Ireland vindictive treatment of soldiers who ‘deserted’ peace for war…

I was struck by this line of thought in Joseph Quinn’s piece in the Irish Times on Saturday, which focuses on the trial of an Irish war veteran, who unfortunately for him had left (ie, deserted) the Irish Army for the British during the Second World War:

Kehoe had left the safety of the Army to face the dangers of fighting the Nazis which, “in any civilised country, was not a case for punishment at all”. Sadly, the trial’s outcome was dictated by the political dogma that had reigned in neutral Ireland and that would unfortunately come to define the state of the country at that time. The Emergency Powers (No 362) Order, which became enshrined in Irish statute law at the stroke of Taoiseach Éamon de Valera’s pen as section 13 of the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Act 1946, formally dismissed deserters from the Defence Forces, stripping them of pay and gratuity rights. It deprived them of the right to make claims under the Unemployment Insurance Act or from obtaining any State or public employment for seven years.

The punishment may not have qualified as cruel and unusual, but it was extraordinarily vindictive and social and economic in its nature. At a time when all manner of Ireland’s history is under constant revision, Quinn suggests now is the time to do something about it.

  • sliabhluachra

    Mr Kehoe was a deserter. Deserters are often shot by firing squad or hanged in times of war or national emergencies.
    The Free State defence forces and the LDF (forerunner of the FCA) signed up tens of thousands to fight against any belligerent which might invade it. Deserters, either to Germany or Britain, did not help that cause and those caught deserved punishment. Dem’s de rules. It was not for Britain to set Irish foreign policy and the fact that either side would have quickly dealt with any Free State resistance is irrelevant and rather fascistic a view.
    The late Cathal O’Shannon Jnr (son of the original who was a friend of both Connoly and Jack White) made a series of documentaries on so called Irish Nazis, Axis belligerents who settled in or visited Ireland after VE Day.
    This chap had jpoined the RAF during the War and, he says, he was livid he had to wear civvies when visiting Dublin during it. This propagandist over did the Nazi Irish theme with the consequent loss of information on interesting vistors like Otto Skorzeny.
    Many British and quite a few of their collaborators like O’Shannon believe Dublin should have no independent policy, that it should be John Bull’s other island.
    Dev, who had no qualms about executing his old IRA buddies to preserve neutrality, is to be commended for saving his people the traumas of another Somme massacre for King and country. Deserters like Kehoe are not.

    And by the way and unsurprisingly, Kevin Myers, whose family were up to their necks in servig the Crown, had an article a week or so ago on this very topic in either the Indo or the DT.

  • sonofstrongbow

    There is little doubt that the fact it was British forces deserters headed for added a little frisson of bitterness to their treatment.

    Interestingly those Irish people who volunteered to support Franco’s fascists in Spain a few years earlier (making up the largest foreign national force aside those from Italy and Germany) seem to have returned to Ireland to resume their lives without any fuss at all.

  • Dec

    ‘Interestingly those Irish people who volunteered to support Franco’s fascists in Spain a few years earlier (making up the largest foreign national force aside those from Italy and Germany)’

    3rd largest then? Those who fought for the International Brigades also returned without much fuss.

    Interestingly, Von Ribbentrop was no stranger to Mount Stewart blah, blah, blah…

  • SK

    They deserted for laudable reasons, and they fought for a just cause.

    But they still deserted. They deserted at a time of national emergency, when military information to which they were privy would have proven valuable to foreign agents and so the Irish government did what any government would do in such circumstances and punished them.

    Unless people are arguing that soldiers who take an oath of fidelity should be entitled to break it as and when they feel like it?

  • sliabhluachra

    Actually Dec, not quite true. Mick O’Riordan got a hard time but the Spanish Civil War is a red herring.
    Here is a simple question: Should all Irish Free State soldiers who had the opportunity desert and fight for Britain/USA in World War 2? Unionists believe they should. Churchill, after the Soviet Union defeated Germany, made a point of attacking Irish neutrality in his VE speech in Westminster. World War 2 was Dev’s finest hour – if we forget the disreputable way they treated Germans stranded in supposedly neutral Ireland at war’s end.
    Churchil, as a fanatical opponent of democracy, beleived the Irish had no rights, no rights in 1920 and no rights in 1940. He was a war mongering, blundering, blood thirsty idiot who drank his way to victory.
    These Loyalists and die hard Royalists are increasingly coming out of the woodwork to write Irish history. For those of Dev’s generation, the horrors of the Great war were still fresh: indeed, it was one of the main impetuses (sp) to appeasement by France.
    Yes, there were still Irishmen who signed up and died in British uniforms during WW2; I know one guy who was named after Patrick Pearse who copped it on D Day. Around 500 Irish born were killed in Vietnam fighting for Yankee imperialism, Coca Cola and democracy (and a green card). More sily Irish adventurers were killed and maimed in the wars of the Yugoslav succession. The British terrorist government is continuing to sign up Micks as cannon fodder.
    Dev is often derided by the revisionists. Yet the Ireland of his dreams, one dimensional and all as it was, was a nirvana compared to the hell Churchill and his willing collaborators would have delivered us into.
    We should salute Dev and those brave Irishmen working for buttons in England, sending their shillings back to keep the home fires burning. Mr Kehoe, the deserter, can drink himself stu[pid at the RBL clubs which also, sadly, infest our towns.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Oh deary,deary me.
    And they have the brass neck to call Unionists bitter ?

  • JR

    In many countries including the USA deserting your national army to join the army of another country is considered treason, a much more serious crime than desertion.

    I can see why someone young and idealistic might get fed up with parading round the curragh when Europe is at war but when you sign your self into an army it’s not like taking a part time job at the chipper. It was not beyond possibility that Germany could have invaded or Britain could have tried to take the ports by force.

    Given the rate of desertion to the British army (4,000 men). The country needed a cost efficient deterrent and punishment for deserters.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Instead of calling this a deeply shameful,and wholly indefensible stae of affairs,we have the ‘usual suspects’ actually trying to justify it ?
    One despairs at the comments above. Filled with a bitterness and hatred,even in the face of world tyranny.

    To glibly say the Russians,(alone) defeated Germany,is to sully the name of Allied Soldiers from Countries around the Globe…………….and it also quaintly ignores Uncle Joes pact with Adolf.

    If this is the true voice of irish nationalist/republican thinking in 2012,I fear a reunification of the peoples on this Island is further away than ever.

    FOR SHAME I say.
    FOR SHAME.

  • JR

    As an interesting asside, my grandmothers brother was a deserter. He was an accountant and was sent to London for a number of months as part of his work and while there he was conscripted.

    While at home on his first leave he crossed the border into the south and never went back to the North. I don’t know whether he was right or wrong to desert but I do know living less than an hour from where his family home and not going there for nearly 60 years including his parents funerals effected him alot.

  • SK

    “Instead of calling this a deeply shameful,and wholly indefensible stae of affairs,we have the ‘usual suspects’ actually trying to justify it ?”

    _

    A government does have to justify sanctioning deserters from its army.

  • SK

    does not*, that is.

    Would the British army take no action against a soldier who just decided not to show up one day? The US army? Don’t be ridiculous.

  • Alias

    Given that Stalin shot 160,000 deserters during WW2 and arrested their families, these folks got off lightly!

    The crime is not ‘fighting German plans for world domination’ (who now dominate Europe anyway) but deserting. There is no case for pardons.

    Some joined the British army because they could earn 4 times the money that they could earn in the Irish army. Some joined or because they were either ignorant that the British army was an army of occupation in Ireland or didn’t care about that or approved of it. Some might have felt it was their duty to the Commonwealth to offer themselves as cannonfodder when, contrary to myth of England standing alone, almost a third of the world’s population were available Commonwealth soldiers.

    Deserting your own country at a time when invasion of it was a real prospect is not an honourable action, and should not now be retrospectively presented as such by the state.

    At any rate, those still alive should apologise for their crime and explain their motives so that the state can then consider their cases on an indivual basis.

