Irish Generals In World War Two

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by avidirishreader, Jun 8, 2005.

  1. avidirishreader

    avidirishreader Junior Member

    Although Ireland was officially neutral during the war, I've come across this book that shows that, unofficially, there was many instances where Irish people fought Nazi Germany.

    This book is called Ireland's generals, and it's written by a guy called Richard Doherty. It's on Amazon. Has anyone read it? I think it's really good. It can be found at

  2. angie999

    angie999 Very Senior Member

    Both Alexander and Montgomery are often described as Irish and prior to independence the Montgomery family home was in Moville, County Donegal.
  3. Kiwiwriter

    Kiwiwriter Very Senior Member

    Don't forget O'Connor and Dorman-Smith, who changed his name after the war to the family name of Dorman-O'Gowan.
  4. Steen Ammentorp

    Steen Ammentorp Senior Member

    I own a copy of the 1st edition, which includes short bio's of these generals:

    Russell (brigadier)
    Scott (brigadier)

    In the 2nd he has added a number of generals:
    Gore (brigadier)
    Dawnay (brigadier)
    Loftus Tottenham


    I don't have a copy of the 2nd edition, so what I have to say is based on the 1st edition. As I said it is short bio's of the generals and I must say a bit superficial but that is to be expected when trying to deal with the career of a general on 20 pages. I would have like if the book had been a bit more academic by adding sources on each chapter and also all the quotes. It is difficult not to compare the book with Churchill's Generals ed. by John Keegan where the authors have succeed in creating some strong pictures on the portrayed generals focusing on their strong and weak sides. Doherty has not succeeded in this.

    Needless to say that you wont find much new about the well known officers. But I did find the chapters on Russell and Scott interesting. For the same reason I will be buying the 2nd edition because of Gore, Dawnay, Loftus Tottenham, Lentaigne and McCreery who you wont find much on elsewhere. Strange when you think of that McCreery was the last GOC of 8th Army.

    One last comment as I think that Doherty is pushing a bit far in order to make some of these generals Irish. This does of cause not change the fact that the information about the generals is interesting.

    Kind Regards
    Steen Ammentorp
  5. 8th KRI

    8th KRI Member

    Lots of Irish soldiers in the 8th Hussars (not surprising it was an Irish Regiment) (together with Russians, Germans, Poles etc)- Gen Sir John (Shan) Hackett, though not a general until after the war, was both Irish and an 8th Hussar.

    A bit about the history of Irish regiments is at

  6. Gibbo

    Gibbo Senior Member

    Lord Gort was another WW2 general with Irish connections. He was born in County Durham, England but I'm pretty sure that his title was Irish. Certainly the only place that I can find called Gort in the British Isles is in County Galway.

    I wonder how many of these men came from the Republic of Ireland, how many from Northern Ireland & how many were English, Scottish or Welsh born of Irish ancestry?

    On the other hand, I read somewhere that there were as many men from Ireland in the British armed forces in WW2 as in WW1
  7. angie999

    angie999 Very Senior Member

    Originally posted by Gibbo@Jun 8 2005, 10:25 PM
    I wonder how many of these men came from the Republic of Ireland[post=35140]Quoted post[/post]

    When they were all born, Ireland was part of the UK and even by WWII, technically there was no republic. It was the Irish Free State, nominally still a member of the Commonwealth or Empire or whatever you want to call it.
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Digging this old thread up because read this the other day in The Fifth British Division history.
    Re: 15th Bde southern Italy 4/5th Sept '43.
    (1 Green Howards & 1 KOYLI are the two Battalions refered to, not sure who the two Bn COs were)

    The Brigade Commander , Brigadier Martin , joined the two battalions on the high ground next morning and orderd them to advance and turn the enemy left flank; the order of march was the Brigadier, his gunner Lieut.-Colonel Wood , and the two Battalion Commanders. The two latter and the Brigadier remarked how strange it was that they , all three of them "neutral" Irishmen , should find themselves together in such a position.
  9. Kyt

    Kyt Very Senior Member

    Not as surprising if one considers that 70,000 Irish (from Eire) joined the British armed forces during WW2 (and 165000 gave their next of kin as someone from Eire).
  10. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    I own a copy of the 1st edition, which includes short bio's of these generals:
    Dawnay (brigadier)
    Hi Steen,

    Richard Doherty has the rank of the one time CO of the North Irish Horse wrong. It is Major-General.

