Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Spitting on a Soldiers Grave

I was shocked this morning by this interview on Radio 4 of Robert Widders, the author of Spitting on a Soldiers Grave,  it is only 3.5minutes. Has anyone read the book?
It was  the fact that those who joined the British army were treated more harshly than those who deserted and became criminals or those joined the Waffen SS.

It is the cruelty towards children that rang bells with me.


nickbris said...

Joining the Army in 1939 was the first job that most of the volunteers ever had.

pelerin said...

That is really shocking. How were these facts hidden all these years?

Face the Facts said...

When you consider this story about the way that the Irish people treated their own, and then link it with all the appalling stories of abuse that have been exposed in recent years, does it not appear crystal clear that there is something seriously wrong in the fairytale 'Emerald Isle'.

You might like to have a look at this article by Kevin Myers in the Irish Independent for an analysis of the Irish 'problem'.

shane said...

No, Ireland does not have exceptionally high rates of child maltreatment/abuse:

It does, however, have a media and a government which are utterly obsessed with the topic.

shane said...

I suspect Widders overstates his case. The incidence of abuse in institutions was actually quite rare. See David Quinn's article in Studies (Autumn, 2009).

A quick glance at the archives of the Irish papers over the last 60 years shows that the treatment of those whom Widders describes as "Irish soldiers" is not a new discussion.

Widders is not breaking new ground, and the Irish state's treatment of these soldiers was, if anything, excessively clement.

shane said...

Which part of the Constitution is violated by punishing deserters (yes deserters)?

If that were true, it could be redressed to the Supreme Court.

vetusta ecclesia said...

The Irish go on about the interference of Britain in their affairs. Do they seriously think that if Hitler had successfully invaded mainland Britain they would have been immune from him? Hommage to the Irish fighters.

Pablo the Mexican said...

The Irish are blessed by Heaven.

In America, they fought as the Irish Brigade.

In Mexico, they fought as the San Patricios.

They live the motto:

"With my blood and with my soul, I will defend the cross."

The Irish have suffered great tortures for remaining faithful to the cross.

There is an old Mexican proverb that states:

"If you have to fight the Devil, take an Irishman with you."

God bless the Irish.


Sadie Vacantist said...

This is all nonesense. Why shouldn't deserters be punished? There were plenty of Irishmen fighting in the British army as volunteers. Were they harshly treated on their return? Deserters were regularly shot during WWI.

shane said...

Sadie Vacantist is right. In Britain if a soldier deserted to even another Allied power he would have been treated a lot less lightly.

These deserters should be very grateful that they were received with such clemency.

Why didn't they go bugger off to England anyway given that they had already shown their true loyalties?

In the Ireland of the 1940s, Britain was widely viewed (and with much warrant) as a more immediate source of invasion than Germany. By the end of the war Nazi Germany was destroyed; Britain was still very much alive. Former British soldiers in Ireland were widely viewed as potential spies and as likely fifth columnists in any new war. Any harsh treatment of them was well justified on national security grounds.

There are always two sides to every story and the BBC exhibited a lack of journalistic ethics by allowing one man to spout his propaganda unhindered and not providing for an alternative perspective, especially on such a controversial topic like this.

Jonathan said...

@ Shane annd Sadie Vacantist
It's not just the soldiers that were punished. Imprisoning their children is wrong. If it's not against the constitution then you haven't got a good constitution.

RT said...

Shane, you just sound like those who at first tried to justify the abuse of children or covered up clergy abusers.

Proud Free Stater said...


Thanks for posting the link and reminding us what a nasty bunch Fianna Fail were in De Valera's day. I suppose he was too bvusy signing the Nazi condolence book to turn up for the debate himself.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

There is much evidence that the Irish state during World War II was neutral on the side of the Allies. Members of the British forces who strayed into the Irish state weren’t detained whereas Germans were.

Many of my Columban colleagues ordained during the War joined the British forces as chaplains. One, Fr Paddy McMahon, died in the Normandy invasion while trying to save a Canadian soldier. Nobody saw them as being disloyal to Ireland. Growing up in Dublin – I was born in 1943 – I never heard anyone being critical of those who joined the British army.

The situation of those who left the Irish Defence Forces to join the British forces is one I was totally unfamiliar with until I read letters about it recently in The Irish Times. At this remove I think generosity is the better approach. There was far more likelihood of being killed as a member of the British army than of the Irish army during those years. So their motivation for switching was unlikely to be self-gain.

However, as some who have commented have pointed out there is nothing unusual about court-martialling a soldier who has deserted one army to join another.

I had never until now heard a whisper of children of soldiers who shifted being singled out for punishment, though I wouldn’t doubt that some adults would have done that. There is still a strain of bitter anti-Britishness to be found among some Irish people and among some of their descendents elsewhere, especially in the USA, as I know from experience. Anti-Britishness certainly wasn’t the driving force of Irish policy during World War II. But if there is evidence of children having been punished simply because their fathers switched from the Irish to the British army they should certainly be given an apology.

Proud Free Stater, the Constitution that De Valera introduced and that was approved by the voters of the Irish Free State in 1937 gave explicit recognition in Article 44.1 to ‘the Jewish Congregations’, probably the only country in the world to do so, at a time when Hitler was murdering Jews. De Valera’s signing the book of condolence at the German Legation in Dublin after Hitler’s death is hard to understand except that the Irish state had diplomatic relations with Germany at the time, as it did with the UK, the USA, etc. It cannot be interpreted as any kind of support for the policies of the Nazis.

The introduction to the audio clip on the BBC website has one factual error. The Republic of Ireland came into being in 1949.

Sadie Vacantist, are you suggesting that the young Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, should have been shot for deserting the German army at the end of the War?

Hugh said...

Thank The Lord for the contribution made by those Irishmen, including my father, who left the safety of their homes to fight for what they believed was an important and just cause. They were not prepared to stand back and allow tyrany to subvert the nations of Europe. They were proud Irishmen, many of whom distinguished themselves on the battlefield, who gained the respect of their British neighbours, with whom they had recently been in bitter conflict. By living in Eire, they had shown their commitment to the Republic, but they were prepared to rise above the bitterness and petty animosity of some of their countrymen to do what was right.

Eric Mc said...

I have just finished reading this book and it is indeed shocking how these men were treated. There are a number of factors that need to be clarified however.

Over 70,000 men from Eire joined the British armed forces in World War 2.

Only a few thousand of these were deserters from the Irish Army.

Desertion of your appointed military post or rank always was and always will be a Courts Martial offrence, no matter who's army you are serving in. All deserters should have been Court Martialled.
The problem is that deserters who left to join the British armed forces were treated unduly harshly compared to "normal" deserters - and that is where the unfairness comes in. In fact, it wasn't only the dererters who were punished, but their families too - and that was unforgiveable.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...