“What happened to them was vindictive and not only a stain on their honour but on the honour of Ireland”

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The BBC’s John Waite previews his forthcoming Radio 4 Face the Facts – The Disowned Army -  to be broadcast 12.30GMT on Wednesday 4 January 2012.  It’s subject, the post-World War II treatment in Ireland of around 5,000 Irish soldiers who deserted their own neutral army to join the British army and fought in Europe and elsewhere.  From the BBC article

They were formally dismissed from the Irish army, stripped of all pay and pension rights, and prevented from finding work by being banned for seven years from any employment paid for by state or government funds.

A special “list” was drawn up containing their names and addresses, and circulated to every government department, town hall and railway station – anywhere the men might look for a job.

It was referred to in the Irish parliament – the Dail – at the time as a “starvation order”, and for many of their families the phrase became painfully close to the truth.

And, as the BBC article goes on to note

Until I showed him the list – the size of a slim phone directory and marked “confidential” – John Stout had not realised his name was included.

But after the war it quickly became apparent that he could not get work and was not welcome in Ireland – so he returned to Britain.

“I feel very betrayed about how we were treated, it was wrong and even today they should say sorry for the problems we had to endure. We never even got to put our case or argue why it was unjust,” said Mr Stout.

And the list itself is far from accurate, according to Robert Widders, who has written a book about the deserters’ treatment called Spitting on a Soldier’s Grave.

“It contains the names of men who were to be punished but who’d already been killed in action, but not the names of men who deserted the Irish army to spend their war years as burglars or thieves,” he said.

In recent months, a number of Irish parliamentarians have begun pressing their government to issue a pardon to the few deserters who remain alive.

“What happened to them was vindictive and not only a stain on their honour but on the honour of Ireland,” TD Gerald Nash said.

Read the whole thing.

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  • Harry Flashman

    A small addendum to a comment made above, the riot in Dulin was not over the raising of the Allied flags by my Alma Mater’s students on VE Day, it was over the taking down and burning in the street of the Irish national flag; that upset the oiks from the agricultural college, sorry UCD students.

    In fairness try burning a Union flag in the centre of Belfast or Ballymena some day and see what kicks off.

  • Erasmus

    I wonder what would have happened had 5000 English conscripts deserted and joined the Irish Army during WW2?:

    http://www.sligochampion.ie/news/sligo-mourns-the-loss-of-the-master-of-puppetry-2080224.html
    – about half way down.

    With respect to the group of individuals who are the subject of this thread, my guess that any survivors reading it would be downright embarrassed by some of the posters who are taking up the cudgels on their behalf.

  • DC

    And they weren’t joining an army engaged on anti-fascist crusade.

    That may be so, they were fighting alongside the British in order to affect the balance of power across Europe and perhaps even the world at the time.

    Nonetheless, the Irish government still naively and indirectly backed the German war machine which carried out industrial genocide across mainland Europe itself – that upon reflection – made British imperialism (with its own unique form of racism and slavery) seem somewhat civil.

    Malcolm then has a point about hypocrisy of Irish officials – looking both ways and speaking out of two sides of one mouth, an emergency to some a world war to others.
    But you know, Republicans always look back into history and lecture anyone who will listen about nasty British imperialism, but what of the Irish government and its backing of the Nazi regime? More selective remembering of Irish history and ditching of the unpleasant bits – such as De Valera’s sympathy love letter to German officials on the death of Hitler.

    As a slight aside, maybe the baby-boom generation actually has Hitler to thank for their wealth today given that his war extinguished tens of millions, and these people could have had families and had more children who would have grown up and competed for a select number of jobs at the time. Not to mention the number of children not born during the war because of the men away fighting the war itself and the stress of that and of course wartime poverty.

  • Cynic2

    DC

    OF course the ‘Movement’ has its only little history of cosying up to the Germans in World War 1 and then the Nazis in World War 2 – England’s difficulty dontcha know

  • JR

    I can see both sides of this argument. I understand the removal of Pension rights as the soldiers deserted and would have their British war pension. Also in a conflict where nearly 180,000 soldiers were executed for desertion, seven year exclusion from state funded employment isn’t too bad. To be honest I would like to see an example of any other army treating deserters any better at a time of National emergency.

