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Discussion in 'History of Britain during World War II' started by Irish Danny, Jan 20, 2008.

  1. Irish Danny

    Irish Danny New Member

    Jan 20, 2008
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    Northern Ireland
    via War44
    At the outbreak of war, Éire was still a member of the then British Commonwealth but chose to remain neutral, the only such member state to do so.
    As a part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland participated fully as a belligerent. The particular contributions were manpower, food, armaments, and its unique geographical location.
    Although the Irish Free State remained neutral in World War II, a British government report of 1945 calculated more than 43,000 men (and women!) who were born in Éire had served in the British forces. More than 38,000 others volounteered from Northern Ireland, both Protestant or Catholic.
    Historians calculated that a total of 4,500 irishmen died during the war while serving the British army, of whom 2,200 were from Northern Ireland, and 2,300 from the Irish Free State, from a total population of just 3 million.


    The Irish Guards
    In 1939 the regiment was operating as "heavy infantry". By 1944, two of its 3 battalions were serving as tank crews.
    1st Battalion-Serving with the 24th Guards Brigade,under the command of Brigadier Colin Gubbins, it was part of Lieutenant General H.R.S. Massey's unsuccessful British force that was sent to Norway in April. It arrived in Narvik on April 15 1940 and was evacuated on June 8 1940.In 1942-1943 the Brigade formed part of the British 1st Infantry Division and the British 6th Armoured Division during the fighting in Tunisia and Algeria. From December 7, 1943 to August 31, 1945 it served in the Italian Campaign mainly with the 1st Infantry Division. As 24th Guards Brigade it was part of the force that liberated Trieste in 1945, but soon afterwards lost its 'Guards' title.
    2nd Battalion- Attached to the 20th Guards Brigade, the unit was sent to Holland to cover evacuation. During this operation the unit lost 36 men KIA and 27 WIA. They were attacked again by German Panzers during the battle of Dunkirk. The Irish Guards were the last to evacuate the town of Calais, and the German pursuit was so close that this 24-hour battle cost the battalion some 200 KIA or MIA. After being evacuated to England, it took part in the Normandy Invasion as part of the 5th Guards Brigade, under the Guards Armor Division.
    3rd Battalion-Attached to the 2nd battalion as lorried infantry.

    During WW2 the regiment lost some 845 KIA and 1,600 WIA.

    The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

    1st Battalion-Served in the far East during 1941-43. It saw hard fighting on the River Irrawaddy as part of an operation to destroy Japanese oilfields. Badly depleted by the time it had returned into Assam, it was decimated for a second time, and took no further part in the Burma campaign.
    2nd Battalion- Went to France with the BEF in 1939 as part of the 5th Division. After Dunkirk, only 200 men returned to England (20% of the men!!!)
    It took part of the invasion of Sicily, Anzio, and many other actions on Italy. In September 1944, it joined the 6th Battalion in the 78th Division. For its further process, see below 38th Irish Brigade.
    6th Battalion-see below 38th Irish Brigade.

    During the war the unit suffered 1,150 all ranks KIA. The highest number lost by any Irish unit in history.

    The Royal Ulster Rifles

    1st Battalion- Was part of the D-Day invasion under the 6th Airborne Division. These Ulstermen held a french village for seven days until relieved by their fellow Celts, the highlanders of the 51st Division. It saw action over Normandy, and took part of the crossing of the Rhine in 1945. This was the first British unit to meet Russian troops in Germany.
    2nd Battalion- Was part of the BEF in France, under the 3rd Infantry Division. It evacuated at Dunkirk with rather high losses: 104 KIA, 70 WIA.
    After 3 years of training, the battalion landed on the 6th of June on Sword Beach, along with the rest of the 3rd Division. It would later see heavy fighting in the bocage.

    The Royal ulstermen lost 600 KIA during the war.

