Wednesday 22 October 2014

Families of deserters left shunned

Published 07/05/2013 | 16:48

Paddy Reid (left) was one of thousands of Irish soldiers who joined the British Army to fight Nazi Germany (Soldiers Pardons Campaign/PA)
Paddy Reid jnr, whose father Paddy Reid served in Burma with the British Army

A man who was the son of a deserter has spoken of the stigma attached to his childhood, saying he grew up in Ireland an outcast.

Paddy Reid said he was shunned as a schoolboy and branded a traitor because his father fought Nazis for the British Army.

Now, at 62, the soldier's son has nothing but pride for his father of the same name. His one regret: that Paddy Reid senior died before legislation was finally passed vindicating him and others for their bravery during the Second World War.

"Those men did what they believed to be right and they are now vindicated," Mr Reid said. "They did nothing wrong and they paid a high price for it throughout their lives."

Barely 16 when he enlisted, the soldier boy was blacklisted and branded a deserter for serving as a gunner for the British Royal Artillery. He returned home in 1946 and struggled for years to find work, living hand to mouth in the deprived Docklands area of Dublin.

His wife died at just 39 as the hardship and struggle to feed their eight children took its toll, and it was 15 years after his return before he was granted proper employment, driving a horse and cart for a steamboat company at the docks.

"It took all those years to find work and when he did, he never missed a day in his life," Mr Reid said of his father, who died in 1984 aged 64.

"He worked through every flu and sickness. He was just so relieved to be employed - the sort of thing you take for granted."

The family lived like social pariahs right up to the 1960s, with the children bearing much of the brunt in the classroom.

"The teachers would let you know that you didn't belong," said Mr Reid, who now lives in Balbriggan, Co Dublin. "They would have been very pro-Republican and they made a point of singling you out because you weren't really Irish, you betrayed the country."

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