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.