  • sliabhluachra

    Alias: Have a listen to Churchill’s fight em on the beaches speech, following Dunkirk. As well as continually referring to our island nation and Britain, he makes it plain that even if he should fail, the New World (ie USA) would rise up and avenge them. So, one has to ask, what was his agenda?
    Following D Day, the Western Front was less than 25% of the forces against Hitler and, as you rightly point out, the lapdog stats had rallied much earlier, Canada, in particular, saving the Poms.
    Australia declared war as follows: England is at war and as a consequence, so too is Australia. Churchill had the Anzacs packed off to Singapore, just in time to surrender to the great General Yamashita when he liberated it.
    The liberation of Singapore by Japan is one of the most disgraceful periods in British history and was due, in very large part, to the overt racism of the British, whose leader, General Percival, had earlier surrendered to the IRA and who was later aboard the Missouri when McArthur took the surrender. McArthur gave Percival one of the pens used.
    I have met Brits and Ossie who fought the Japanese, Japanese soldiers and widows and relatives of those who died on the Burma railway. All I can say is: thank you Dev for sparing some young, naive souls and may the Irish never endure such conditions again at the behest of any foreign, imperial power.

    Unionists neeed to be more reflective.

  • Alias,

    Some joined or because they were either ignorant that the British army was an army of occupation in Ireland or didn’t care about that or approved of it

    … or didn’t accept your premise.

    Some might have felt it was their duty to the Commonwealth to offer themselves as cannonfodder

    And some may have felt it was their duty to humanity to fight a totalitarian, expansionist regime that was threatening their fellow small European nations. Some may have felt that having secured their own independence, they were duty bound to do the same for the Czechs, Poles, etc. Believe it or not, sometimes your political enemies may have noble motives.

    when, contrary to myth of England standing alone, almost a third of the world’s population were available Commonwealth soldiers.

    In theory perhaps, but conscription was only used in the UK. India, for example, only fielded volunteers in WW2, and many local leaders were against the war. It is doubtful if conscription could have been introduced without open rebellion. And “alone” was technically correct, as the British Empire was the only Allied power still at war.

    SL,

    It’s simply incredible for you to excoriate the “overt racism of the British” and laud the “liberation of Singapore by Japan” in the same sentence. Google for “Sook Ching Massacre” before replying, if you don’t mind.

  • Alias

    Andrew, international law only recognises for confition under which desertion is not to be deemed a crime. That condition was not met by the Irish army deserters. All others are irrelevant, providing no justification for deserting their country, particularly at a time when a threat of invasion existed.

  • Alias

    “only recognises one condition”

  • Old Mortality

    For the sake of clarity, were these men conscripted into the Irish army or were they volunteers. If the latter, were they not in a position to resign?
    I have to agree that desertion is a serious offence and not one that should be ignored. However, the threat of invasion from whatever quarter had subsided considerably by 1942 and the US had entered the war. That should have persuaded de Valera to allow any Irish soldiers who wished to resign to do so and join allied armies. There is certainly more than a suggestion that the policy was founded on bitter anti-Britishness. It would be interesting to know what might have happened to anyone who deserted to join US forces.

  • Alias,

    Straw man. Read what I wrote.

  • galloglaigh

    “During the Great War… Allied officers executed 306 men… Many of them suffered from shell shock and gassing… they had served for lengthy and un-natural periods in the trenches. A number of them were in their teens or early twenties, some had given false ages when joining up… Twenty-one of them were serving with Irish regiments… Other executed Irishmen were serving… other regiments… the suggestion that they were guilty and deserving of their punishment could not be further from the truth. Many of them had distinguished service records and had not been defended during their court-martial… They were the victims of a military establishment; which believed that their executions would be a lesson to others. Far from being cowards, many of them had survived horrific battles before reaching breaking point. Their comrades were often made to watch the executions, or parade past the body. Defending officers… were often incompetent advocates and did not have crucial information that might well have cleared the accused…

    “A campaign has been organized on a worldwide basis by John Hipkin… he is seeking a full pardon for them. John who was born in 1927 was at the age of 14 Britain’s youngest prisoner of war in the Second World War.

    “The campaign… still attracts attention in the media. His group has sought the help of the Irish Government to have pardoned the 26 Irishmen who were court-martialed and executed by the British army during the First World War. The Republic’s Foreign Affairs Minister is backing this long running campaign. The organization; which is dedicated to getting posthumous pardons for veterans, has said that the Irish should follow the example of New Zealand who pardoned the five of its own soldiers who were executed for ‘desertion’ or ‘disobedience’. John states that there was a disproportionate amount of Irish soldiers executed by the British army, all the Irish were young volunteers and should not have been executed. The Australians refused to execute any of their own volunteers for breaches of discipline… Australians resisted all attempts by the British to impose their harsh discipline. In 1929, the practice of shooting worn-out men was outlawed by the British Parliament. The soldiers executed in most cases were suffering from the effects of gassing or from shell shock. The present campaign was launched when the British Public Records Office released the court-martial documents in 1990. The campaigners describe the executions of the men who were shot “as judicial murders, they were brutally gunned down, not in the name of justice but as a stupid, spiteful and shameful example to others”.

    “One Irishman… executed was Patrick Joseph Downey from Limerick. He was shot at dawn… December 1915. The charge was insubordination and refusing to put on his cap. The cap was soaking wet and covered in muck… The charge read, “The accused disobeyed a lawful command in such a manner as to show willful disobedience of authority given personally by his superior officer in the execution of his office”. Downey was not defended at his trial. An officer told how on hearing that he had been sentenced to death, Downey laughed and said, “That is a good joke, you enlist me to shot the enemy, and then you shoot me”.

    “Other Irishmen Shot at Dawn were, Stephan Byrne, Dublin. Sunday 28th October; 1917. Thomas Murphy/Hogan, Kerry, Monday 14thMay, 1917. Joseph Carey, Dublin, Friday 15th September 1916. Thomas Cummings, Belfast, Thursday 28thJanuary, 1915. Albert Smythe, Ireland, Thursday 28th January 1915. Thomas Hope, Westmeath, Tuesday 2nd March 1915. Thomas Davis, Clare, Friday 2nd July 1915. Peter Sands, Belfast, Wednesday 15th September 1915. James Graham, Cork, Tuesday 21st December 1915. James Crozier, Belfast, Sunday 27thFebruary, 1916. James Templeton, Belfast. Sunday March 19th 1916. J.F. McCracken, Belfast, Sunday March 19th 1916. James H. Wilson, Limerick, Sunday 9th July 1916. James Cassidy, Ireland, Sunday 23rd July 1916. Albert Rickman, Naas, Friday 15th September 1916. James Mullany, Ireland, Tuesday 3rd October 1916. Bernard McGeehan, Derry, Thursday 2nd November 1916. Samual McBride, Ireland, Thursday 7th December 1916. Arthur Hamilton, Belfast, Tuesday 27th March 1917. J. Wishart, Omagh, Tuesday 5th June 1917. Robert Hepple(Hope), Ireland, Thursday 5th July 1917. George Hanna, Belfast, Tuesday, 6th November 1917. John Seymour, Ireland. Thursday 24th January 1918. Benjamin O’Connell, Wexford, Thursday 8th August 1918. Patrick Murphy, Dublin, Thursday 12th September 1918.

    “Irish, Scottish & North of England soldiers made up 50% of soldiers shot at dawn; their fate was kept secret for 75 years. Perhaps the Irish & Scottish Parliaments along with the Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies could unilaterally pardon their own nations?” (John Hipkin)

    I think the Free State soldiers got off light!

  • SK

    “For the sake of clarity, were these men conscripted into the Irish army or were they volunteers. If the latter, were they not in a position to resign?”

    It isn’t like getting a job in Starbucks…a soldier cannot simply decide not to show up for duty one day.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    The actions may appear vindictive from a modern standpoint particularly with what we know about Nazism et al but as they say, the past is a different country. Bear in mind the following

    Neutrality was universally popular in the 26 counties at the time whether we in the 21st century like it or not. Only 1 TD out of a democratically elected Dail opposed it. These soldiers who deserted the Irish army in a time of crisis could possibly have become part of a (British) army that might have been called upon to invade this country and bring down this democratically elected government.

