Why Irish soldiers who fought against Hitler and the Nazis had to hide their medals
After deserting the Irish army to fight with the British, many soldiers faced persecution
Five thousand Irish soldiers who deserted the neutral Irish army to help aid the British in the fight against Hitler’s Germany in World War II returned to Ireland to face their lives as outcasts following the war.
For deserting the Irish army to help the British, such soldiers were named on a confidential list nicknamed the “Starvation Orders” at the orders of Eamon de Valera.
BBC News reports on the phenomenon of Irish soldiers being persecuted upon their return to Ireland after fighting in WWII. They spoke with Phil Farrington, now 92 years old and living in Dublin’s dock areas, who helped serve at D-Day as well as the liberation of the German death camp Bergen-Belsen. However, he wears his war medals only in secret. "They would come and get me, yes they would," Farrington asserts about Irish authorities.
Farrington was among 5,000 soldiers who, after deserting Ireland’s neutral army to go serve under the British in the war against fascism, came home to Ireland to find that “they were formally dismissed from the Irish army, stripped of all pay and pension rights, and prevented from finding work by being banned for seven years from any employment paid for by state or government funds.”
Alongside the 5,000 soldiers who deserted the Irish to serve were “tens of thousands” of civilians who signed up to fight under the British.
The soldiers were compiled into a list that has come to be known as the ‘Starvation Orders,’ the title of which would take on a very literal sense for those who were listed along with their families.
"My father was blacklisted and away all the time, picking turnips or whatever work he could get. It's still painful to remember. We were treated as outcasts,” says Paddy Reid, son and nephew of those men who fought the Japanese at the battle of Kohima Ridge. He recalls a childhood with little food, and movement from one slum to another.
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Cork native John Stout served with the Irish Guards armoured division which raced to Arnhem to capture a key bridge. He also fought in the Battle of the Bulge, ending the war as a commando. He says upon returning home, he too faced the same persecution and criticism as the other Irish soldiers did.
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