Heroes or Traitors?: Experiences of Southern Irish Soldiers Returning from the Great War 1919-1939

Heroes or Traitors?: Experiences of Southern Irish Soldiers Returning from the Great War 1919-1939

by Paul Taylor


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Covering the period from the Armistice to 1939, the book examines the experiences of Irish soldiers who had fought in the British army in the First World War on returning home to what became the Irish Free State. At the onset of the War, southern Irishmen volunteered in large numbers and marched off accompanied by cheering crowds and the promise of a hero's welcome home. In 1916, while its soldiers fought in the British army, Ireland witnessed an insurrection against British rule, the Easter Rising. Ireland's soldiers returned to a much-changed country, which no longer recognised their motives for fighting and which was at war with the country in whose army they had served.

It has long been believed that the returning soldiers were subject to intimidation by the IRA, some killed as a retrospective punishment for their service with the imperial power, and that they formed a marginalised group in Irish society. Using new sources, this enlightening book argues otherwise and examines their successful integration into Irish society in the interwar years and the generous support given to them by the British Government. Far from being British loyalists, many served in the IRA and the Free State army, and became republican supporters.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A very timely subject for study based on extremely impressive archival research."—Dr Marie Coleman, Queen's University Belfast

"This is an important contribution to the study of post-World War I Ireland. The author argues strongly that the returning ex-servicemen did not face violence, persecution and social exclusion because of their service, and counters the previously accepted view about the treatment of these men. In so doing Taylor presents a more nuanced understanding of how these men were treated, and his book is a substantial contribution to the debate. It is difficult to argue with his conclusion - they were neither heroes nor traitors." —Patrick McCarthy, Irish Sword

"Paul Taylor's book is the first devoted to following the men who survived the horrors of the fields of France, the trenches of Flanders, or further afield, only to return to an Ireland transformed and in the midst of a new and very different conflict."
Brian Hughes, Journal of Social History

"This important book has transformed our understanding of the experiences of Irish First World War veterans, and must feature in future debates about the nature of the Irish Revolution."
John Borgonovo, Canadian Journal of Irish Studies

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781781383384
Publisher: Liverpool University Press
Publication date: 03/01/2017
Series: Reappraisals in Irish History LUP
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

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