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Southern Ireland and the Liberation of France

New Perspectives

Series:

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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Donal Buckley Postscript: ‘And so to D-Day…’ 205

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DONAL BUCKLEY Postscript: ‘And so to D-Day…’ Operation Overlord: the greatest Armada of fighting men and machines ever assembled in the history of the earth. Its success was never a foregone conclusion and had it failed it would have knocked the Allied war ef fort back years if not permanently. It was a close run thing and could have been a much closer run thing or indeed a defeat. It is estimated that 66,000 Irishmen took part in the Battle of Normandy, 66,000 in British uniform. How many in Commonwealth or US uniform has never been calculated, but the figure must have been impressive. You may be aware that the weather in early June 1944 was appalling. Troops on board ship were in misery. Airmen, sailors, soldiers everywhere, all waiting for the ‘GO’ but unless there was to be a break in the weather, just enough time to get across the channel, all would have been to be put on hold and a new date planned. This, as well as being disastrous for morale and logistics for all concerned, would have compromised everything. How do you keep an operation on this scale a secret? The Germans knew it was coming; it was where and when they did not know. It would be a matter of time before they found out. If it was delayed this time the chances of discovery were much higher. There was a small break in the weather forecasted, a window for 6 June...

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