From Bannisters To The Iron Harvest. 1916 and all that…

I saw an unusual tweet a few weeks ago. Someone had posted a picture of a bannister. That seemed strange until I read the caption and discovered the bannister was in a house where James Connolly had once lived. The tweeter expressed pleasure, perhaps awe, at sliding his hand along an object his hero had once used and it got me thinking about our relationship with the past and how objects and places and can make it come to life in a way books, no matter how well-researched and written cannot.

Burned out cars and buildings still litter the remains of the original village of Oradour-sur-Glane

Burned out cars and buildings still litter the remains of the original village of Oradour-sur-Glane

With the advent of cheap flights to Krakow, a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau has become a common experience to Northern Ireland travellers and it takes a heart of stone not be moved by the horror of the place. The village of Oradour sur Glanne in France has been left untouched, save by the attention of weed killer, since the day in 1944 when it was visited by the SS Das Reich division. Kettles still stand on stoves, cars rust in the streets and the confessional of the charred village church is perforated with bullet holes where SS men riddled it to kill the children who sought refuge there to avoid being burnt alive. The killers were born as Frenchmen in the German-speaking province of Alsace, but became Germans when the province changed hands in 1940. Today, their descendant are Frenchmen once again but their souls may still be German, a parallel that could be applied to either of Ireland’s traditions.

The first time I visited the Ulster Tower at Thiepval was on a shimmering June day and as the song goes, the red poppies danced. The newly ploughed fields were dry and chalky and phantom trench lines could be seen in places, a lifetime after they had been filled in. I paused to look at the ground while taking the short path to the graveyard near the tower. In the space of a few square feet I was able to collect two strands of barbed wire, half a dozen shell fragments and the intact cone of a small artillery shell. The objects were just lying on the surface; no digging was required. World War I is the war that just keeps giving. At a road sign nearby, a rusty grenade and two shells were left out for the police to collect and dispose of, part of a harvest of death and is reaped every time a local farmer ploughs a field. Unexploded ordnance from the war still kills French and Belgian farmers every year – they call it the iron harvest. The war keeps giving to us too; 1916 is pivotal to the identity of both Nationalists and Unionists and we are now at the centenaries of the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme within a few months of each other.

Like almost everything else in our history these events have become mythologised and divisive. Republicans have staked a claim to the Rising though ownership is hotly contested by the Irish state and the Somme was promptly claimed by Unionists as the bloody birth of Ulster nationalism. The new Northern Ireland government was the first to build a national war memorial in France in the 1920s cementing the Somme’s place in our psyche. In both cases the courage of the combatants cannot be disputed. The Easter rebels fully expected to be slaughtered and despite a spirited fight, were inevitably defeated, at least in the military sense.  The soldiers on the Somme were told to expect a walkover. A week-long bombardment was supposed to kill or stun the waiting Germans into submission but within a few seconds of going over the top, that was shown to be wishful thinking. The sons of Ulster were slaughtered, but not defeated.

Both events have left us with a frankly, bizarre nostalgia of a violent and bloody past and little else to get hold of. Would there have been an independent Irish state without the Rising? Probably, but who can say when it would have been achieved or if so, without bloodshed. Would a Northern Ireland state have been created without the sacrifice of the Somme? Probably, because in 1918, Imperialism was the raison d’être of the British state, the empire was something to be cherished and maintained. But that is only the view of this historian, others will doubtless differ and differ strongly.  As to what Connolly, Pearse and the dead of the Somme would make of today’s political situation, who can really tell? They were men of their time and they thought as men of 1916, not 2016, and regardless of what some political purists may believe, we cannot think or even act like them, our experiences are just too different. We inhabit different worlds. So when trying to evaluate the the significance of events a hundred years ago, Zhou Enlai’s famous quip to Richard Nixon in 1972 about the French Revolution may be the best answer – ‘It’s too early to say’.

Both events, for better or ill, shaped the future of this island and the thinking of its inhabitants. How then should we commemorate these centenaries? The controversy has started already: Who should be invited? Should they go? Maybe we should have learned from Oradour or Berlin and left a few bombed-out ruins as silent testaments to our conflict or take the example of Paris, where little plaques mark the spot where resistants fell in the liberation of August 1944. Perhaps if we put a simple star, without a name, to mark where someone died, regardless of uniform or lack of it, we would see across Northern Ireland little clusters of galaxies. Then we can ask ourselves what people a hundred years from now would make of it all.

Sam Thompson is an amateur historian, his latest book is ‘The Lesser Evil: A Political & Military History of World War II 1937-45‘.