    Furthermore, they deserted an army they had volunteered for (they had not been conscripted) for one that had run amok throughout this country, particularly the southern half of it less than two decades previously (I know the Auxies were technically part of the RIC but the distinction would be lost on most people at the time). Not to mention, that same British army had lots of previous in this country as well. Nevertheless, as far as I know there was no official policy of discriminating against Irish people who served in the British forces, only those who had deserted the Irish ones.

    Let’s say the shoe had been one the other foot and Britain had stayed neutral. What would Britain have done to soldiers in the British Army who deserted neutral Britain to fight with the Irish Army who say, joined the war alongside the Americans in 1941? I wonder.

  • Vindictive? They lost pay for a job they didn’t do and couldn’t claim the dole, not unusual even now when you don’t pay your stamps and a friend recently returning from working in Italy discovered. So the “punishment” inflicted on this poor soul was that he couldn’t take a state job for seven years? Considering other countries hanged deserters and Dev was interning and executing republicans during the same period, he should consider himself extremely fortunate.

  • TS,

    But that’s the whole point. Just because a policy was universally popular at the time did not necessarily make it morally correct. With hindsight, we know that many things once popular were wrong. That others would have done the same under the circumstances is not a justification either. I don’t think anyone is arguing that what Dev did was illegal or improper. The argument is whether it was moral. It’s not the same thing.

  • sliabhluachra

    Galloglaigh & Tochais Síoraí: Excellent posts. It would be godd to tell the stories of those shot at dawn. The establishment of HMF are very slow to forgive them and that battle still goes on. Sassoon (I think) wrote a lot about it in his day.

    Andrew Gallagher: I am well aware of what the Japanese did in Nanking and everywhere else, just as I am aware of others’ foibles.
    General Percival who surrendered to inferior Japanaese forces under the great General Yamashita ran a racist hell hole in Singapore and Malaya. The Japanese had inferior weapons and the racist overlords believed the Japanese, as they had slanty eyes, would not be able to bomb straight. Thus Singapore under Percival, the torturer of IRA prisoners, was lit up like a Christmas tree.
    When the Japanese told them to build the Burma railway, they jumped to it and would be building it yet had the Yanks not saved them.
    General Yamishita, the Lion of Malaya, was hanged by the victorious Percival/McArthur clique simply because he kicked their asses. Neither he nor his men engaged in any war crimes (unlike Homma’s men)
    The Japanese liberated South east Asia from the European yoke and in India, Indonesia and Vietnam, they are still remembered and admired for kicking white ass.

    One of the problems here I feel is that Unionist and Royalist apologists are one eyed and cannot see any side but their own. The rest of can see shades of grey.

    One often reads about the Irish fuelling U Boats. Where would they have got the diesel from? Duh. Or the IRA helping in the bombing of Belfast. |God help the Gemrans for depending on such incompetents.
    The British have much to be proud of from World war 2, where Churchill lost them their empire. But so too have the Irish under Dev. In factr, it is a pity Dublin does not have a leader now with some lead in his pencil to tell the IMF/EU to f55k off.

    Good that there is omse interest there. Maybe we will move on to the Bengal famine when millions of Indians were starved to death so Tommy could have his bully beef.
    Maybe Gandhi was an a$$hole for opposing the war too. Or maybe principles should laways bend to the will of the strongest.

  • SL, are you reading Churchill correctly? This from May 1945:

    “Owing to the action of Mr De Valera, so much at variance with the temper and instinct of thousands of Southern Irishmen who hastened to the battlefront to prove their ancient valour, the approaches which the Southern Irish ports and airfields could so easily have guarded were closed by the hostile aircraft and U-boats. This was indeed a deadly moment in our life, and if it had not been for the loyalty and friendship of Northern Ireland we should have been forced to come to close quarters with Mr de Valera or perish for ever from this earth.

    “However, with a restraint and poise to which I say history will find few parallels, His Majesty’s Government never laid a violent hand upon them, though at times it would have been quite easy and quite natural, and we left the De Valera Government to frolic with the Germans and later the Japanese representatives to their heart’s content.”

    He could have shown some gratitude for the Donegal Corridor too.

  • andnowwhat

    The Irish, a population depleted still by the so called famine, had given enough of itself in WWI.

    Prior to entering WWII America forbade it’s citizens from fighting for the allies (it was a more general law as those familiar with Hemingway will be aware of) to the extent that Americans wishing to fight would often go over via Canada and other backdoor methods.

    The BBC’s Coast had an excellent episode that showed assistance Dev et al gave to the allies which was described as “pushing neutrality to it’s very limits”.

    As someone else said, such actions must be seen in the historical, less humane, standards of the time and there is simply no doubt that these men faired better than those of the anti treaty movement

  • sliabhluachra

    Nevin: IMHO. Churchil lwas an incompetent drunkard: soft belly of Europe, the Dardanelles etc.

    Dunkirk: …..We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans…we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

    In other words, this Yankee lackey was happy to see Britain lose all, as long as the Yanks won all, which they did.
    Please note the bit about this island: ie not the occupied part of Ireland.

    Churchill can be remembered for his anti Irish, anti democratic war mngering in 1922.
    WQe can skip over the racism in yapping about the valour of the Irish ie good cannon fodder. No wonder they think Micks are thick.

    Like those beofre us, we can and should salute all who do their duty according to their beliefs. This includes the heroes of the LDF during WW2. Never was so much owed to so few.

  • New Yorker

    The argument that they would be needed in case of invasion does not hold up. If the Germans had invaded, what could the Irish Army do? Very little according to recent scholarship. The best way to have assured Irish security at that time would have been to join the Allies.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Pete Baker has just put up a very informative post on this very subject. I would implore all here to read it through,and then comment again.

    Here ia a small snippet…..

    “Captain Giles: The Taoiseach. The Government set no headline. There is too much codology, even about the emergency. Every second word out of the Taoiseach’s mouth is, “the emergency and the dangers to this country.” Who saved us during the emergency? It was not our little army and our Government. It was the might of the British navy that saved us and if that had not been there, Hitler or Stalin would not have been long about taking us over.”

    Indeed.

  • PaddyReilly

    If the Germans had invaded, what could the Irish Army do?

    If the Germans had invaded England, the Irish could have helped them by occupying Northern Ireland. Over on Pete Baker’s thread there is a transcription of a long debate in the Dáil, which includes the words

    They were pro-German when they thought Hitler was going to win.

    This may well be true. From 1939 until the battle of Stalingrad, Germany was the more likely winner.

    Now they hang their heads in shame.

    This was quite false. Cute hoors are essentially pragmatists. Churchill had no business starting a war which he lacked the resourses to win, hoping, like Mr Micawber, that something would turn up. American and Russian intervention might never have happened. In most wars, it is the non-participants who win.

  • HeinzGuderian

    “Captain Giles: Of the thousands of men who went away, some of them believed they were fighting for their lives; others went to earn money for their people; others went for adventure. These men were doing in faroff lands what we were not doing at home. I am one of those who served in the Old I.R.A. I am an I.R.A. man and I want to face facts. I say that 99 per cent. of Fianna Fáil men wanted Britain and America to win but they were too cowardly to admit it. When they read about the Belsen camp they remained silent. They were pro-German when they thought Hitler was going to win. Now they hang their heads in shame. It is time that all this nonsense was stopped and that the farmers got a chance.”

    The ‘ prouid irish,under dev’ ?

  • HeinzGuderian

    This was quite false. Cute hoors are essentially pragmatists. Churchill had no business starting a war which he lacked the resourses to win, hoping, like Mr Micawber, that something would turn up. American and Russian intervention might never have happened. In most wars, it is the non-participants who win. paddy…

    Meanwhile a whole race of people are exterminated in concentration camps ?
    Unbelievable !!

  • PaddyReilly

    Meanwhile a whole race of people are exterminated in concentration camps ?

    The Final Solution did not start until the Germans could see they were losing. It was the spiteful act of the about to be vanquished. Like the French killing the boys after the Battle of Agincourt in Henry V. Had they won, they might have been more generous. But as has already been pointed out, Ireland’s little army was not big enough to stop them, even if they weren’t.

