Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Irish WW2 "deserters" seek pardon

An interesting message from a reader dropped into the inbox recently. It brought attention to a campaign which seeks to pardon some 5,700 Irish soldiers who "deserted" to join the British Army during the Second World War in order to fight Nazism.

A letter writer in Tuesday's Irish Times, Ciaran Mac Aodha-O Cinneide, might sum up the attitude of some who simply insist that  desertion is desertion, no matter what - and such an ovine attitude is characteristic of many in Ireland..

Ironically, they miss the point Captain Peader Cowan  -  who defended two such soldiers at their court-marshall in Ireland after the war  -  made when he defined “desertion” as “leaving a post of danger for a post of safety”.

In the case of these men, they did the exact opposite, with many dying on the beaches of Normandy, the bloodbaths of Arnhem and elsewhere, as their stay-at-home comrades played cards during the "Emergency", as Official Ireland referred to World War Two.

Non-pedants will contend that these soldiers, who rejected the delusional attitude of Dev and the Irish establishment, should have been honoured for their bravery and initiative in helping to topple one of the most awful regimes the world has ever known, despite the opposition of their own government.

Dev, we know, was a slippery chancer who could bend his so-called principles when it suited him. Instead, he chose to play hard-ball with these brave souls when they returned home in victory.  The man who pursued a spineless policy of neutrality, and commiserated with the German ambassador on Hitler’s death, put the soldiers on a “starvation” blacklist to ensure they could never again attain employment in their own country.

Yet more maliciously, even the children of some soldiers concerned were condemned to incarceration in Ireland's industrial "schools" as a result of the policy (Irish Times – “Time to Pardon Soldiers who Left to Fight Hitler” 14th Jan 2012). The Gestapo themselves would have been impressed.

As an example of bitter, petty spite, it is hard to beat. But then again is it surprising?  During the war, when the modus operandi of the Nazis was apparent, it is believed that a substantial number of  Irish people wanted Hitler to triumph. Motivated solely, as was their nationalism and Dev’s, by "bein' agin the Brits".

What is harder to understand, even by de Valera's very low standards, is how he and the Irish authorities still enthusiastically adhered to their policy of blacklisting the ex-soldiers when the full extent and scale of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis shocked the world in the years and decades after the war.

The treatment of these men and their families is up there with the worst of the many scandals in this sorry State's history.

BBC4 documentary on the Irish “deserters” who fought Hitler

Irish Soldiers Pardons Campaign

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anna said...

You should read some of the comments under the IT article- some V vindictive towards deserters, going on about how great Dev was etc- 1 makes the point , that Dublin has the only statue in the wrold erected to honour a Nazi collaborator!!!- Sean Russell IRA man and Nazi boat crew man, statue in Fairview Pk, here is one of the better comments- Harry
As someone who lives in South Wales, and is therefore a neighbor, can I make the following observations ?
1. Many Americans deserted the US forces to fight Nazism in 1940. The they joined the British forces because those were the ones fighting the Nazis. None were pursued and all were formally pardoned in 1942. Only the Irish legislature manages to see the rules and regulations of it's armed forces as more important than s global struggle against the most wicked tyranny the world has ever seen.
2. The Irish economy survived the war thank to the imports brought on ships contracted to the American and British, defended by American and British lives. The Irish Government chose to give no help whatsoever with this vital lifeline, in fact, quite the reverse. The US Navy has never forgiven you, and Ireland has never apologized.
3. It is curious that a significant section of the Irish population still manages to regard the 2nd World War as a conflict solely between Britain and Germany. Only the more rabid little Englanders on the Daily Telegraph come anywhere near this view. Strange bedfellows.
4. The behaviour of the Irish government throughout the war, with it's ill-disguised desire for a German victory has cost Ireland dear in the subsequent decades. Not the Irish people, they were not so stupid or so lacking in morality. For instance, that favourite Irish American politician, Daniel Moynihan - one very smart cookie - who would put on a green suit at the least excuse, never did actually suggest the re-unification of Ireland in the legislature. In fact, he was opposed to it on the grounds that it would be against the US interest.

In short, the behaviour of the Irish government during the war was a disgraceful and shameful blot on your history. Well, all countries pick those up as they go along, and Britain has a far far bigger catalogue to boast of thanyourselves. As they are generally committed by politicians - a section of the population who seem to prefer to view the world from within their rectum - you can generally add mean and nasty to disgraceful and shameful.

