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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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David Truesdale Irish Soldiers and the D-Day Airborne Operations 87


DAVID TRUESDALE Irish Soldiers and the D-Day Airborne Operations1 When the Second World War ended, men came home to various recep- tions and, depending on where they lived, these could be either good or bad. Some men were met with a degree of hero worship, none more so than those who wore the maroon beret.2 While the nickname of the airborne troops, ‘Red Devils’, had been earned during the fighting in the red mud of Tamara, North Africa, in 1942, they are more often associated with the debacle that was Arnhem. Operation Market Garden was carried out in September 1944 and saw the British 1st Airborne Division dropped some sixty miles behind German lines in order to secure a series of crossings on the Rhine at the Dutch town of Arnhem. They were expected to hold this position for two to three days while the tanks and infantry of the British XXX Corps advanced along a single road from the Belgian border. The operation was a failure, resulting in the deaths of good men for no good reason. Stanley Maxted, a BBC reporter present at Arnhem, was responsible for one of the most repeated sayings to come out of the battle. In a recording he stated, ‘If a man tells you he has been at Arnhem take your hat of f to him and buy him a drink’. Needless to say with the public’s knowledge on things military any man who appeared in the British Isles wearing a maroon beret...

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