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  • Brian O’Neill

    For some reason I always imagined the French did not get it to bad from the Germans (maybe I watched too much Allo Allo) but when you read the story of Oradour sur Glanne it really is terrifying. From wikipedia:

    “On 10 June, Diekmann’s battalion sealed off Oradour-sur-Glane and ordered all the inhabitants – and anyone who happened to be in or near the town – to assemble in the village square to have their identity papers examined. The SS also arrested six people who did not live in the village but merely happened to be riding their bicycles through there when the SS unit arrived.

    The women and children were locked in the church and the village was looted. The men were led to six barns and sheds, where machine guns were already in place.

    According to a survivor’s account, the SS men then began shooting, aiming for their legs. When victims were unable to move, the Nazis covered them with fuel and set the barns on fire. Only six men managed to escape. One of them was later seen walking down a road and was shot dead. In all, 190 Frenchmen died.

    The SS men next proceeded to the church and placed an incendiary device beside it. When it was ignited, women and children tried to escape through the doors and windows, only to be met with machine-gun fire. 247 women and 205 children died in the brutal attack. The only survivor was 47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche. She escaped through a rear sacristy window, followed by a young woman and child.[3] All three were shot, two of them fatally. Rouffanche crawled to some pea bushes and remained hidden overnight until she was found and rescued the next morning. About twenty villagers had fled Oradour-sur-Glane as soon as the Stormtroopers had appeared. That night, the village was partially razed.

    Several days later, the survivors were allowed to bury the 642 dead inhabitants of Oradour-sur-Glane who had been killed in just a few hours. Adolf Diekmann said the atrocity was in retaliation for the partisan activity in nearby Tulle and the kidnapping of Helmut Kämpfe.”

    Read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oradour-sur-Glane_massacre

  • Greenflag 2

    Kanzlerin Angela Merkel President Hollande seem to be doing very well as have their predecessors since the EU was established . Nobody in Europe today can envisage another France Germany war .Some folks move on others remain behind .

    As to Sam Thompson’s

    . How then should we commemorate these centenaries?

    The answer is easy . Remember them briefly with respect and then be grateful that you were’nt there at the time . And then hope that neither nor their 21st century equivalents happen again.

    Queen Victorias grandsons Kaiser Bill , King George and Tsar Nicholas are all dead and gone along with the 22 million people their sibling jealousies and imperialist rivalry dragged to early deaths after 40 years of a peaceful Europe .
    Truly an insane war among many of the ilk 🙁 And it gave the world a repeat in 1939 …

  • murdockp

    For me the 1916 will be a revisionist parade with the die hard SF supporters in period costume with a singular view on the origins of the establishment of the state.

    It will ignore the backdrop of WW1 and the thousands of Irishmen who also died for Irish independence but fighting for the crown was their way of achieving it and the way these men were treated on their return to Ireland was a disgrace and worthy of its own national remembrance ceremony.

    As ever the truth is far more complex but it will never come out.

    At least now science has proven that our Irish heritage originates from the Middle East proving what we already knew is that there is no such thing as the 100% Thorobred Irish person SF would have you believe exists, we are a nation of many origins, cultures and faiths and we should be proud of this.

    Who knows this might even help unionists feel a bit less threatened as I must admit as a legacy catholic I find the SF vision of Ireland quite scary as they seek to destroy the Irish economy in the say way they are as we speak destroying the Northern Ireland one.

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘At least now science has proven that our Irish heritage originates from the Middle East

    Heritage is a bit more than DNA and while it’s probably true that some early inhabitants in Ireland got here via the Mediterranean /Middle East or wherever the scientists also tell us that most people in Britain and Ireland owe their DNA ancestry to the people who lived on these islands 9,000 years ago i.e thousands of years before the original civilisations began in the Levant /Ancient Turkey and Sumer . The Neolithic civilisation which came to Britain and Ireland and western Europe had it’s antecedents further east and south in Europe and the the lands surrounding the Meditteranean .

    There are no thorobreds in Ireland or Britain or anywhere else . Human beings have been moving around for thousands of years . But that has nothing to do with the current political structure in Ireland or the current political dysfunctionality in Northern Ireland and in its dependent economy .

  • Croiteir

    Out of Africa

  • murdockp

    I agree with you. A shame the politicians from both sides don’t and seek to pigeon hole us all.