    As to those saying the Irish backed the Nazi’s I don’t engage with those prepared to argue a black crow is white.

  • Cynic2

    JR

    The Irish weren’t at war. So the comparison doesn’t make sense

    You really have to be sick though to think that the starvation order wasn’t too bad. It was naked political scapegoating by a Government that got itself far too close to Hitler

  • sonofstrongbow

    Of course the Irish were only playing to their strengths. After all they had the distinction, after Germany and Italy, of providing the largest national brigade to fight on the fascist side in the Spanish Civil War.

    Now I wonder how the veterans of the ‘Irish Brigade’ faired in post-war employment?

  • dwatch

    ” I understand the removal of Pension rights as the soldiers deserted and would have their British war pension.

    JR, British servicemen do not receive a pension (wartime or peacetime) unless they serve 22 years for servicemen & 16 years for officers. Only those who are discharged medically receive a pension (graded on the scale of their medical condition)

    “Also in a conflict where nearly 180,000 soldiers were executed for desertion”

    JR, The death penalty for desertion in the British Army was abolished in 1929 before WW2. In WW1 306 soldiers were executed for desertion at the battle front by army Firing Squads, 23 were Canadians, 22 Irish and 5 New Zealanders. All these soldiers names have now been exonerated recently by the UK government.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    “OF course the ‘Movement’ has its only little history of cosying up to the Germans in World War 1 and then the Nazis in World War 2 – England’s difficulty dontcha know”

    Yes and we know all about Eddie and the divorcee. Not to mention the Mitfords and all those other bastions of English society and greed who needed no lessons when cosying up to the Fuhrer. Not much talk of difficulty there.

  • SK

    “Of course the Irish were only playing to their strengths.”

    Your casual bitterness regarding all things Irish does nothing for your credibility.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Yes and we know all about Eddie and the divorcee. Not to mention the Mitfords and all those other bastions of English society ”

    I don’t think any of them saw the inside of a Nazi U-boat on the way to overthrow the legitimate, democratic government of their country on behalf of the SS.

    A slight difference I think you’ll agree.

  • DC

    Yes and we know all about Eddie and the divorcee. Not to mention the Mitfords and all those other bastions of English society and greed who needed no lessons when cosying up to the Fuhrer. Not much talk of difficulty there.

    Ah but there is a difference, a big difference. Those that supported Hitler particularly the Mitfords and include in that the Lord Haw Haws of this world totally believed in fascism and I imagine believed in pan-Germanism and Germany ruling Europe. I reckon they signed up out of principle.

    However, in relation to those Irish officials of the Irish government of the day, were they not pro-German just to simply poke the British in the eye? I reckon the Irish were signed up out of pragmatism in that at best they reckoned a successful Hitler victory and defeat of Britain would have brought about a united Ireland. But that would have been a united Ireland brought about by ethnic cleansing and defeat of democracy across Europe. Which once again calls into question whether the means justify the end and whether there is a problem with hypocrisy inside the Irish mind?

  • Brian

    Hitler’s own generals and admirals said they wouldn’t be ready for war until 1943 (the original date HItler gave them to be prepared for). Hitler, through the reassurances of that dupe von Ribbentrop, utterly miscalculated the reaction to his invasion of Poland. The Nazi leaders thought the democracies would do nothing once again…after all, they had given in and failed to confront them year after year until central Europe was easy pickings for the Soviets and Nazis. In fact, they weren’t far off. France tried every which way to avoid their responsibilities to Poland but Britain stood resolute.

    I think this thread is about a non issue. If you are in one army, in a time of serious danger from internal threats (IRA) and external threats, you don’t desert. Period, end of story. If you do desert your post, don’t expect to come back and get a job with the state. It’s as simple as that.

  • Jimmy Sands

    This is about pragmatism rather than ideology. The Allies in practical terms got everything they wanted from the Free State. Formal participation wold have added nothing of any value and created only an additional burden. Had the Allies not got what they wanted, as Churchill hints, we would undoubtedly have gone the same way as Iceland.

  • JR

    Dwatch,

    I didn’t say they were exectued by Britain. I am just saying what happened at the time.

