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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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Kevin Myers Perceptions of Irish Participation in the Second World War 121


KEVIN MYERS Perceptions of Irish Participation in the Second World War On 4 September 1939, the day after Britain declared war against Nazi Germany, two waves of Blenheim bombers attacked the German naval base at Wilhelmshaven: one was led by Flight Lieutenant Kevin Doran, of One One Zero squadron, who despite the atrocious weather found the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. His bombs hit the target, but bounced of f. He apparently survived the war. His name is certainly Irish: I don’t know if he was. Meanwhile, the second f light of Blenheim bombers, of One Zero Seven squadron, was being torn apart by the now-alerted German defences. Four of the five bombers were shot down, the first of them f lown by Pilot Of ficer William Murphy, aged 23, the son of William and Katherine Murphy of Mitchellstown, Co. Cork. The sole survivor from the four doomed planes was Laurence Slattery of Thurles, Co. Tipperary. He later described how Murphy’s plane was hit as it approached the target and immediately plummeted into the sea. Moments later, Slattery’s plane was hit and crashed. Billie Murphy was thus the first Irish victim of the Second World War, and probably also the first British military death. We can, if only arbitrarily, identify the last Irish victim of the war: Aircraftman 2nd class Timothy O’Sullivan, who apparently died of his wounds, aged twenty, at home in Limerick precisely six years later in September 1945. But over the coming years others were to perish...

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