  • Anglo-Irish
  • notimetoshine

    Interestingly IIRC there may be a few people in Ireland who are the descendants of the pre ice age peoples in the far west and southwest, according to some mitochondrial studies. Brian Sykes wrote about it in his book seven daughters of eve. Not concrete of course but an interesting theory.

  • Greenflag 2

    So the British are 45% pre Norman French which means predominantly Gauls with Franks . The Germans were the East Franks .Find it hard to believe that the Romans left no trace ditto some of the others .I suspect that most of Western Europe was more or less similar apart from a few regional local differences . Sykes work was too simplistic but made the subject popular for a while .

  • Anglo-Irish

    As someone who is half of one and half the other lot, there are times when I look at both of them and think ” What the!”

    One of those occasions is when the English go on about the French.

    Most of them seem unable to mention them without passing some derogatory remark.

    Been to France four times – including a visit to find the grave of a cousin of mine who died on the first day of the Somme – and never had a problem.

    My family in Clare have French friends through their mutual love of rugby and they are great people, apart from their love of rugby.

    I find it hugely amusing that it would appear that many English are originally French and a lot of the rest appear to be German.

  • Robin Keogh

    The 1916 commemorations will be in the main a celebration of those Irish men and women who sacrificed their lives in an effort to give birth to a free and independent nation. Not so different to the hundreds of other countries across the globe who remember the sacrfices made by their founding fathers. Lets be real here rather than gallivanting off into fantasy.

  • sadie

    Having spent a lot of time in France l was suprised by the lack of bitterness toward s germany or germans by the french. Although the war/troubles experience in NI/the south is different to the French war experience there seems to be something in our psyche which holds on to the past/cant seem to move on. There are many reasons for why this may be but the inability to get over the past is a big stumbling block. For the present much more needs to be done, as the legacy of the troubles is a little country with too many traumitised, confused and bitter people.

  • Roger

    Bang on murdockp. My last interaction here was with a SF supporter who insists on calling the NI government an Irish government. SF don’t really even recognise the jurisdictions on the island. They refuse to use their names.

  • Surveyor

    I’m sure you’ll get over it Roger. It’s called having a different opinion to your own.

  • tmitch57

    A study of the political psychology of six Israeli prime ministers who have been in power from 1983 to 2006 established major differences among them based on their temporal orientations. The Likud prime ministers were oriented primarily towards the past. The Labor prime ministers were split between those oriented towards the present (Rabin, Barak) and those oriented towards the future (Peres). I have urged the author to do a similar study applying the same framework to the leaders of the UUP and DUP starting with Faulkner.

  • Tochais Siorai

    ‘For some reason I always imagined the French did not get it to bad from the Germans (maybe I watched too much Allo Allo)’

    Relatively speaking they didn’t. There were hundreds of Oradours in Eastern Europe, particularly in the USSR and Poland. Possibly the worst was during the Warsaw uprising when the Germans (with their Ukrainian allies) did much the same to the Wola suburb of Warsaw as they did in Oradour except they murdered 40-60,000 people.

  • barnshee

    “Not so different to the hundreds of other countries across the globe who remember the sacrfices made by their founding fathers.”

    Brilliant —–the Unionists in NI should join in enthusiastically as the “16” rebellion confirmed their analysis of earlier in the century,helped produce partition and the subsequent creation of NI —a win win

    I can see– it a swathe of orange banners in the parade past the post office lead by Wullie Frazer and orange bands playing lily the pink
    ( Thank you very much etc etc)

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Indeed, something all too easily forgotten. But when I was in Poland in the mid 1970s the really intense hatred was reserved for (our allies) the Russians, who did not even shown their progress over Poland in 1945 that tiny veneer of civilisation even the Germans retained, in the minds of most Poles.

  • Greenflag 2

    You can only be pigeon holed with your consent . Politicians don’t want you to think for yourself . They might lose your vote assuming you even bother . They play a necessary role in society however for if they were’nt around we’d have to solve our differences by other means which historically everywhere has led to millions of people having a brief existence on earth made even briefer .

  • Greenflag 2

    Well its at least half Irish which is good enough for now and for a while to come .

    Don’t really even ?? What does that mean in English ?

  • Greenflag 2

    Is about 97% correct as far as humanity’s origins are concerned . The remaining 2 to 3% is a mix of various pre homo sapiens homonoids such as neanderthals , denisovans and probably others . People got around even in the distant past .

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘ I always imagined the French did not get it too bad from the Germans ‘

    And thats the truth in general . Also true of Netherlands and Denmark although in those countries there were also ‘atrocities ‘ though few in the context of a war that left 55 million dead across the world including 5 million Germans , 20 million Russians and the holocaust millions .

