Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Heroes or deserters?

Discussion in 'WWII Today' started by GRW, Dec 28, 2011.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2003
    Messages:
    20,123
    Likes Received:
    2,661
    Location:
    Stirling, Scotland
    Not a new story, but some personal recollections for a change-
    "Five thousand Irish soldiers who swapped uniforms to fight for the British against Hitler went on to suffer years of persecution.
    One of them, 92-year-old Phil Farrington, took part in the D-Day landings and helped liberate the German death camp at Bergen-Belsen - but he wears his medals in secret.
    Even to this day, he has nightmares that he will be arrested by the authorities and imprisoned for his wartime service.
    "They would come and get me, yes they would," he said in a frail voice at his home in the docks area of Dublin.
    And his 25-year-old grandson, Patrick, confirmed: "I see the fear in him even today, even after 65 years."
    Mr Farrington's fears are not groundless.
    He was one of about 5,000 Irish soldiers who deserted their own neutral army to join the war against fascism and who were brutally punished on their return home as a result.
    They were formally dismissed from the Irish army, stripped of all pay and pension rights, and prevented from finding work by being banned for seven years from any employment paid for by state or government funds.
    A special "list" was drawn up containing their names and addresses, and circulated to every government department, town hall and railway station - anywhere the men might look for a job."
    BBC News - Why Irish soldiers who fought Hitler hide their medals
     
    rkline56 likes this.
  2. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2006
    Messages:
    24,985
    Likes Received:
    2,385
    I hope they got a pension from her Majesty instead. They are heroes in my opinion.
     
  3. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,515
    Likes Received:
    1,176
    A complex issue it seems. Deserting you own army when the nations around you are at war is a serious matter anyway you cut it. No question they were serving a higher purpose in fighting Hitler but the dishonorable discharge seems reasonable. Still the Irish Parliment should offer a blanket amnisty for the vets. It would cost them nothing and be the decent thing to do.
     
    SKYLINEDRIVE, Krystal80 and rkline56 like this.
  4. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2002
    Messages:
    9,683
    Likes Received:
    954
    My own father crossed the border with his brother to join the Royal Navy in ww2 so I have a declared interest. Although he differed in not serving in the Eire armed forces at the time of his move. So not a deserter.

    Unfortunately although I admire them all greatly...As Belsar indicates..they are all officially deserters if they remove the uniform of their service and join another countries forces. Thats not a condemnation but a legal thing in most armed forces of any nation surely. That too does not mean they should have been judged harshly but the Irish British case is one that few understand or it seems were able to live with in certain circumstances...I'll say this once and leave...The Irish are well known for treating their own far worse than the British ever did. The British may be the cause of many of my birth countries problems but no one can demonise an Irishman more than another Irishman. The Irish civil war showed us that after the British had departed Southern Ireland. This was the time my fathers family first left Ireland in the twenties due to their support of what was in their family area the wrong choice of side..The anti Delavera lot. They returned in thirtees and he left in forties again. The Irish can be harsh to their own. A deserter in law though is a deserter.
     
    belasar, CAC and rkline56 like this.
  5. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5

    Joined:
    May 8, 2011
    Messages:
    1,192
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    CA Norte Mexico, USA
    Noble of the men to have fought for the Allies against the Axis (many thanks to them for their service). That being said, those participants would have known they were going to catch he@@ upon their return. Easy to say this and much harder to complete it but they probably should have made some arrangements to just get out of Ireland at the conclusion of the war and take their families with them to England or elsewhere. Again easier said than done. I agree that the Queen of England should have a pension for these men the same as the rest of the English Armed Forces. BTW - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all, oh yeah and Happy Holidays.

    Back to the question: Deserters with VERY special circumstances, nothing is black and white as it seems.
     
  6. GrandsonofAMarine

    GrandsonofAMarine Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2009
    Messages:
    187
    Likes Received:
    49
    The shame here should be of the Irish for standing idly by while a collection of some of the most fiendish, wicked, men to ever head a nation killed millions of people. Of all European people one would think the Irish would have had a special animus for Hitler considering their history. For shame, Erin, for shame.
     
  7. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2010
    Messages:
    7,600
    Likes Received:
    1,884
    And wicked delight at seeing England sweat at the possibility of being invaded and occupied...ring a bell mate?
     
  8. Richard

    Richard Expert

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2006
    Messages:
    5,847
    Likes Received:
    333
    Deserters yes, but they felt the need to act. Not knowing the full story I can only base my view on the news article, What they did was wrong but they were not running away from the Irish Army to hide. What they did was to join the British Army to fight against Hitler the mad man and free main land Europe.

    OK, fair to say they were going to be punished on there return home by the Irish Army but what was to follow was without question very wrong and in many ways worst than what they did.

    A long over due pardon and about time too.
     