    Here is his bio:

    Of interest, he was the recognized authority on I-Tank deployment.

    Cheers, Gerry
  11. spidge


    Lord Gort was another WW2 general with Irish connections. He was born in County Durham, England but I'm pretty sure that his title was Irish. Certainly the only place that I can find called Gort in the British Isles is in County Galway.

    Way off topic however Wellington was born in Ireland to English aristocrats.

    Later, Wellington was met with "you were born in Ireland, so you must be Irish.

    Wellington replied, If you were born in a stable, does that make you a horse?:)
  12. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  13. Richard Doherty

    Richard Doherty Junior Member

    A few comments if I may.
    1: For Kiwiwriter: Dorman-Smith's name change was not to the 'family name' but merely a pseudo-gaelicisation of Smith, for which the Irish Gaelic is Gabhan with O'Gabhan meaning 'grandson of'.
    2: For Steen: there is no first edition. These are two different books. The first, Irish Generals in the British Army in the Second World War was based on a BBC Radio series and the publisher was not keen to expand. Nonetheless, those who enjoyed the book and thought that they learned from it far outweigh the critics; the former include several professional history teachers. As for the comment that I was 'pushing a bit far' to make some of my subjects Irish, this is not the case as all of those included considered themselves to be Irish. The second book Ireland's Generals in the Second World War is an academic study with the notes that you require plus an additional nine subjects. Of these the one whose Irish ancestry was furthest removed was Richard McCreery but his family co-operated with my research and are very proud of their Irish roots. There are still many other Irish generals to be covered while McCreery deserves a good biography and Auchinleck an updated one.
    3: For Gibbo: Gort is indeed in Co. Galway and was (is?) in the estates of the Vereker family which also included land in Co. Limerick.
    4: For Angie999: The Irish Free State ceased to be in 1937 with the introduction of de Valera's constitution which stated that the name of the state was 'Ireland' (Eire in Irish). The Republic of Ireland dates from 1949.
    5: For Gerry Chester: I did not get David Dawnay's rank wrong. As the book's title, Ireland's Generals in the Second World War, suggests, it covers the period 1939-45 and looks at Dawnay as a brigade commander in Italy. In photo 31, which shows him with Sir Richard McCreery, he is wearing the insignia of a brigadier, the flash of 21 Tank Bde and North Irish Horse titles. A summary of the postwar service of each general is also included and, if you read p. 190 again, you will see that 'He remained in the Army after the war and was promoted major-general, becoming the commandant of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhust and then commander of 56th (London) Division, a TA formation.'
    6: For Spidge: Strangely, for a member of the Ascendancy, Wellington had two Irish parents. It was common practice for the sons of the Ascendancy to find their wives in England but Wellington's dad, Garrett Wesley, Earl of Monrington and Viscount Wellesley (both titles in the Irish peerage), married Anne Hill, daughter of Arthur Hill, a banker who became Arthur Trevor-Hill and, later, first Viscount Dungannon. One of the best boks on Wellington is Gordon Corrigan's Wellington: A Military Life (Hambledon & London, 2001). Incidentally, the comment about stables and horses is probably apocryphal but it does sum up the attitude of the Ascendancy to their Irishness. Montgomery was apt to call himself an Englishman, which he was entitled to do by dint of his birth in London and his English mother, but he called himself Irish when it suited him, especially with Irish soldiers.
  14. Steen Ammentorp

    Steen Ammentorp Senior Member

    @Richards Doherty,

    Thank you very much for your comments and corrections. Sadly I haven't yet obtained a copy of your second book, not edition! but I certainly look forward to reading it, especially because it covers generals not treated by other works. I fully agree with you that McCreery deserves a good biography. I was wondering whether you have had a chance in examine John Strawson's biography on him General Sir Richard McCreery. A Portrait, which sadly was privately published and I have not seen it for purchase anywhere.

    Another Irish general that I feel deserves his own full biography is Dill. Though well covered in Alex Danchev's Very Special Relationship, I feel he deserves a thorough study.
  15. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Audio documentary about Brigadier 'Chink' Dorman-Smith / Dorman O'Gowan here:

    The Brigadier

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