Dark Times, Decent Men

Stories of Irishmen in World War II
Neil Richardson
Publisher
O'Brien Press
Price
€19.99
ISBN
9781847172976

INTRODUCTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' Attributed to Edmund Burke, Irish philosopher

 

 

 

Twenty-one years between the ending of one world war and the beginning of another. Enough time for a new generation of soldiers to be born and grow to adulthood. Enough time for economic and industrial forces to recover to fight again. But not enough time for the memories of past horrors to have faded, or for the bitterness of the defeated to have dissipated.

Part of me decided to write this book as a natural follow-on to A Coward If I Return, A Hero If I Fall: Stories of Irishmen in WWI, because I had family who also served with the British forces during the Second World War, and because I believed that - like our involve­ment in the First World War - the Irish participation in the Second World War was equally forgotten about, if not doubly forgotten about.

With the recent increase in books on the subject of the Irish in the First World War, and the return of annual commemorations, modern Irish people are steadily becoming more and more aware that 200,000 of their countrymen served in the British Army in the trenches during 1914-1918. They were joined by 300,000 Irish emigrants, or sons born to Irish parents, who served in other armies around the world, bringing the total Irish contri­bution to roughly half a million men. Out of those who served in the British Army, at least 35,000 never came home.

However, with regard to the Second World War, the stories that most southern Irish people have to tell revolve around the 'Emergency', and tales about rationing or the hated 'glimmerman' - whose job it was to make sure that a home or business was not using gas outside of regulation hours - are usually what is remembered. Occasionally, there might be a memory of receiving gas masks in case of air raids, or cardboard shoes..