    Nearly 180,000 were executed for desertion in WW11. Nearly 150,000 by the russians, over 15,000 by the Germans and even 1 by the USA (even though 49 were sentenced to death for desertion) The Italians oficially shot 500 for desertion but anecdotally it was many times this. The french also Shot soldiers for Desertion in the early days of WW11.

  • Harry Flashman

    I’ve said it before; Sean Russell died on a U-Boat in the service of the Nazis, the Chucks erected a statue in his honour.

    Gerry Fitt defied the Nazi U-boats to bring much needed aid to Russia, the Chucks wrecked his home and shat on his wedding photos.

    Ya jus gotta love those Chucks doncha?

  • JR

    DC

    “calls into question whether the means justify the end and whether there is a problem with hypocrisy inside the Irish mind?”

    SOS
    “The Irish playing to their strengths”

    Are these people for real?

  • Brian

    ‘Nonetheless, the Irish government still naively and indirectly backed the German war machine which carried out industrial genocide across mainland Europe itself – that upon reflection – made British imperialism (with its own unique form of racism and slavery) seem somewhat civil.’

    THis us utterly untrue. How did the Irish government back the German war machine????

    How does such gibberish like this even get written.

  • DC

    Yes I’m for real, take even in more recent times, Ireland – for a ‘neutral’ state – still allowed the US military flights in and out of Shannon to fuel up and do what ever else. All of this done to aid its war in Iraq and Afghanistan etc.

    Hypocrisy – possessing to hold values which one doesn’t really hold.

    So, some ‘neutrality’ allowing the USA to land planes on Irish soil re Iraq, and if Hitler had won the Irish would have had a united Ireland on the back of an ethnically cleansed Europe – which would have been a Europe colonised and enslaved by Germans. You would have thought given Ireland’s history that its government might have had a problem with that?

  • JR

    DC,

    Yes but seriously saying that the population of a country have a problem with their mind by right of being born in that country is stageringly sectarian.

  • DC

    Well please don’t take it as applying to all the modern day Irish populace, it was meant in the context of Irish officialdom, its politicians and its ruling elite, particularly so in the context of WWII, Shannon was a more recent example of Irish government hypocrisy.

    And I didn’t say the population actually has a problem with hypocrisy I just wondered whether there could be a problem.

  • sonofstrongbow

    DC,

    I’m very much into reality, you should try it sometime.

    “saying that the population of a country have a problem with their mind by right of being born in that country is staggeringly sectarian.”; only if you believe that the entire population of said country belongs to one sect.

    By the way you’re not very good at man-playing. I’d leave it alone if I were you

  • sonofstrongbow

    Apologies DC my last was directed towards JR.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    I was prepared to nominate Cynic2 @ 1:13 pm‘s late entry as the worst attempt at a trolling this year. I mean, it’s so benign, so innocuous. Compared to his usual, he was hardly trying. No phantom submarines in Galway Bay. No quotes ripped from “laughing boy” Oliver J Flanagan. No mention of the curious Gonne household and its occasional visitor, Hermann Goertz. Really, hardly qualifying as a trolling at all, at all — and, heaven knows, the bar is set pretty low here in Sluggerdom.

    And then … phoof! … it’s light the red-white-and-blue touchy-touchy paper and you’re all at it.

    Of course, none of it relevant to the thread — and I thought it was my duty to go off-topic.

    So, the essential question remains:—

    How could an administration which was so generous to its K-line internees (free tickets to the races, permits for nookie breaks, followed by a full debriefing with John Betjeman at the Shelbourne Grill, — the latter available to Allied officers only, of course) then treat the poor bloody returning infantry so appallingly?

  • Decimus

    And that ultimately the ‘revisionism’ on display is that of the painting of the Irish who did not run off to help Britain in the last big (but sadly not the last) in a long line of imperialist punch ups with countless innocent lives lost due to the actions of all sides, as somehow being morally bankrupt.

    It is tiresome but not without form.

    Mac,

    So in your opinion WW2 was merely an imperial punch up? Then why are you complaining about Britain not declaring war on the USSR and liberating Poland? Surely that would simply have been another imperial punch up?

    I can see the major problem with your theories and it appears to be that you start from a position of assuming that Britain is wrong and then fitting all your other crap around that ‘fact’. Being slightly bonkers doesn’t help either.