Comment by the Churchill Centre: Churchill had many plans during World War II, including a preventive war with the Soviet Union after the fall of Nazi Germany-as did every other leader with any foresight in a dangerous world. Invading Ireland was neither seriously considered nor necessary, so this article has to be taken as speculative. For the facts about Britain and Ireland in World War II, see Warren Kimball, “That Neutral Island,” Finest Hour 145, 54-61.
From The Sunday Times
Sunday, 21 March 2010
Winston Churchill was urged to use Scottish troops to invade Ireland during the second world war to rid the country of Nazi influence, previously unpublished government papers have revealed.
Lord Craigavon, the Northern Irish prime minister, wrote to Churchill in 1940 to ask that Highland regiments be used to overthrow the Irish government and install a military governor in Dublin.
Craigavon, a staunch unionist, claimed that Eamon de Valera, the Irish prime minister, had fallen under Nazi influence and that a crossborder invasion was needed to oust him.
“To meet the susceptibilities of the south the British forces might best be composed chiefly of Scottish and Welsh divisions,” he wrote in a memorandum to Churchill.
“A military governor should be then be appointed for the whole of Ireland with his HQ in Dublin.”
Craigavon also advised distributing propaganda leaflets in Gaelic and English to persuade the Irish that the Celtic regiments were there to defend them.
While Churchill dismissed the proposal by Craigavon, the government later prepared detailed plans for an invasion of southern Ireland.
Field Marshal Montgomery, who was later hailed as a hero for defeating Rommel’s forces in north Africa, noted in his memoirs: “I was told to prepare plans for the seizure of Cork and Queenstown in southern Ireland so the harbours could be used as naval bases.”
The previously classified files, held at the UK National Archives at Kew and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast, are published in a new book, Britain, Ireland and the Second World War, by the Scottish historian Ian S Wood.
“British forces could have taken control with very little difficulty, but it would have an absolute gift to the IRA who would have launched waves after wave of guerrilla attacks,” he said. “Occupying Eire would have been an extremely messy and costly undertaking.”
Dr Eamon Phoenix, a political historian at Queen’s University, Belfast, claimed that attempting to “camouflage” a British invasion by using Scottish or Welsh troops would have backfired.
“Many of the Black and Tans, the British auxiliaries sent to suppress Irish independence, were Scots and they had an appalling reputation,” he said.
Although Eire was neutral throughout the war, de Valera provoked fury in London by offering his condolences to the German ambassador in Dublin on the death of Hitler.
The taoiseach had spurned Churchill’s earlier offer of a united Ireland, in exchange for entering the war on the allied side, fearing it would lead to another civil war.
Britain, Ireland and the Second World War is published by Edinburgh University Press.