    Atrocities happen in every war . British soldiers shot German POW’s out of hand and vice versa on occasion . Officers are never always on hand to command restraint . As a POW if you were in a camp in WW2 you had a 95% chance of surviving the war in Germany , Britain or elsewhere in Western Europe . In Eastern Europe your chances of surviving the war were about 10% whether you were German or Russian or anyone else . The Geneva Convention was not as respected on the Eastern Front as it was on the West.

    We can all pick out individual atrocities and try to depict the conduct of a whole nation / army etc from one event or even multiple events but life and war are never that simple . Best to avoid wars if possible . Once they start they can lead anywhere .

  • Greenflag 2

    The French and Germans decided to put the past behind them . Remember WW2 was their Third War in 70 years – 1870 Franco Prussian , 1914 WW1 , 1939 WW2 . NI Is a lucky that it has two democracies as neighbours both with more or less the same values and speaking the same language and sharing a long history although sharing is probably the wrong word . Otherwise the locals would have had 40,000 to 100,000 dead instead of 4,000. Put both tribes in the Balkans and neither would be around today . The Balkan War in the 1990’s added up to 300,000 deaths and six new countries carved out of the former Yugoslavia . NI was carved out of Ireland in 1920 and further carvings seem improbable at this stage .

    As to confused , bitter and traumatised ? I’d guess that some are but most will get over it in time – Those who can’t -can’t be helped . Life goes on as always .

  • Greenflag 2

    Heres your study although what good or knowledge it will provide beats me as the facts are already known and they won’t change the future . But hey if academics have nothing more productive in the line of political subjects to research then why not . N Ireland is not Israel .

    Captain O’Neill – more forward than backward .
    Chichester Clark – decent man but not looking anyway .
    Brian Faulkner – saw the future but his supporters did’nt .
    Molyneaux – gave up on an NI assembly and went London

    25 years passed until

    Trimble – A new start but only because HMG and the Americans told him he had no other choice.
    Paisley – Lots of vision but in the end another case of the Faulkners – ditched by his party and church for being too friendly with the Shinners and Bertie .
    Robinson – Held the fort for the post Paisley period just about but it was a close run thing . May be on record as last Unionist FM of NI .

    The downward spiral continues .

  • Greenflag 2

    Very true Seaan even today . There are 5,000 German companies located in Poland and the Polish economy is doing fine despite it’s zloty currency . Putin is very unpopular in Poland whereas Angela Merkel even claims a Polish ancestor – grandfather . Polish folk have been immigrants to Germany since the late 1800’s.

  • Thomas Barber

    indeed gendinn some old Irish surnames literally translated mean ” Dark coloured”

  • Greenflag 2

    True enough . I was referring only to Homo Sapiens and the other more recent homonoids such as Neanderthals and Denisovans – the past 300,000 years approx . Before that all homonoids /primates evolved in Africa following climate change brought on by the separation of the Atlantic from the Pacific by the Panamanian isthmus .

  • Thomas Barber

    Indeed Grenflag but when even when British politicians are attempting eradicate ulster protestant culture you know everything is going to change and they are even deprived of being able to blame Sinn Fein.

    “Northern Ireland may be forced to drop “God Save the Queen” before Euro 2016″

    http://www.newstalk.com/Northern-Ireland-may-be-forced-to-drop-God-Save-the-Queen-before-Euro-2016

  • tmitch57

    Academics write not for the know-it-alls but for those who are actually curious and want to learn something new rather than simply regurgitate the received common wisdom of their tribe or party.

  • Greenflag 2

    Pre ice age peoples ? There were no pre ice age peoples in Britain or Ireland . The first people to ‘colonise ‘ Britain and Ireland came from Northern Spain and SW France after the last Ice Age when the glaciers retreated . These people spread north and as far east as Germany and Poland from their ‘refuge ‘ in what is now NE Spain and SW France . What language they spoke we don’t know but it’s conjectured that it may have been similar to Basque which is along with Finnish and Hungarian the only extant languages in Europe that are not indo european . Other ice age refuges in Europe were in southern Italy and in the Balkans from which people also moved north as the ice retreated. These early peoples whether in Britain or Ireland or in Western/Central /Eastern Europe must have had contact with and absorbed other migrants coming from the east and bringing in neolithic and indo european languages and cultures .

    We know that when history dawned that people in Britain and Ireland were speaking Celtic languages by the 1st century BC= . How that happened given that the earliest inhabitants did not is not fully understood .

