John Kelly, who had left rural County Kilkenny in 1935 to join the British army, found himself sitting in a bar in newly-liberated Tunis is 1943, having a drink with some American conscript soldiers. Upon hearing his accent, the Americans said ‘Say, you guys are neutral, you’re not in the war at all!’ John explained he was a pre-war volunteer, causing the Americans to exclaim ‘Are you god damn mad or something?’ It was a fair question. Why did John, and tens of thousands of other Irish men and women, voluntarily leave the safety of neutral Ireland and risk death or injury to fight in the Second World War?
This episode was written by Bernard Kelly
Bernard is a Postdoctoral research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, whose PhD degree examined Irish veterans of the British forces. His first book Returning Home: Irish ex-servicemen after the Second World War is published by Irish Academic Press.