The Irishmen who fought at Cassino

More than 100,000 men from the island of Ireland served with the Allied Forces during the Second World War.

When the 38th (Irish) Infantry Brigade was formed in early 1942, a significant number of the men serving within its three constituent infantry battalions were either Irish born or had direct ancestry connections to Ireland.

Brigadier Pat Scott had noted in June 1944:

“It is matter of great concern to all of us from who come from Ireland that when the war is over, it will only be remembered against her that Eire was neutral. What we hope is that all the magnificent deeds wrought by the sons of Eire in this war, against the barbarians of Germany and her Allies, may be remembered to her credit. It is sometimes overlooked that the services of every Irishman from any part of Ireland are given of their own free will for the good of the cause, be they fighting men or those or those priests, who helped the English prisoners in Rome….”

Following 18 months of continuous front line action in Tunisia and Italy, at the time of the final battles near Monte Cassino, the proportion of Irishmen in the brigade had been markedly reduced. However, there remained a substantial number and, within the rolls of men who are commemorated at Cassino CWGC cemetery, there are 34 men from the Irish Brigade whose contact address was noted as being in Ireland.

The home addresses of these Irishmen ranged from Ballymena to Derry from Ballyduff to Tralee and they all have notable stories to remind us of their heroism, including two London Irishmen, who are commemorated at Cassino CWGC Cemetery.

Corporal James Barnes from Three Miles House, Co Monaghan – who charged a machine gun post at Sinagoga on 16th May 1944, and was recommended for a posthumous Victoria Cross.

With these thoughts in mind, the Irish Ambassador to Italy, Bobby McDonagh (above), and his wife Mary, attended the British Embassy Commemorative event on 19th May 2014 to honour all the men who served in Italy and laid a wreath at the Cross of Sacrifice with the words:

“On behalf of the Government and People of Ireland

‘The eternal reciprocity of tears’.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha dílis”

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