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Returning Home – Irish Servicemen after the Second World War by Bernard Kelly

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Non Fiction

By Paddy Reid

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Returning Home – Irish Servicemen after the Second World War by Bernard Kelly

This timely book explores a largely forgotten period of Irish History. It tells the story of those thousands of Irish men and women who served in the British Armed Forces during 1939-1945. As such, this book is an important social document on Ireland’s often troubled, sometimes tormented, connection to World War Two. It is an excellent and quick read, aided greatly by the moving, personal stories of soldiers who returned to Ireland. Returning Home will appeal to the general reader as well as those who enjoy Irish historical writings. As such, this book would enhance the learning curriculum in school history courses.

Of the 60,000 Irish men and women who joined the British Forces fighting against fascism, 9,000 died during the war while 12,000 returned to Ireland. The rest, wisely it appears, chose to stay in the UK.
Returning Home explores in great detail the fate of thousands of Irish soldiers who returned home when the war ended only to find that they were not at all welcome. The book outlines the massive economic, social and psychological problems that these veterans faced for the rest of their lives.
For the 5,000 men who deserted the Irish Defence Forces to join the British Army, poverty, joblessness and social exclusion were their reward (and that of their children as this reviewer can testify).

The eight year ban on deserters being able to take up employment virtually destroyed whatever chance these men had of making a life for themselves and their families.
This book is timely in that the deserters received an apology from the Minister for Defence Alan Shatter in June 2012. The copious footnotes are both extensive and revealing of the plight of individual soldiers who would struggle for the rest of their lives.  Shameful, given their heroic efforts to fight fascism.


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