    The Royal Irish Fusiliers

    1st Battalion- Joined the BEF. Their only job was to help French farmers in their work (!!!). Evacuated at Dunkirk, it later joined the 38th Irish Brigade. See below.
    2nd Battalion- Was based in Malta, suffered heavy losses by German and Italian bombings, and by 1944 it was totally wiped out, being destroyed by the German army in the Dodecanese.

    The regiment suffered 540 KIA during the war.

    5th Royal Dragoon Guards
    Was part of the BEF in France, equipped with light Mk VI tanks, it was tasked with defending the Louvain Canal during retreat. Evacuated to England, it was sent in July 1944 to Normandy were it saw plenty of action, including Operation Market Garden, serving with the 7th "Desert Rats" Division for the rest of the war.

    The war cost the Dragoons 112 KIA.

    The North Irish Horse
    The 'one-man regiment' of the 1930s converted to tanks early in the Second World War. It saw continuous action until the end of the war in Italy. In 1943, a troop of Churchills climbed the Djebel Ang to support the Irish Brigade. The unit supported the Canadians at the battle of the Hitler Line in Italy, May 1944. Repeated engagements during the slow advance up Italy included battles along the Gothic line in summer-September 1944 where one tank crashed 200 feet down a ravine, having turn over.

    During the course of the war the regiment lost only 82 men KIA, a remarkably low number given the number of actions in which had fought.

    Large scale Irish emigration led to the development of significant irish communities in England and Scotland, the majority being in Glasgow, Liverpool and London. Irish volounteer units had been formed and had developed into two regiments which took part in World War Two.

    The Liverpool Irish
    Their own major engagement of the war was being the first unit to land on Juno beach.Two companies of the Liverpool Irish were assigned to the "Mike Green" and "Mike Red" areas, at Graye-sur-Mer, where the Royal Winnipeg Rifles suffered heavy casualties. Under intense machine-gun and mortar fire, the landing of Major E.M. Morrison's "A" Company proceeded well and a command-post was established after reaching the sand dunes. In "B" Company's area, the late arrival of the reconnaissance party and DD tanks exposed the landing infantry to heavy machine-gun fire. The company's officer commanding, Major O'Brien, and the second-in-comannd were among those wounded. While under fire, the beach group collected the wounded and dead, located and marked minefields, attempted to maintain organisation, and directed vehicles and troops inland. During this one and only action, the single-battalion unit lost 46 men.

    The London Irish

    1st Battalion- Underwent only secondary roles despite their heavy 2-year training: served in Tunisia, Sicily and stayed in Italy until the end of the war. They saw the most action during the battle of Anzio.
    2nd Battalion- See below 38th Irish Brigade.

    The two battalions suffered 670 KIA of all ranks.

    The 38th Irish Infantry Brigade

    # 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Fusiliers
    # 2nd Battalion, The London Irish Rifles
    # 6th Battalion, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (until July 1944)
    # 2nd Battalion, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (from July 1944)

    No complete Irish division served during the war, and the biggest irish unit was the 38th Brigade, attached with the 78th Infantry Division.
    In November 1942 it landed in Algiers during Operation Torch. It saw action in Tunisia, including battles as Two Three Hill and Bou Arada. In July 1943 it took part of the Sicily landings, and played a dominant part in the capture of Centuripe. Landing in the italian mainland in September, it saw a great deal of fighting during the battles of Termoli, San Salvo, Montecassino, and the Argenta gap.

    During its campaigns the division lost more than 900 brave Irishmen.
  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

    Sep 1, 2006
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    via War44
    Very interesting post Danny, in your figures that servered during WWII am I right in thinking that this includes those Merchant Sea Men?

    Now this is the first i have read about this Company.. :thumb:
  3. Irish Danny

    Irish Danny New Member

    Jan 20, 2008
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    Northern Ireland
    via War44
    Of course, the Irish (both Protestant and Catholic, Southern and Northern) served in all three branches of the British forces

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