  9. AndyPants

    AndyPants Ace

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    1,518
    Likes Received:
    135
    Ireland was really in no position to play an active role in fighting the axis forces in WW2, .....she was'nt really industrialized and was still very weak after the formation of the Free State - her contribution would have been of no major value. However, don't forget the tens of thousands of Irishmen who fought in the British Army, Merchant Navy and the many thousands of Irish men and women who worked in the factories - my own grandmother included. Ireland was neutral - but was overwhelmingly in favour of the Allied cause.

    From a political since, yes I agree that we should have "declared war" on the Axis, however the Irish people did not "stand idly by"....proof of this can be found in the names written on the memorial to the dead close to my home..........men who served with Bomber Command, Royal Navy, Army etc...

    There is no shame on these people
     
    urqh likes this.
  10. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2003
    Messages:
    20,123
    Likes Received:
    2,661
    Location:
    Stirling, Scotland
    It's a bit hypocritical when Eire tacitly allowed Allied aircraft to overfly her territory and even handed over German PoWs. To me the whole thing was symptomatic of De Valera's hatred of anything British more than anything else; why punish people for the rest of their lives?
     
  11. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,515
    Likes Received:
    1,176
    Actually Ireland would have been a tremendous ally of the west. The use of ports and airfields would have greatly eased the the protection of allied convoys, and while she could not generate the arms to fight a first class war machine herself, England and especially the US could easily supply the needs of the Irish army/navy/air force.
     
  12. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2009
    Messages:
    4,997
    Likes Received:
    236
    OTOH(as advocate of the devil),what would have been the reaction of Britain,if British soldiers had deserted to join Franco/the Republicans in the Civil War ? Or to join (in 1935) the Negus in his fight against Mussolini ? Or to join the Chinese Nationalists fighting against Japan?
     
  13. Alaskarat

    Alaskarat Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2011
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    8
    Desertion is desertion in my book. If they had not been enlisted in their national Army it would have been different but they had an important role in Ireland’s defense. We all know how well neutrality worked for The Netherlands and Belgium. Ireland although staying neutral still had a national obligation to protect itself. In the view of the Irish government not only were they deserters (the lowest form of life in any Armed Service) but maybe even traitors for deserting and then enlisting in a foreign government's Army.

    Example while I was serving in the US Army the Afghanistan - USSR war was raging. Although it would appear to be a noble thing to go fight with the Afgan Muhahideen to expel the USSR I would in fact have to desert the Army to do so. Do you think the US Army would just forgive me?
     
  14. thecanadianfool

    thecanadianfool Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2011
    Messages:
    82
    Likes Received:
    5
    Heroes in my opinion, those lads had every right for what they believe in. The Irish government was no better then the Nazis for treating their veterans like that.
     
  15. Marmat

    Marmat Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2011
    Messages:
    292
    Likes Received:
    70
    Location:
    Huronia, Upper Canada
    During the war some 124,000 men and 58,000 women left neutral Eire for belligerent Ulster and/or the UK, some 38,000 of them "took the King's shilling" i.e. joined the armed forces, which included 7,000 deserters from the Irish military. Most of the rest "worked for the King's £" in war industry.

    As belasar points out, Britain and the US supplied arms to Ireland, but only so much, any more required rescinding its neutrality. The Allies desperately wanted the ports of Cobh, Lough Swilly and Castletown Bere, used in WWI to base, refuel convoy escorts etc., but relinquished in 1938.

    I don't have a problem with some penalty being associated with desertion, but I wonder what, if any, penalty the Eire citizens earning money in British war industry, were required to submit to or pay, in returning to Erie at the end of hostilities??? Does cash incoming talk?
     
  16. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2002
    Messages:
    9,683
    Likes Received:
    954
    Basic concept even more so today...the individual should not be considered in the same vein as the government. Birth is an accident of place, as well as family. They did though remain Irish. And there is no shame in that either.
     
  17. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2002
    Messages:
    9,683
    Likes Received:
    954
    You realise Belsar that even after partition and British leaving the South. We had ports still in Southern Ireland by treaty..They were ours still for our use...We gave them up. Churchill was a bit miffed....
     
  18. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2002
    Messages:
    9,683
    Likes Received:
    954
    For an answer to that question you need to look at the partition of Ireland days...And the North...British army based and BORN in Ireland serving there were in similar position..They were allowed lots of leeway bordering on government allowed insurecction
     
  19. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2003
    Messages:
    20,123
    Likes Received:
    2,661
    Location:
    Stirling, Scotland
    To digress slightly, as the Luftwaffe began bombing Britain more heavily it caused a manpower shortage due to fewer Irish nationals coming here looking for work. Now I don't have figures to hand, but it helped develop the policy of bringing Italian PoWs here from North Africa to counter this.
     
  20. GrandsonofAMarine

    GrandsonofAMarine Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2009
    Messages:
    187
    Likes Received:
    49
    You're right. The shame is De Valera's.I understand that Ireland was in no position to send forces, but declaring would have been a powerful message to send. One that would have been consistent with the Irish's tradition of fighting tyranny.
     

Share This Page