  • PaddyReilly

    And what is certain is that the English did not fight World War 2 to prevent or to avenge the genocide of the Jews, because it had not yet happened. In fact, they never even took up the invitation to bomb Auschwitz or the railway lines leading to it.

  • Decimus

    In summary. The second world war was merely a side show which got in the way of vital Irish army manouveres. Or something.

    sliabulchara,

    I must congratulate you on managing to pack so many incorrect lttle snippets of Irish mythology into two posts. The people who suffered so terribly in Malaya would be fascinated to hear that there were no war crimes committed against them.

    I’m also fairly confident that the Indian and Australian troops who9 made up the bulk of Percival’s wrmy there would have been delighted to sit down and explain the intricacies of fighting a modern war with no air support. They might also have explained to you the problems a beseiged army faces when it has no water.

  • Decimus

    In most wars, it is the non-participants who win.

    Paddy,

    The Irish can't claim that dubious crown. The folks who fought the war and won were quite rightly pissed with them for sitting it out. Of course they didn't sit out the British rebuilding programme of the post war years which is largely why they didn't face complete bankruptcy.

  • HeinzGuderian

    paddy,maybe youu should read a history book…….or Three ?

    Here’s a good one to start with:
    D-Day; The Battle for Normandy,Antony Beevor…

    Take a look at this review of the book on Amazon,I think you,and ski,will find it most informative.

    As the title of this review suggests, I was drawn to Antony Beevor’s book “D-Day: The Battle for Normandy” because the book’s title promises to focus not just on June 6, 1944, but also on the succeeding weeks of desperate close-quarters fighting in the hinterlands of the Normandy beachhead. In this regard, Beevor’s book does not disappoint.
    Most people know that the June 1944 Normandy landings were a huge gamble that could have gone badly (indeed, Eisenhower, supreme Allied commander in Europe and the one who gave the go-ahead for the D-Day landings on June 6, had prepared a short speech to be delivered in the very real event that the American, British, and Canadian armies failed to establish a beachhead), and the actual D-Day landings at Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches have been covered in the most minute detail (by Cornelius Ryan, Max Hastings, and others)in the last 65 years. As important as getting a toehold on these beaches was in the first few days (and as fantastic a logistic feat the June landings were), the great majority of the battles (and casualties)occurred in the next two months as the Allied and German armies clashed in the most bitter fighting in the hedgerow (“bocage”) and hill country just inland of the beaches. Gains and losses in these battles were often measured in hundreds of yards, while the British and American casualty-rates were double those of the Soviet forces (2000 losses per division per month in the West, as opposed to 1000 per division on the Eastern Front) in the comparable timeframe, even as the Soviet armies were rolling the Germans back hundreds of miles in their massive Operation Bagration offensive.
    I began Beevor’s book particularly interested in the numerous and successive British offensives in the seemingly compact eastern sector of the Allied front (Operations Epsom, Goodwood, and Totalize) that appeared to be signal failures despite the massive human and materiel resources (including hundreds of RAF and USAAF bombers that carpet-bombed the frontlines prior to Goodwood and Totalize) and where gains were maybe a few miles at best at the cost of hundreds of tanks and thousands of men. As with all his battle-coverage, Beevor is excellent at narrating these desultory battles in adequate detail (including identifying the units on both sides) without getting bogged-down in any kind of rote recitation. (Also, a major virtue of this book, as with all of Beevor’s titles I have read, is the superb maps.) In Epsom, Goodwood, and Totalize, Gen. Montgomery always promised a major breakthrough, only to (characteristically, of course) seek to shift the blame to other Allied commanders when these operations failed to meet their most modest goals. After five years of war, the British were at the end of their materiel and manpower reserves; they had failed to take enough territory inland of the Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches to build airfields for tactical fighter support; they were facing the majority of SS divisions on the Normandy front along a very short frontline; their Churchill and Cromwell tanks were far inferior to German tanks; the hedgerow and hill country of Normandy severely limited armored mobility and thus favored the defending Germans who also had large numbers of 88mm flak guns to kill Allied tanks; and it did not help that the heavy Allied bombers which were supposed to tear open the German frontlines prior to Goodwood and Totalize, made their bombing-runs perpendicular to the frontline rather than flying parallel to the front (in an effort to limit exposure to the many German flak batteries) and ended up hitting almost as many Allied ground forces as German troops.
    To the west, the Americans faced the same difficulties in terms of limited mobility in the hedgerows (one American officer who had served in the Pacific compared bocage fighting to jungle warfare), superior German tanks and 88s, and fanatical resistance by German troops convinced that failure to push the Western Allies off the northern continent meant the inevitable end of the Reich. And it would be unfair to say the Americans initially fared much better than the British and Canadians, when U.S. troops were trapped in the hedgerows for a month after D-Day. However, the American forces were able to secure more territory (aided by airborne landings and paratroopers) inland of the beaches immediately after D-Day and were thus able to build fighter airfields within their beachheads; were successful in driving across the Contentin Peninsula to the Atlantic and the approaches to Brittany, and reducing the German forces northward and eventually capturing the port of Cherbourg; and, crucially, the Americans had vastly more manpower and materiel resources than the British.
    As the British sector of the Normandy front bogged-down, and gains were measured in increments of five miles, Montgomery (conveniently) declared that his forces’ function was now to tie-down the majority of the SS units in the eastern sector so that the Americans could achieve a breakout further west around the left flank of the German forces in Normandy. This indeed did occur in Operation Cobra, 25 July-1 August, 1944. When a Soviet general observing the stalemated British sector commented to a British general that Soviet forces faced many more German troops on the Eastern Front than the Allied forces faced in Normandy, the British commander retorted that the Russians faced the same number of German soldiers across many hundreds of miles of front in the East that the Americans and especially the British faced along a front of all of sixty miles. Again, Beevor rightly observes that (for a change) the fighting in Normandy was more ferocious than in the comparable period in the East. There is much truth in this observation.
    Beevor also gives substantial coverage to the defending German forces in Normandy. These included both regular Wehrmacht army as well as many SS units, including both SS panzer corps and Hitler Youth divisions. While the Germans fought doggedly, often to the last man, inflicted heavy losses on the Americans and British for every mile gained, and specialized in quick and punishing counterattacks, I was struck, in reading Beevor’s book, at the horrendous losses the Germans were suffering from the very beginning of the Normandy battles. The Germans had negligible air support for the duration of the fighting, and they were consequently pummeled by British and American fighters every daylight hour of every clear day. The reader very quickly appreciates how difficult these constant air attacks made it for German operations. Rommel (the German commander in Normandy in the early days after June 6) had been promised generous Luftwaffe aid in the event of any Allied landings, and when this air support did not materialize (there were not enough planes, pilots, or fuel), he quickly realized that (as he had experienced in North Africa) it was basically futile to try to throw the Allies back into the sea. The German mechanized forces (and even reserves of ground troops marching to the front from deeper inside France) could move only at night and had to remain hidden during the day. Though German troops were experienced and determined, they and their commanders quickly learned that this was no way to conduct a successful military campaign. This eventually culminated in late August 1944 in the slaughter from the air of tens of thousands of German troops in the Falaise Pocket when Allied forces decisively broke out and sent German armies reeling all the way back to Paris and the line of the Seine. However, even here it should be said that determined German resistance coupled with inept British /Canadian leadership, allowed many German troops to escape the Falaise Packet and subsequently be deployed against the Allies in the Ardennes in December 1944, and in Hungary in March 1945, in the last two German offensives of the war.
    This is the third book by Antony Beevor that I have read (I have also read his book on the British defeat in Crete in 1941, and his “The Fall of Berlin” on the final German defeat in 1945), and I greatly enjoyed it. Beevor is clearly immersed in the primary (he researched in the relevant archives in North America and Europe) and secondary literature, yet his prose is not turgid or overly technical. He writes in a clear and effective style in which the reader feels Beevor gives his subjects a complete treatment with a certain economy of words. There are also fascinating single chapters on the July 20, 1944, assassination attempt on Hitler, and the liberation of Paris, that offer brief but masterly accounts of these more peripheral events. “

  • sliabhluachra

    Decimus: Have you never seen the pictures of Brits decapitating Malays?
    What right had the Brits to be in Malaya or the Dutch savages in the Dutch East Indies? None. Yamashita was not a war criminal. He was hanged out of vengeance because he kicked McArthur’s sory ass. McArthur should have known what was coming his way in the Philippines (where he had no right to be) but the arrogant whitey ignored Pearl Harbour and so left his lethargic army in the lurch as he skiddadled..
    The Japanese drove the British and other white trash out of Asia thanks, in large part, to Churchill’s incompetence and to the Brits under estimating them as an inferior race. (Yes as an inferior race). We now have stories of Yanks urinatring on Afghans. How about looting the bodies of dead Japanese and German soldiers?