    Sykes book is interesting but a little oversimplified . I guess it had to be for the market . What we do know is that every one alive today has at least a million or more direct ancestors going back to the time of Christ . KInda lucky none of them missed a trick eh and got the timing right otherwise we would’nt be having this thread 😉 ?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Given your unwavering misuse of punctuation I don’t think you’re in a position to question anyone else’s efforts at English. NB: spaces come after the majority of punctuation marks, NEVER before. Also please note correct apostrophe placement in words such as can’t, don’t, won’t, etc. Your argument loses a considerable amount of authority with this consistent misplacing of character spaces et al.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    By way of attempting to answer this “difference in response” it is worth mentioning France’s own awareness of its behaviour during empire, atrocities committed during wars of independence in those countries, the Napoleonic occupation etc. Pierre Nora’s work on lieux de memoire is an advance on a tradition of memorialisation that Sam Thompson refers to.

    Unlike Britain, France cannot consider itself an outright victor after WWII and was humiliated in the Franco Prussian war and these collective memories lend an ambiguity to a nation’s prestige or ‘glorious’ past that the UK doesn’t feel it has to consider (undefeated since 1066 etc.). An agreed truth about France’s role during the Nazi occupation has not yet been achieved and I think most French don’t believe it ever will. In fact there has been much infighting where even heroes such as Raymond & Lucie Aubrac have had their reputations besmirched. Nonetheless, unlike us, the French make a distinction between the agendas of state and the interests of the nation.

    But then many Northern Irish are a uniquely strange bunch. We believe in contrivance, recently invented myths, delusions, lies and deceit all in the pursuit of shoring up one of two identities but never in pursuit of a universal truth. The question is then: how do we commemmorate and memorialise if at all? Casting stones often becomes the agenda. “Let him who is without sin” etc. usually descends into whataboutery. The unpalatable truth for both UI nationalists and Unionists is not only that we are not one nation but also that we don’t belong anywhere and no-one wants us. Therefore any commemoration by either side can only be pastiche and inevitable farce. But we’ve been doing open farce with optimum solemnity for half a century.

  • Tochais Siorai

    True – the Russians were still imposing their will on Poland at that point and of course the boundary changes at the end of WW2 where millions of Poles were kicked out of their homes had left a huge legacy as well.

    The joke in Warsaw a couple of years ago at the 70th anniversary commemoration of the Uprising was that Putin should not have been at the main commemoration in the city centre but there should have been a separate one for him on the other side of the Vistula where the Soviets had watched the Germans suppress the rebellion without lending any support.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    “The Easter rebels fully expected to be slaughtered and despite a
    spirited fight, were inevitably defeated, at least in the military
    sense. The soldiers on the Somme were told to expect a walkover. A
    week-long bombardment was supposed to kill or stun the waiting Germans
    into submission but within a few seconds of going over the top, that was
    shown to be wishful thinking.”
    I’m reminded of Owens’ bitterly ironic use of the motto “dulce et decorum est”. You of course hint at the difference between the 2 camps leaving the reader to infer at will. The former: ‘pro independenti mori’ and the latter: ‘pro imperio mori’ perhaps? Is one camp more heroic than the other? Is one camp more prone to self destruction than the other? Is knowledge of your inevitable death foolhardy or a sacrifice for a greater aim? Is dutifully following orders (while potentially paying the ultimate sacrifice) noble or quiescent in the extreme? Is knowingly engaging in an unpopular suicidal mission an act of vanity? Is allegiance to an élite, who were at best naïve and at worst incompetent, conscientiousness or docility? Are all the actions of Unionists and Irish Nationalists ultimately passive-aggressive? Of course the powers that be will rapidly consolidate these events in the form of monumental memorials in the interests of their narratives. At the end of day basic human survival instinct is undoubtedly absent in both narratives. That might be the first thing that should be foremost in this year of commemorations. Regret’s always the first thing I think of.

  • Greenflag 2

    Sadly my punctuation is abysmal . I am umbled by your unkind remarks and have thus promptly forgotten them already .

  • Greenflag 2

    Well yes fair enough . But I’m faced with the same problem as the Hungarian in the last years of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe who said his eyes did not see what his ears were hearing and his ears were not hearing what his eyes were seeing . Wisdom is not common btw . Look around you in Jerusalem , Belfast or Damascus . When I hear the word new in modern political contexts in NI or Israel or the UK or Ireland or USA I remain skeptical . While the bottle may be new -its the same old wine /whine – take your pick. Politics in the west as we know it has reached an impasse and polarisation in the USA is at Civil War levels . The dessimacodos of right and left are proliferating as the established politicians look to their navels in embarassed failure to comprehend the people /voters .

