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A book was touted and discussed on the Today Programme upon which for the life of me I cannot make my mind up.

The stories are about the five-odd thousand Irish servicemen who left their posts to join with British Army, Navy and Airforce operations during World War 2. It seems as though they were all treated as deserters when the War ended and were court-martialled, dead or alive, and when released, they continued to be ostracised from Irish life, as were their children.

Many of the children were placed in ‘Industrial Schools’ which were of course run by? Who else but the Catholic Church, and we all know what happened to a whole bunch of kids who were ‘under the protection of the church’.

But my query is simply this, was the ultra-strong reaction of the Irish State towards the returning deserters because they were deserters, or was it because they had left to join the Forces who were fighting against Nazi Germany, the deep and true friends of many in the upper echelons of the Irish Government?

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10 thoughts on “To be honest, I really do not know

  1. they had left to join the Forces who were fighting against Nazi Germany, the deep and true friends of many in the upper echelons of the Irish Government?

    Brilliant piece of trolling, well done.

  2. The fight against Hitler was as moral a cause as one could ever hope to see, but I am unaware of any country that shows much leniency to servicemen who desert and who betray the oath that ( I believe here ) they took freely.

  3. I find it very difficult to criticize those who fought against the Nazis even if their own country did not. As an Englishman I cannot see a reason for this neutrality at that time although I understand that the Irish Government signed a book of condolence on the occasion of Hitler’s death. Can anyone explain?

  4. Peter T

    A long subject, but lets just say that

    a) the wounds of the war with Britain and partition were still new and raw

    b) the Irish government tilted heavily to Britain, in ways that were very helpful

    DeValera signing the Hitler condolence book? An act of imbecility in the name of diplomacy. There’s not much else to say about it.

  5. Phantom summed that up.

    As for the deserters, any nation would Court Martial deserters (even if the ultimate cause was a good one). I suspect that the Republic will issue some sort of clemency or pardon at some point for the historical record.

  6. I heard the interview this morning. According to the author, there were a few who deserted to fight with the Austrian corporal, and they got much more lenient treatment when they returned.

    I had never heard about this, and was appalled at the vindictiveness of punishing the men’s children. A shameful episode in the history of the Irish Free State – no wonder it’s never been mentioned.

  7. The Russians shot over 150 thousand of their deserters (thought God knows if they all were guilty). A quick look reminded me that only one US soldier was executed for desertion in that time.

    I certainly welcome more research into the issue of Irish deserters and what treatment they may have received. it is an interesting story.

  8. I had never heard of this, and welcome this and any further inquiry into this affair.

  9. It was simply because the “Irish Deserters” appeared to the “stay at home and let others pay the price” Irish citizens as embracing their British conquerors.


    The only reason the Irish seemed to like, and sometime aid the germans was that they wanted to see their British conquerors smashed.

    Question: What’s the Gaelic equivilent for Schadenfreude?

    Answer: To humiliate, or see any Brit suffer.

  10. I have just finished reading a book called ‘Neutral Island’ which details the reality of the RoI experience in WW2 and despite the official policy of neutrality , from the outset and increasingly throughout the war years, there was a clear and unambiguous pro-allied ethos in word and deed by the vast majority of the Irish people . The idea that those who supported the Nazis were treated and viewed better than those who supported the allied cause is nonsense.

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