    As regards the Irish not putting up a fight. The Poles did: horses against tanks. The Irish probably would have put up better albeit less effective resistance than the Brits as 1. they had plenty of experience fighting a fascist occupier and 2. the Brits, not being democrats, were over dependent on their officers so if the Germans knocked the toffs out, gamer over. But we will never know.

    But who knows. Live with your shallow myths. History will rake over all this and move on.

  • Decimus

    Sliabulchara,

    I am glad that you mentioned shallow myths because your post is liberally littered with them.

    1. Yamashita was a notorious war criminal who was responsible for several massacres. In Malaya his troops bayoneted wounded and sick people to death in their beds. The Provos only bombed hospitals of course, so I can see were you might be sympathetic.

    2. The Japanese won in Malaya because the RAF required all of its best aircraft for home defence. Malaya therefore had totally inadequate air cover. The ‘white trash’ you mention were mostly Indian and Australian troops a large portion of whom were barely trained. Where regular British troops such as the Argylls met the Japanese they dealt them several body blows, but unfortunately they made up a fraction of the defence forces.

    3. The Poles did not pit horses against tanks. That is mythology.

    4. The Irish never knew a fascist occupier. If they had they might have something to complain about.

    5. The British army is not and was not then dependent on its officers. Indeed the Inniskillings held the centre of the line at Waterloo after every one of their officers had been killed or wounded. The Sergeants took charge.

    Shallow mythology indeed.

  • SL, I thought Joe Kennedy was the problem. When Rooseveldt got rid of Joe it was easier for the Allies to get US support.

    As for 1922 you’ll find details here [pp101-102] of an incident at Pettigo where what appears to have been a sort of invasion of the new NI state was repulsed during the Churchill era.

  • PaddyReilly

    The following clip, made by the BBC, adequately summarises British military capabilities in the earlier part of the 2nd World War, before the Americans joined, and may go some way to explaining the Irish unwillingness to be Great Britain’s closest ally.

  • Brian

    When you desert your army at a time of serious and real internal (IRA) and external (Britain/German) threats they don’t throw you a parade when you come back. You face the consequences for deserting your country and abandoning your oath at a time of immense danger to the hard won sovereignty of the state.

    Why you deserted your men and your duties is irrelevant.

  • Decimus

    Paddy,

    So it was cowardice rather than principle which kept them out. Interesting.

  • Brian

    ” been a sort of invasion of the new NI state was repulsed during the Churchill era.”

    An ‘invasion’? What an absurd and emotive word to use to describe that small and insignificant border fracas

  • PaddyReilly

    So it was cowardice rather than principle which kept them out. Interesting.

    Rather an odd conclusion. In the “Alexandra Quartet” (by Durrell) a British administrator in Egypt speaks of the Sin against the Holy Ghost (in Imperial terms), which is sticking up for a grouping which will not stick up for itself (in that case, the Copts). You don’t go into a Betting Shop and back the horse you think is going to lose. Bravery and principle have no part in the foreign policy of a nation: it is a matter of whether a particular action is in the nation’s interest. As Lord Melbourne said to Queen Victoria, Madame, we have no friends and no enemies, only interests.

  • “external (Britain/German) threats”

    You’ve left out the USA, Brian. Was it not David Gray, its man in Dublin, who suggested some direct action against those in the Irish Free State who were reluctant to provide greater support to the Allies?

  • andnowwhat

    In fairness to the British, they were kind to the member races of the empire who fought for them

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jallianwala_Bagh_massacre

    Or maybe not

  • andnowwhat

    What had the Irish to give other than body bag filling?

    They did that less than 2 decades previously

  • Brian, the howitzer shells put an end to the attempted ‘invasion’ by pro-treaty and anti-treaty forces and, soon after, some of the pressure on the new NI state was removed when civil war broke out.

  • sliabhluachra

    Decimus: I hope we get back to the main point

    1. Yamashita was a not notorious war criminal . He was hanged because he whipped McArthur. His trial was a farce and he was crimes he was convicted of happened. Other Japanese, Homma in particular, was in charge for many of them.
    2. The Japanese won in Malaya because the Brits thought it was impassible and safe. The ‘white trash’ I refer to were the leaders who were out and out racists. But hurrah for the Argyls. Incidentally, the Japanese were good in hand to hand combat because of their kendo background.
    3. The Poles: fought very valiantly everywhere. There is footage of them fighting the tanks. Whether they attacked the tanks or the tanks attacked them is a moot point in 2012.

    4. The Irish never knew a fascist occupier. If they had they might have something to complain about. Ever hear of the pitch cap?

    5. The British army: officers and men. Maybe I should read up more on Waterloo or Stamford Bridge. After Singapore, the headless chickens of the British Army did what they were told. The German NCOs on the other hand…

    All I can say is: thank God Dev saved many Irishmen from all of that. I do hope more genuine research is done into this to see why so many deserted. What were their religions/backgrounds etc? Of course, myths old and new will still be spun but inquiring minds need to know.

    Shallow mythology indeed.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Vindictive………….even to this very day.
    FOR SHAME.

  • sliabhluachra

    Gdeneral Guderian. Yes, it is a shame HM forces still have not forgiven those they shot in cold blood during the Great war. You should claim damages for the anguish it has caused you.

  • Crubeen

    “Yamashita was a not notorious war criminal . He was hanged because he whipped McArthur.”

    Actually, “Dugout Doug” whupped Yamashita in the Philippines in 1944-45.

    “The British army: officers and men. Maybe I should read up more on Waterloo or Stamford Bridge. After Singapore, the headless chickens of the British Army did what they were told. The German NCOs on the other hand… ”

    Did what they were told. Not a lot of them refused duty in the Einsatazgruppen.

    “All I can say is: thank God Dev saved many Irishmen from all of that.”

    Did he indeed!?! Or perhaps his policy was informed by a need to assert Irish independence and a need to keep the Nazi menace out of Ireland. The former was the legacy of centuries of British rule and the latter was pragmatic. The record shows that had the Germans invaded Ireland the British Army (post 1942 – the US Army) would, according to pre-arranged plans, have crossed the Border to render assistance to the Irish Defence forces.

    Devalera paid his respects to the German legation according to protocol on the death of the German Head of State – there is, I believe, evidence to suggest that he regarded the films coming out of such as Belsen as British propaganda. Outside of closed circles the extent and depravity of German crimes was little known – hence the need for Nuremberg and the trials in the Far East in respect of Japanese criminality.

    The treatment of the Irish deserters was vindictive and petty. Americans who defied US law to go fight for the Allies prior to Pearl Harbor were quietly taken into the US Armed forces e.g. the Eagle Squadron become the embryo of the 4th Fighter Group. Given that the Irish Free State did not become a combatant this option was a non-starter but given that those “deserters” fought against one of the most evil systems that ever existed, there is and was a very clear case for quietly forgiving and forgetting. They did not fight against Ireland’s interests – indeed they fought for the interests of common decency.

  • Decimus

    Bravery and principle have no part in the foreign policy of a nation: it is a matter of whether a particular action is in the nation’s interest.

    Paddy,

    Yet Britain acted on both bravery and principle in 1939 and continued to do so in 1940 when they faced almost certain defeat.

  • Decimus

    sliabthingy,

    You are wrong on all counts, but rather than bore everyone by going through it all again let me just concentrate on one.

    There is footage of them fighting the tanks.

    If you can produce genuine footage of Polish cavalry charging German tanks then I will vote Sinn Fein, or whatever other xenophobic nationalist party you choose, for the remainder of my days.

    Over to you.