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Inability to learn does you no favours. The lesson for you was to learn not to preach from a umbled position or otherwise.

  • Greenflag 2

    No problem learning but I choose to learn what I think is worth the bother . Does’nt include more than basic punctuation alas .

  • LordSummerisle

    Do you hear the drums Fernando ?

  • Roger

    Yes Hitler had different opinions to me too. How insightful of you!

  • Roger

    Well no. It’s not half anything. It’s the Northern Ireland government.
    That’s what it is. Why not call it what it is and stop pretending it’s something else…

  • John Collins

    Gendjnn
    I have had some Polish people who did some work for me and their hatred of the Russians army was far stronger than that they reserved for their German counterparts. I was told that the appalling treatment of Polish women by members of the Russian army was the main reason they were so disliked.

  • Surveyor

    Hitler? Really Roger? I’m afraid I’ll have to invoke Godwin’s law on you.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    You are the personification of solipsism.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    My first wife was from an eastern Polish family re-settled in Silesia close to the Czech border. She was most amused that one of the little German villages named “Frankenstein’ was a short drive away, although its name had been changed when the Germans were driven out. The cemeteries of the villages were still full of German nineteenth century memorials visited on weekends by east German families motoring across the border.

    On different years in the 1970s I attended the commemorations for the daed of the 1945 uprising at Cmentarz Powstańców Warszawy in the Wola district of Warsaw that the joke refers to. As darkness set the whole cemetery would be lit by the flicker of an endless galaxy of votive candles in jam jars placed on and around the graves. As the crowd of mourners dispersed the knots of secret police on the edge of the crowd were busy taking rolls of film to record those attending.

    Those Poles I am still in contact with tell me that a renewed Russian invasion is being prepared for, especially since the business in the Ukraine.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    My first wife was from a Polish Piłsudskist family, but everyone I met through them certainly had, and still have, an intense hatred of all things Russian. Especially since the problems in the Ukraine have raised the spectre of a future assertion of Russian influence in the east.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I find it very interesting that even though such terrible things were done by the Germans, there is still a strong hierarchy of hatred in which the Russians are still the greatest villains to most Poles. After the final eighteenth century partition of Poland here was a great pressure in those portions ruled by Berlin and Moscow to suppress Polish culture and nationality, with pressure on subjects to learn either Russian or German. Only that portion ruled by Austria retained a more laissez-faire approach which some of the older Poles I once knew remembered from before the Great War.

    And yes, Poles were certainly drawn to the German industrial towns as the Irish were drawn to British towns, for work and some job security. As an historian I’ve noticed a great number of similarities in attitudes with the relationship between Poland and Germany and Ireland and Britain.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Yes, the Russian army had been given carte blanche to rape its way across eastern Europe in 1945, as policy. They made little differentiation between Pole and German women, even those Poles who greeted them as liberators with red flags.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Indeed he did. I find Piłsudski’s account of the defence of Warsaw “Roc 1920” a most exciting corrective to the usual Olympian Control version of such things. Piłsudski modestly describes a chaotic situation won pretty much by sheer luck. Stalin “the Great Man” would have loathed that……..

  • Greenflag 2

    No we’re not . Anyway what has all this to do with the soltice or solepsisis ;)?

  • Greenflag 2

    It is what it is = all two halves or all four quarters or all six counties or all two thirds of a province . Try and lighten up -let others carry the cross to crucifixion hill or wherever they’re headed .

  • Anglo-Irish

    Undefeated since 1066?

    That would be apart from the American war of Independence, the Afghan wars of 1842, 1880 and 1919 plus the current one which is going the same way.

    Then there was the Hundred Years War, the conclusive Battle of Cartegena de las Indias 1741 which left Spain in control of South America, the War of the French Revolution 1793-1802, Anglo Turkish war 1807-1809 the first Boer war and quite a few others including a couple of losses to the Dutch.

    There was also the Irish war of Independence which was the first successful armed struggle against a colonial power by the native people of a country in the history of the world.

    Other than that the British are definitely undefeated.

  • Roger

    “those Irish men and women who sacrificed their lives in an effort to give birth to a free and independent nation”

    Where did most of them die? Belgium or Ireland?

  • Robin Keogh

    What do u think?

  • Roger

    Belgium.

  • John Collins

    Ironically they are very proud of themselves for keeping their language