School of History

Dr Michael Kennedy (Royal Irish Academy)

Thursday 3 March 2022, 16.00 (4 PM)

The paper will be delivered through MS Teams. Please, contact Dr Jérôme aan de Wiel, School of History, to obtain a Teams link:

Paper From 1939 to 1945 neutral Ireland was on the front line of the Second World War. Eighty-three Look Out Posts perched on clifftops and overlooking harbours and beaches where invasion was likely were manned by a special branch of the Defence Forces: the Coast Watchers. Part-time soldiers, they kept a constant watch on the conflict around them, logging and reporting a world at war at sea and in the air. Coast Watchers reports went right to the heart of wartime Irish foreign policy – the diplomatic and political battlefield of wartime British-Irish relations. This talk tells their tale using photographs and documents. The logbooks of the Coast Watching Service, now held in Military Archives, record the Second World War as it happened around Ireland. Air Corps aircraft on coastal patrols, United States Air Force B-17 ‘Flying Fortresses’ on transatlantic flights; Luftwaffe ‘Condor’ bombers seeking out Allied convoys to attack; sightings of troopships, convoys and destroyers, submarines – Allied and Axis, lifeboats coming shore, and, most tragically, the discovery of the bodies of the dead of war washed up on Ireland’s shores. The Coast Watchers tale is a mix of local, national and international history and shows just how close to Ireland the Second World War really was.

Dr Michael Kennedy is the Executive Editor of the Royal Irish Academy’s Documents on Irish Foreign Policy (DIFP) series. In addition to editing twelve volumes of DIFP he has published widely for over twenty-five years on Irish diplomatic, political and military history. In 2008 his Guarding Neutral Ireland: The coast watching service and military intelligence was published. It has become one of the standard accounts of the Second World War around Ireland. His most recent books include: The Emergency: A visual history of the Irish Defence Forces, 1939-1945 (with Comdt Daniel Ayiotis and Dr John Gibney) (2019), Ireland: A voice amongst the nations (with Dr John Gibney and Dr Kate O’Malley) (2019) and Ireland, the United Nations and the Congo (with Comdt Art Magennis) (2014). Michael also appears on radio and television and talks regularly to a wide variety of audiences on aspects of modern Irish history. He has recently been involved with groups around the Irish coast seeking to discover the histories of their local units of the Defence Forces Second World War Marine and Coast Watching Service.

College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences

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