  • sliabhluachra

    Crubeen: McArthur was smuggled out of the Philippines after the Japanese whipped their supremacist asses in case you forgot. Yamashita surrendered, unbroken and unbowed in Baguio, in the Highlands, having withdrawn from Mania which McArthur’s mob and the Japanese navy wrecked between them.

    You have heard of the antics the Marines got up to? Lots of war crimes to go around but a little off the point.

    Decimus: I am not a supporter of Sinn Fein.

    I try to be even handed. Try it.

  • Decimus

    sliabthingy,

    Your efforts at being even handed seem to leave you with the annoying habit of being consistently wrong. The Polish did not charge German tanks with cavalry. That is a myth. The Japanese guy you so evenhandedly admire was a mass murdering butcher. That is a fact.

  • Crubeen

    Sliabh,

    The point was that Yamashita did not whup Dugout Doug … ’twas the other way round.

    The Philippines fell in 1942 because the US fleet, having been put out of action at Pearl Harbor, was unable to mount the planned counter attack to reinforce the Philippines in the event of war.

    As for “supremacist asses” you would go a long way to find any race more convinced of its innate superiority than the Japanese militarists prior to and during WW2.

    What antics did the Marines get up to?.

    And I assume you accept that the treatment of the “deserters” was vindictive and petty in the extreme sense of both of those words.

  • Crubeen

    Sliabh,

    What are your views on the Irish who enlisted in the US armed forces during WW2? I know that some from Northern Ireland did so and were inducted and trained here before being sent overseas. I have no knowledge of any from the South but there may have been some

  • PaddyReilly

    Yet Britain acted on both bravery and principle in 1939 and continued to do so in 1940 when they faced almost certain defeat.

    Political entities do not evince bravery, which is a human virtue, not an institutional one, nor do they ever follow principles, except when it suits them. Churchill quite clearly stated at the time that all Great Britain’s wars in Europe were fought to prevent one power becoming dominant on the Continent, which is not in Britain’s interests. There must be no Napoleon, no Kaiser and no Third Reich. The situation outlined in the Dad’s Army map is doomsday for England: one hostile power controlling the whole coastline from Talinn to Kiel to Brest and down to Biscay: and no friends in Iberia. Christabel Bielenberg remarks that all in governing circles knew that this was untenable: in 3-4 years its navy would be vanquished and its infrastructure bombed into submission.

    Arguably though Ireland was acting on principle in the period 1944-5. It could have declared war on Germany without risk. But for the sake of consistency, and with an eye to the interests of Irish citizens in Axis countries, it did not: Ireland had decided to be one of the World’s neutral countries, not one of the Belligerents: a sort of larger version of the Papal State. Joining in a world war is an act of reckless gambling: Mussolini did and ended strung up on a lamp-post 4 years later: Franco didn’t, meaning Fascism survived into the 1970s. Just as well for Britain, because if Hitler had got into Morocco and closed off the Mediterranean a favourable outcome would be less likely.

  • Alias

    France and the UK didn’t declare war on Germany because of “bravery and principle” – they declared war because they delegated that sovereignty to Poland in a treaty and had no choice in the matter. Had Germany not invaded Poland, and France and the UK not been duly obligated to declare war, both of those then ‘superpowers’ would have been content to live with the other superpower and its Nazi regime.

    Indeed, they dumped Poland into the 4th European superpower, the USSR, at the end of WW2. So that will show you their actual disregard for freedom, democracy, human rights, and such principles (as if the colonial history of France and the UK doesn’t offer sufficient evidence).

    Incidentally, Ireland was the only European state to successfully put down a rise of fascism during the 30s. There was zero sympathy for that philosophy then or now.

  • Brian

    “France and the UK didn’t declare war on Germany because of “bravery and principle” – they declared war because they delegated that sovereignty to Poland in a treaty and had no choice in the matter. ”

    Actually, France tried every which way to avoid their pledge to defend Poland, making multiple pleas to Britain to find ways to avoid war. After all, unlike Britain they didn’t have the ocean between them and the Nazi war machine.

    But anyway, your point is well taken. Where was Britain’s ‘bravery and principle’ when they bargained away much of Europe to a totalitarian regime every bit as savage as Hitler’s? If ‘bravery and principle’ were what they stood on, they would have been willing to defend these people’s democratic and human rights as they supposedly did for Poland.

    Just as in WW I, Britain’s war was not for any abstract human right or against tyranny in general- just those tyrants who happened to threaten their Empire, people, and homeland.

  • Brian

    (To be accurate, the Kaiser nor Hitler threatened their homeland or people until after War started)

  • Decimus

    Political entities do not evince bravery

    Paddy,

    If that is the case then why did you feel the need to state that “Bravery and principle have no part in the foreign policy of a nation: it is a matter of whether a particular action is in the nation’s interest.”

    If political entities do not evince bravery then what point were you trying to make?

    Can you also explain please why you think that the Free State was ‘acting on principle’ by sitting out of the war in 1944 (when it would have faced absolutely no risk whatsoever), but you extend no such praise to the UK for going to war in 1939 (when it faced total annihalation)despite being totally unprepared.

    Have your green tinted glasses totally blinded you to reality?

  • Decimus

    Actually, France tried every which way to avoid their pledge to defend Poland, making multiple pleas to Britain to find ways to avoid war.

    Brian,

    But Britain went to war with Nazi Germany and clearly you cannot set aside your bigoted hatred for even one second to praise them for that. Instead you root around looking for excuses to puit them down. As if the channel would have saved them. Unbelievable.

    Thank God the rest of the free world does not view history through Irish republican blinkers.

    But anyway, your point is well taken. Where was Britain’s ‘bravery and principle’ when they bargained away much of Europe to a totalitarian regime every bit as savage as Hitler’s?

    Are you suggesting that the UK should have gone to war with the USSR in 1945? Really? Do you think Ireland or indeed anyone would have joined them in liberating eastern Europe?

  • HeinzGuderian

    ‘Incidentally, Ireland was the only European state to successfully put down a rise of fascism during the 30s. There was zero sympathy for that philosophy then or now.’

    Only one facist in dear aul oirland (rep of),eh Dev ?

  • sliabhluachra

    The British have a lot to be proud of from WW2; that is porbably why they never stop showing documentaries on it. As regards their armed forces barging their way into all sporting events well…

    Poland was not invited to the celebratrion of VE day in Britain.

    We should not regard the British/English as being homogenous. Churchill, Hitler’s image, would have been content to lose every man Jack of them, knowing that the USA and the Commonwealth would avenge Britian’s defeat. He said so.

    The Germans lost the war at Dunkirk. hey were geared for Blitzkrieg, a sharp, short war. The Brits lost al ltheir gear at Dunkirk so it was a close run thing. Brits agree with that and it does not take away one iota from the British. Of cpourse, had Britain been defeated or the USSR for thatr matter, Hitler would not have stopped. He had issues as they say.

    As regards going to war with Germany to justify morality, read Koestler on it. Was fascist Greece morally good for going to war with Germany?

  • galloglaigh

    I recall as a teenager seeing a book in the library in which a photojournalist had genuine footage of Polish cavalry charging German tanks. There were photos of them (all unmasked) preparing for and then participating in what I assume was a cavalry march against the German tanks.

    After the successful cavalry march against the tanks there were pictures of them sitting in Polish army camp where their guns etc were piled on a table and a beaming middle aged Polish officer was passing around cups of tea. The book recorded that they did indeed successfully charge the German tanks.

    I’ve never seen that book since, and I’m assuming that the events depicted in it happened right at the time of WWII, but that is definitely what was contained in it 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • PaddyReilly

    Can you also explain please why you think that the Free State was ‘acting on principle’ by sitting out of the war in 1944

    Bravery, principle, honour, the need to keep treaties, sympathy for gallant little countries, special relationships, auld alliances, affection and altruism etc, etc, are all descriptions for the propaganda history books. Nations act according to their own vital interests: to expect otherwise is delusory. Of course much of British history is known best from its propagandic version, presenting abject cock-ups like the charge of the Light Brigade as heroic displays of valour, pointless massacres like the Battle of the Somme as heroic moral battles, total debacles like the retreat from Dunkirk as brilliant tactical withdrawals. Don’t get me wrong: you don’t assemble an Empire as big as this without an enormous amount of talent and military nous, and there was still a lot of it around: the Burma Campaign was brilliantly conducted by General Slim, “Perhaps the greatest commander of the 20th Century”: it’s just that disastrous mistakes are always subject to propagandic cover-up. When someone says, this was their finest hour, it obviously is not. The finest hour was well in the past: the situation referred to would be better described by Oliver Hardy’s “Another fine mess you’ve got us into.”