Ireland would to well to show humility in this and put behind them.
2 days ago, 17:32:21– Flag – Like – Reply – Delete – Edit – Moderate

The Gombeen Man said...

Thanks for that, Anna. Harry's points are well-put and articulate. A rarity on such online forums, be it the IT, Boards, or Pol(dot)ie (heaven forbid).

Anonymous said...

@GM You say Dev "...put the soldiers on a “starvation” blacklist to ensure they could never again attain employment in their own country."

Not correct. They were barred from being employed at public expence for 7 years.

The core of the argument here is that these deserters should be pardoned because they went to fight for a good cause.

This would set a legal precedent that would effectively remove the deterrent to deserters. An Irish soldier who is bored of endless training and protecting cash deliveries to banks could at any time scour the world for conflicts, pick the bad guys as identified by some UN document or other and go fight against them, thereby wasting the very large sums spent on his training by the Irish state.

At the end of the day what is behind this campaign is a rather soppy romanticism and I’m afraid a more practical approach is needed.

Anonymous said...

Is this a good idea, given that the Germans are now keeping us afloat?

John said...

If anyone is interested in getting more information on this campaign:
Irish soldiers Pardon Campaign
Interesting that this mass dismissal is unconstitutional, as the right to fair procedure was not followed.
Plus the constitution guarantees the right to earn a living and these men were black listed from any employment in Ireland by a government that is suppose to uphold it.
A very excellent book on Ireland during the war,"That neutral Island" (2007) by Clair Wills, professor of Irish literature at University of London.Her Dad was Irish, so her account and stories are excellent.
We gave the late Francis Stuart who broadcast Nazi propaganda from Berlin to the English speaking world, with the title of Aosdana, (the wise one)with a pension to go with it.

Peader said...

the 7 years ban was bollocks, they got blacklisted for ever, they could never get any type of civil service job and private sector job either, the special branch did the necessary for Dev. Have a look at this

The Gombeen Man said...

Yes, Peader.

Anyone who believes de Valeras "7 years" can only be one of the ovine fools mentioned in the post, who will deny even the experiences of the people who were victims of his trumped-up Act of vindictiveness.

They might do well to listen to the interviews of people who had their lives shattered as a result.

No wonder the authorities got away with so much, for so long, in this country... and still do.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha, in ways I like to see more and more of this type of vindictive abuse by the Irish establishment exposed. It is almost impossible to get ones head around the behavior of the well mannered thugs that have governed this sick land, and still continue to, with their deluded notions of subservience and utter contempt for the majority of people.
Of course the insane truth is that the people and parochial cut hoors, elect from their own ranks, these same shysters repeatedly, and then they moan when they rob, rape and ruin the country.
Spineless, sneaky people governed by masters of these characteristics.
We do have people of integrity and vision, but they best pursue their own path in life, not be tempted to waste their talents challenging the gutter of the Irish establishment. Would not be worth it, the people deserve what the get.


Dakota said...

Oh so many pragmatists now GM, isn't there. So many "experts" on such a small island, they all know what's best for the country, for you, for me, for Billy Bob's auntie but they haven't one ounce of humanity between them. Callus, cold. There is something profoundly cruel at the heart of this culture, a type of complete removal from the suffering and pain of another. Something you don't get the gist of in a two week stay.

Fact, WWII was a turning point for Western Civilisation. Fact, approx30 million non - combatants killed, died or murdered. Fact, organised mass systematic murder was sanctioned by a central government (in effect sadism was good to go). Fact, all the holy joes on planet Ireland got their collective backsides saved by the Allies. Fact, there are many in the U.S. and UK, to this day, who saw Ireland for what it was in those dark days. Fact, the aftermath of the destruction of Europe which eventually led to the European Union, again, saved this sorry rotten island, from itself.

A little humility if not then should be shown now. The significance of events such as Kristall Nacht and the passing of the Nuremberg Laws wasn't lost on some obviously on this island. Just remember all you "non romantic" Irish scholars out there, that many a good man died so you can ponder what's romantic and whats not. If Mr Hitler got his way Paddy Irish man and woman would have been fried slowly on a spit.

Anonymous said...

Or perhaps he is right....

The Gombeen Man said...

Perhaps you're right, you mean.

What a laugh that link was... the writer on an Spailpin Fanach (an what?) thinks the deserters are lucky they were't shot, and that Hitler was not so bad really, and Dev was great altogether. Arguments encased in amber.

