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Southern Ireland and the Liberation of France

New Perspectives


Edited By Gerald Morgan and Gavin Hughes

This collection of essays sets out to correct an injustice to citizens of the Irish Free State, or Twenty-Six Counties, whose contribution to the victory against Nazi Germany in the Second World War has thus far been obscured. The historical facts reveal a divided island of Ireland, in which the volunteers from the South were obliged to fight in a foreign (that is, British) army, navy and air force. Recent research has now placed this contribution on a secure basis of historical and statistical fact for the first time, showing that the total number of Irish dead (more than nine thousand) was divided more or less equally between the two parts of Ireland.
The writers in this volume establish that the contribution by Ireland to the eventual liberation of France was not only during the fighting at Dunkirk in 1940 and in Normandy in 1944, but throughout the conflict, as revealed by the list of the dead of Trinity College Dublin, which is examined in one chapter. Respect for human values in the midst of war is shown to have been alive in Ireland, with chapters examining the treatment of shipwreck casualties on Irish shores and the Irish hospital at Saint Lô in France. Other essays in the volume place these events within the complex diplomatic network of a neutral Irish Free State and examine the nature and necessity of memorial in the context of a divided Ireland.


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Gavin Hughes Commitment, Casualties and Loss: Comparative Aspects of Irish Regiments at Dunkirk 1940 and in Western Europe, 1944–1945 63


GAVIN HUGHES Commitment, Casualties and Loss: Comparative Aspects of Irish Regiments at Dunkirk 1940 and Western Europe 1944–1945 If, in the words of David Reynolds, ‘… it was the fall of France that turned a European conf lict into a world war …’1 and if, in Churchill’s own words, D-Day was a ‘… vast operation … undoubtedly the most complicated and dif ficult that has ever taken place’,2 then the Irish Regiments of the British Army whole-heartedly committed themselves to both undertakings. The aim of this chapter is to broadly address three themes, two of which are closely interdependent, and attempt to provide practical military examples of how Irish regiments contributed to the defence and ultimate liberation of France. As space would not allow a consideration of every single action or battle in which Irish Regiments fought in 1940 or 1944–45, the focus will mainly be on the Irish Regiments in France in the early part of the War balanced with the later push on from the Normandy beach-heads in June to August 1944. This leads to an important point which needs to be stressed. The national make-up of the Irish regiments (and indeed of other British regiments) was extremely varied and to assume that they consisted entirely of men from Northern Ireland, Éire or those of Irish extraction can be misleading. Equally, attempts to isolate national or regional identi- ties in recruitment can be notoriously complex as recent work by Jef fery, 1 David Reynolds, ‘1940: Fulcrum of the...

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