    It is not in Britain’s interest for one power to dominate Europe, particularly the coastline: therefore, in the face of an alliance that did this, Britain could only succumb or fight on. To describe this as bravery misses the point: if they wanted to be brave why didn’t the British Expeditionary Force stay and fight the Germans at Dunkirk? No, not bravery: dire necessity.

    During the period 1944-5, it was probably as much in the Irish interest to declare war as to remain neutral. But I say this with hindsight, knowing that the Marshall Plan was coming: possibly the Government of Ireland had no inkling that such a thing would happen. In addition to that, a combatant might not have been starved of oil by the allies in the way that a non-combatant was. But having established the principle that Ireland was one of the world’s neutral countries, the Goverment decided to stay with that. Quite how this explains the current presence of Irish troops in Afghanistan, I do not know: but as I have already explained, nations act on principle only when it suits them to do so.

    So saying that Ireland acted on principle in the period 1944-5 is not praise: just an explanation. Having decided to be neutral when it was in Ireland’s vital interests so to be, it was decided to stay neutral when this was no longer the case. De Valera probably took neutrality a little too far: it doesn’t cost anything to pretend to side with the winners. But this is not to utter any criticism of him: his overall conduct was exactly what the Irish nation wanted.

  • Decimus

    So saying that Ireland acted on principle in the period 1944-5 is not praise: just an explanation. Having decided to be neutral when it was in Ireland’s vital interests so to be, it was decided to stay neutral when this was no longer the case.

    Paddy,

    Perhaps because to have declared war in 1944, when it was clear that the allies were going to win, would have made them look even worse in the eyes of the free world than they already did. A bit like their Italian friends in 1940.

  • Paddy,

    I don’t have much to add to that, other than to point out the obvious caveat: states act in what their leaders believe at the time to be their own vital interest.

    So this might expand our debate on the original question: was order no. 362 in the state’s vital interest or the government’s? Or was it just another cock-up?

  • Decimus

    Andrew,

    I think it was reflective of the virulent hatred of the British that was being encouraged at the time. The people who went to war had stepped outside the boundaries of the tribe and were punished accordingly.

  • PaddyReilly

    Perhaps because to have declared war in 1944, when it was clear that the allies were going to win, would have made them look even worse in the eyes of the free world than they already did.

    Liberia joined the war in January 1944, Paraguay, Ecuador, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia in February 1945. Turkey was I think later. Chile and Argentina were March 1945. These facts are so notorious that you don’t even know them. The United States and Soviet Union only joined when they were attacked, which is I think the most sensible procedure, and the one that Ireland followed, except that it was never attacked. The Free World was not a participant in the struggle: the Allies included absolute monarchies and left and right wing dictatorships.

    When you joined the war was not a measure of how courageous or freedom-loving you were, but of how much your country was under the thumb of any of the major participants: Bahrain joined in 1939, many Latin American countries after Pearl Harbour.

    A bit like their Italian friends in 1940.

    Italy was allied to Great Britain in WW1, the loss of same to the Axis by WW2 was a major coup of British undiplomacy. Italy has never been an Ally of Ireland in any conflict I can think of.

  • PaddyReilly

    was order no. 362 in the state’s vital interest or the government’s?

    Declarations of war need to be in the state’s vital interests: orders of this sort do not. Reading the original text I find it to be largely parsimonic: pensions are not to be paid to deserters, neither are they to receive state subsidized employment. That’s all. Given that this was WW2, in which death was the usual penalty for so many things, it is hardly punitive at all: it is merely an exercise in cost-cutting, of the sort we are familiar with today.

    Making it into an issue is merely a Unionist development of their perennial theme that Ireland doesn’t have the right to act independently.

  • Paddy,

    Having a right does not mean one is obliged to avail of it.

    In this case, one class of deserters was treated more severely than another, and comfortably after the war was over to boot. What purpose did that serve?

  • Alias

    “In this case, one class of deserters was treated more severely than another, and comfortably after the war was over to boot. What purpose did that serve?”

    Seán MacCárthaigh TD explained its purpose in a Dáil debate:

    “It should be clear to everybody that those who desert the Army of their own land, who disregard their pledged word and oath to fight for its freedom and its principles, and who join another army and pledge allegiance to another nation, may in the course of world events be pitted against their own native land. The principle at stake is this, as I see it, that the Army here could deal with its deserters so long as they remain in their own country, or even left it and returned to it without joining the army of any other nation. We had here a declared policy of neutrality, with the unanimous voice of this nation behind it, and if we cannot insist on the members of our own Army being under discipline and obeying that regulation, how then can we expect the ordinary citizens of our land to follow the lead that the Government, with the united voice of the nation behind them, can command?

    Is it not a fact that not only did these men break Army discipline, but they also broke our internationally understood policy, which brings them under the jurisdiction of the Army as well as under the jurisdiction of the Department of External Affairs for fighting in another army while we at home had declared our neutrality, our resolve, not to take part in the wars of the world? That is the reason for this Order. Not only did they desert their own Army, but they broke the declared policy of this country by fighting with another army while they were bound, as citizens of this State, to a neutral policy. That is the reason for the Government’s Order.”

    So that is why the deserters who joined foreign armies were sanctioned more severely than the deserters who didn’t: the state intervened to sanction the former class but left the sanction for the latter class to the army court-martial. The former class committed political offences, whereas the latter did not.

    The real issue is whether or not the state had the right to act as the judiciary, particularly for crimes that did not exist on the statute books.

  • Alias,

    “Political offences” is such a loaded term. Do you mean that they embarrassed the government of the day by refusing to toe the official line?

  • Decimus

    Liberia joined the war in January 1944, Paraguay, Ecuador, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia in February 1945. Turkey was I think later. Chile and Argentina were March 1945.

    Paddy,

    Then the Free State would have been in illustrious company. None of them, of course, were in a position earlier to play a decisive part in the war. The Free State was. (Battle of the Atlantic)

    I strongly suspect that the Free World, Monarchies and all, would have noticed if the Free State had belatedly done the right thing.

    Italy has never been an Ally of Ireland in any conflict I can think of.

    You are right of course. I was getting mixed up with the Vatican. They, along with Ireland, played a big part in aiding and abetting the escape of Nazi war criminals after the war.

  • sliabhluachra

    Decimus: Why should Irleand fight Britain’s war, or Poland’s for that matter? Poland was not even invited to the VE celebrations in London.
    As regards earlier: The Marines looted dead bodies (gold in the teeth), sent bones home as souvenirs. Littloe more than animals really.
    In the First World War, the Japanese treated their prisoners well. Then they saw how Britain et did things and Nanking followed.

  • So Shintaisei war crimes are now Britain’s fault too. I see.

  • sliabhluachra

    What was Britain and the Dutch and French doing in Asia? They had no right to be there. Have you any idea what these savages did in China, to take one example.

    And then Patten tried to lecture the Chinese on democracy as if himself and his British chummies ever practiced it.

    Decimus: You have issues with Catholics I see. Ever hear of Operation Paperclip? You have this quaint notion that Britain and the USA commit no war crimes, even as they continue to do so.

    On the Lynch Duffy/Shivers thread, one guy is arguing soldiers are only doing their job and should not be harmed. People join armies so they can kill people, and urinate on their prone bodies Catholics, Muslims, whatever is the flavour of the month. Me, I use a urinal.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Japanese treatment of prisoners had more to do with a combination of Japanese supremacist / racist beliefs and the exaggerated caricature of Bushido they adopted in the twenties than anything they learned from the British, but that’s just a minor in East Asian history and politics talking.