Cultural nationalists, eh?

As for the nutter referring to Hitler being selected as "Time's Man of the Year", there must be no Gaelic term for "tongue in cheek".

Here is an extract from the Time article of 1939:

"But the figure of Adolf Hitler strode over a cringing Europe with all the swagger of a conqueror. Not the mere fact that the Führer brought 10,500,000 more people (7,000,000 Austrians, 3,500,000 Sudetens) under his absolute rule made him the Man of 1938. Japan during the same time added tens of millions of Chinese to her empire. More significant was the fact Hitler became in 1938 the greatest threatening force that the democratic, freedom-loving world faces today."

Full original article here:

Dakota said...

@Anon 12:24 No I'd say delusional.......

Let's just look at some of the main points shall we, of the Spailpin Fanach article?:

(1) "And one of the ways that armies since Alexander have maintained the discipline necessary to hold the line, to put your duty ahead of the need to secure your own welfare, was to execute you if you didn’t." Don't fool youself at the first sign of Jack Boots on an Irish Beach there would be no Irish army in uniform to speak of. They would have taken to the hills and started to say the rosary.

In the event of a Nazi victory or possible stalemate, how long do you think this country would have lasted? If Hitler wanted another bread basket, this time in the Atlantic, he wouldn't ask politely. The main point, by the way.....

(2) "We should never forget our history, but we shouldn’t try to rewrite it to suit modern agendas." Interesting point, and one I have much sympathy for. Yet who is "our," are you speaking for everybody, or just those who hold your point of view? Oh and where would you like to start to view this history of yours, from what starting point? Which century, 11th, 12th, 19th or 20th? Was there always a green glow on the horizon for all the citizens of this island? Well? Is Irish history as clearcut as it was always made out to be, by the Catholic Church?Would the grip of Rome around the throat of a deeply superstitious and childish race of people not muddy the waters somewhat? Objectivity? Oh, and what about the Irish in the British army? Are they not Irish too? What about their history? What about the many many thousands of Irish that enlisted in WWI and were subsequently betrayed by a fickel population? Where is their history?

(3) "The “moral argument” that Hitler had to be stopped was not apparent to Neville Chamberlain, the editors of Time magazine or the United States in the 1930s." True to say there was an agenda of appeasement in the UK prior to WWII, but to say Chamerlain and the foreign service was unduly unaware of Hitlers ilk, holds no water. As for the U.S.? I would say it is an established historical fact that the US knew full well, exactly, where the danger and threat to world peace lay. To say otherwise is nieve. There entrance into the war was inevitable.

(4) "As for the deserters, they got their shilling and they didn’t get a bullet when they came back home." There speaks the true author of Irish history.

carlos the jackal said...

Keep up the good work GM. It's articles and subjects like the one in question that validate my decision to leave the old sod. My only regret was coming home in the first place after almost 18 years abroad in 2002. 9 years later and after having been mugged financially I have left for good or until the revolution finally comes and the tiny parochial elite is removed.
Unfortunately I do not see that happening in my lifetime as the myth of the gregarious Irish rebel is just that...a self-serving portrait contrived by the Gombeen classes with no basis in reality. In 2012 the Irish are a downtrodden people with little appetite for social justice and a tolerance level which has been programmed into the psyche thus rendering them lethargic and fatalistic.

Anonymous said...

wonderfull to see how progressive and gentle our little third world democracy has become in such a short span of time its gone from bizzare to grotesque ,tanks be to god BH

The Gombeen Man said...

@ Dakota. I love the "modern agendas" bit. And our stay at home soldiers wouldn't have hand many dedades or rosaries said before the Waffen SS got going on them, and an Irish Quisling, possibly some collaborator IRA man, fresh off the U-Boat, was put in place.

@ Thanks Carlos. We do out little bit, but we are minority. But vocal minorities have a good record in influencing things in this place. Sorry to hear about your experience... sometimes I regret coming back myself.

@ BH. It's surreal... and the upcoming generation are even worse Little Irelanders than the previous ones.

John said...

This just about sums up the situation, in the short clip:
Irish WW2 heroes who deserted de Valera's cowardly child-abusing state :

In contrast Cathal O'Shannon(RIP) who served in RAF in WW2:
Documentary: Ireland & the IRA support Nazi Germany and the holocaust or you can call it the
céad míle fáilte for ex nazis in Ireland

Worth watching..

The Gombeen Man said...

That is worth a post in itself, John. Duly given.