seemed to come to the conclusion that it was because it was a job and Tom Crean was seeing parts of the world he wouldn't have otherwise.

I can't say I'm proud of the fact de Valera signed the book of commeration for Hitler. But I wonder was the base motivation for that one out of anti-Britishness as opposed to pro-Naziism?

The poppy is not worn by Irish and I think rightly so. Why should we support the troops of a foreign nation? It is for the British to look after their troops be they from wherever... I'll remember the Irish republicans that fought in the world wars in my own way and have great regard for their prime motivation which was for the people of Ireland and how they'd be best served. I'd like to think the British would recognise that and not put 'airy fairy' language overtones upon it. They are much better regarded now for sure. President Mary McAleese attended remembrance services in France for our war dead recently.

That's my opinion as an Irish man.
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Old 5th Sep 2009, 14:12   #14 (permalink)
 
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It's a shame that the Irish government of the day decided they didn't have the guts to get involved, had they done so I suspect that life today for the decent folk across the water, whatever their political opinion would be a lot better.
The Irish government of the day De Valera on down still had vivid memories of the treatment they received at the hands of the crown prior to independence.

Expecting the Irish government to run to the aid of government that killed by fire squad the leaders of the Eastern Rising is a bit rich. It was not so much that the governmetn was pro German as it was anti British.

The majority of Irish people on the other hand were very much pro British.
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Old 5th Sep 2009, 14:27   #15 (permalink)
 
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The majority of Irish people on the other hand were very much pro British.
Maybe pro-British ain't the way to put it but they certainly were more affected by events on the continent possibly than those in the government of the day whose sole objective was to break from Britain.

Quote:
Expecting the Irish government to run to the aid of government that killed by fire squad the leaders of the Eastern Rising is a bit rich. It was not so much that the governmetn was pro German as it was anti British.
Very well put. The lack of British understanding of Irish history means they don't put a context on Irish decisions of the time.
www.gaa.ie/page/bloody_sunday.html

Easter Rising - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Maybe these two articles might provide some reasons for the feeling of anti-British in Ireland at the time.
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Old 5th Sep 2009, 15:35   #16 (permalink)
 
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killed by fire squad the leaders of the Eastern Rising (sic)
Well, under the circumstances, what did they expect? A pat on the back and tea with the King?
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Old 5th Sep 2009, 16:07   #17 (permalink)
 
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But did President De Valera really have to sign the book of condolence in Dublin's German Embassy when Adolf topped himself in the Berlin bunker
Anti-British bigotry plays well well in Irish pubs. Of course De Valera had to kowtow publically to his late lamented hero. Nazism had been his only hope of military domination over Ulster.
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Old 5th Sep 2009, 17:02   #18 (permalink)
 
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The poppy is not worn by Irish and I think rightly so. Why should we support the troops of a foreign nation? It is for the British to look after their troops be they from wherever..
FH I can see where you are you are coming from in your posts, and although I disagree with a lot of what you say I can understand your reasons for saying it. However the above statement seems quite illogical. The Haig Fund (recipient of poppy day contributions) attends to the needs of all ex-servicemen and their dependants, and these can just as likely be Irish as any other nationality. Dont forget, as well as the Irish volunteers in WW2, during the post war period when National Service was in force, Irish men who were resident in the UK were called up alongside UK citizens and had to serve. There is therefore a large body of Irish ex-servicemen who could well be helped by the Haig Fund, not just a dwindling band of WW2 veterans. Boycotting the poppy for whatever political reason is denying help to your own countrymen. Or is there some parallel Irish organisation which offers them aid which I have not heard of?
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Old 5th Sep 2009, 17:08   #19 (permalink)
 
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Or is there some parallel Irish organisation which offers them aid which I have not heard of?
There's Noraid.

That organisation is massively more lavish in funding Irish fighters than the pissy wee Haig fund ever was.
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Old 5th Sep 2009, 17:22   #20 (permalink)
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The conflicted nature of Ireland's relationship with Britain has never stopped the Irish (of all backgrounds and political hues) from fighting for the British as many bravely did in the Second World War.

The long list of Irish Victoria Cross winners over the years is testament to this fact.

List of Irish Victoria Cross recipients - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

One Ulsterman that never won the VC although many thought he should have was Paddy Mayne

Officer and an Ulsterman - Telegraph

Last edited by Michael Birbeck; 5th Sep 2009 at 17:35.
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