    People go into military service for a great many reasons. By your own logic, could it not equally be said that folks joined the paramilitaries of both sides of the Troubles to kill folks? I mean, once you’ve discarded all the highfaluting rhetoric and legend-writing, all you are left with is punks with guns and bombs and an appetite for destruction and death.

  • sliabhluachra

    Dread Cthulhu: If that comment is addressed at me, yes, there some truth in it. PIRA gave a lot of people purpose.

    Orwell said revolutionaries were social climbers with bombs. Comedians and actors are often little guys, whose schoolyard weapon of choice was the quip and not the whip.
    If Martin McGuinness had have followed Dana’s example during the Troubles, would some people have had less trouble?
    Many great poems and books have been written commenting on those who goad/gull others to fight for them. To me, they are the real criminals.
    The Holy Bible tells us wars come from within us. Very true.
    The Japanese, being poorer and numerically weaker, had to make up with some bulsh**t of their own. Nothing unusual in that.

    We need more localised history, to tell us such things as why Irish people signed up during WW2. A lot of it was for the money. Britsh veterans have told me of Micks joining up and singing rebel songs.
    The best songs seem to be anti war songs.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    @sliabhluachra

    Actually, in the Japanese mind, population numbers was considered one of their more plentiful resources, hence the banzai charges, suicide planes, etc. They started the war with an advantage in numbers, both in men under arms and materiel. What they lacked was a way to make good their loses over time.

    You can find anything you want in the Bible.

    Of course the anti-war songs were best / favorite — you think the soldiers really wanted to be there?

  • Brian

    ‘But Britain went to war with Nazi Germany and clearly you cannot set aside your bigoted hatred for even one second to praise them for that. Instead you root around looking for excuses to puit them down. As if the channel would have saved them. Unbelievable.
    Thank God the rest of the free world does not view history through Irish republican blinkers.’

    1.I am not an Irish republican, so I’m not sure what your last comment has to do with anything.
    2. I have no bigoted hatred of Britain. I am merely responding to the argument that Britain was acting on some brave and altruistic principle when they declared war on Nazi Germany. Yes, they upheld their pledge to Poland, which shocked Hitler and his inner circle. (If they had not done so, who knows what would have happened. Clearly a titanic Soviet-Nazi war was on the horizon in any event. Could the West have concentrated on Japan while these two dark tyrants battled it out? Maybe. We will never know, but it is interesting to think about.) They didn’t make that pledge out of respect for Polish rights, they did so because they didn’t want Hitler to control even more of Europe and be more threatening to them.
    3. The channel, combined with their superior navy, did save them. By themselves, they clearly were no match for the full force of the Nazi war machine. If you can’t recognize that indisputable fact than I’m not sure why I am even bothering to discuss this with you.

    ‘Are you suggesting that the UK should have gone to war with the USSR in 1945? Really? Do you think Ireland or indeed anyone would have joined them in liberating eastern Europe?’

    No, I am not suggesting that. I am merely pointing out how absurd your notion is that Britain went to war bravely for some abstract principle or in defense of Poland’s freedom. If that was the case, than clearly they would have gone to war to save Czechoslovakia from Tyranny in 1939, or to save any bit of Eastern Europe from tyranny from 1944 onwards. The fact that Poland, whose rights they supposedly went to war for in 1939, was succumbing to a new foreign tyrant didn’t cause Britain to go to war in 1944, did it? No, because Britain did not really go to war to defend Poland. It went to war to try and stop Nazi European hegemony while it still had a reasonable chance to do so.

    My point is that country’s go to war when their leaders think it is in their interest to do so. They don’t go into a major war because they are brave and believe in other country’s rights, no matter what you may think. (Particular not one who still held colonies all over the world.)

  • sliabhluachra

    Dread Cthulhu: Japan had less people and much less resources than the right wing countries it fought: USA, Britian, China etc. Their materiekl was largely outdated, with a few exceptions. The racism of the Yanks and Brits gave them the edge. McArthur allowed his air force to be destroyed on the ground. Japan liberated Asia. They locked up the French in 1945 and gave the keys to the Vietminh. Thankis to the jaapense, the white devils got kicked out of South East Asia.

    Brian: There is a very good book, How wars Begin. Well worth a read. They are often stumbled into.
    But, as Goering explained at his kangaroo court, the gullible will usually rally to thicken the soil with a touch of crimson.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    @sliabhluachra

    Comme ci, comme ca. They were an early adopter of the aircraft carrier, starting the war with near double the number that the United States had. The Japanese kicked the Chinese around like a soccer-ball and did for the English as well. Had they not decided to go after Pearl Harbor, I daresay they would have won with either a northern (parade troops along the Russian border, pinning the Siberian divisions) or southern (conquer the Dutch East Indies and Australia) strategy.

    Actually, I think you have that one backwards — in ’45, after the war, the French “borrowed” the Japanese units to control French Indochina until they could get French troops on site. The Viet Minh were anti-Japanese formations that worked with the OSS and were sold out by the “geniuses” at “Foggy Bottom,” since the French were such loyal allies. The Japanese didn’t “liberate” Asia — they just an Asian face on colonialism, as they did in Manchuko and Korea. The Viet Minh kicked the French out in the fifties, while the Viet Cong lost on the battlefield, won in the negotiations and reunited VN under the somewhat misleading name of the DRVN, with aid from the Russians and Chinese.

    You’re entitled to your own opinion, but the facts are a little less malleable.

  • sliabhluachra

    Dread Cthulhu: I think it is you have the important facts jumbled. FDR said no French back in Indon China. The Japas locked up the Frogs and gave the keys to the VM just to cause trouble. The plan ws for the Brits to ocupy the South and the Chnese to occupy the North. ut the Vn hate the Chinese big time.
    Japan ws bogged down in China. The Aussie were the first to stop the Japs and Australia would have lown their supply lines wide open.

    Jaan did so well because the racist whites under estimated the yella man. The Japs showed the Asians that the devils could be beaten and so Brits/Dutch/French out came to be.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    I repeat, you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts…

    1) FDR was dead when the disposition of Indochina came to pass.

    2) Under your scenario, the whole of the Indochinese War wouldn’t have happened.

    3) That was with the US in the game — without the US, I think the Japanese would have been up to the task.

    4) Japan did so well because they started the war with a sneak attack prior to their declaration of war and because they had a military hardened in five years of conflict in China.

  • Crubeen

    Sliabh,

    “Jaan did so well because the racist whites under estimated the yella man.”

    I surely love your version of history … it is so at variance with fact.

    As Dread has pointed out, the Japanese ran riot in the first few months of the war in the Pacific because of a sneak attack on the US Navy at Pearl Harbor. They rightly estimated that the US would not tolerate their colonialist ambitions in SE Asia any more than it supported re-establishment of European colonial ambitions there post war .. or, for that matter, Communist colonialist ambitions.

    There is no evidence that the looting or mistreatment of Japanese property or bodies was ordered, supported or sanctioned by military authorities or that they did nothing to stop it. This being the case, one cannot equate these crimes with those perpetrated by the Japanese with the active connivance, if not support, of the appropriate authorities. The Japanese regularly and in cold blood, executed Allied POWS whereas the Allies did not.

    Japanese equipment was as good and in most cases better than Allied equipment in 1941 – they had actively flouted agreements and been arming themselves in secret for a war of aggression. Where they fell down was in their use of such equipment – damage control on their warships was extremely poor and they had almost no provision for picking up downed aircraft crews, highly trained and, as events were to prove, irreplaceable.. They never, for one moment, thought that the US was reading their secret coded communications or that US troops were the equal (never mind better than) theirs. Their cockiness was such that a single regiment landed on Guadalcanal in August 1942 thought it could, by virtue of superior moral power, destroy the US 1st Marine Division, only to be comprehensively slaughtered over one night of combat action.

    It was the US Navy at the Coral Sea and one month later at Midway that stopped the Japanese advance. The cream of their naval aviation was destroyed at the latter encounter and they had no replacements coming through in either aircrew, aircraft or carriers.

    In short, the war exposed not the superiority that you (and he) attributed to the “yella man” but a cockiness that was ruthlessly exploited to bring about his richly deserved downfall.