THE choice of Jamie Dornan to play hero Irish soldier Pat Quinlan in a new film has delighted the author of the book on which it's based. Dornan (32), will portray Commandant Quinlan in The Siege of Jadotville, an account of an against-the-odds battle for survival in the Congo.
The Belfast actor is one of Hollywood's hottest properties following his lead role in Fifty Shades of Grey.
At Jadotville in 1961, a small group of Irish troops, part of a UN mission, were surrounded and had to fight against a huge enemy force.
Journalist and author Declan Power, who wrote the book The Siege of Jadotville, believes Dornan is perfect for the part.
"I'm delighted. They probably landed on the ideal guy. They will be making this film next spring, after the publicity for Fifty Shades of Grey," Power told the Herald.
He said the film, and Dornan in particular, will bring the story "to a much wider audience".
"One thing that struck me is that he [Dornan] doesn't look unlike Quinlan when he has facial hair. There is about 10 years between them," Power added, referring to the late commandant's age of 42 in 1961. Irish troops went to the Belgian Congo after it became an independent republic in June 1960 and were subsequently involved in heavy fighting in Katanga.
In September 1961, 'A' Company of the 35th Infantry Battalion was sent to Jadotville to protect the European inhabitants from tribesmen. In a subsequent siege, the Irish unit of 150 soldiers was surrounded by a force of up to 5,000 men.
Under the leadership of Cmdt Quinlan, from Waterville, Co Kerry, they managed to hold out for a week and only signed a ceasefire after they ran out of water and ammunition. They inflicted hundreds of casualties in a savage battle, but all the Irish troops survived the action.
With a ceasefire in place, the Irish soldiers left their trenches but were disarmed and taken hostage. They were released after six weeks.
A rumour circulated in Ireland that they had surrendered. The public ignored them on their return and they were taunted by fellow soldiers. Power, himself an ex-soldier, said: "They [the Irish troops] were openly called cowards. That was down to sheer ignorance. The ones who threw the insults, they were ignorant of the reality. What took place was a good piece of small-unit soldiery."
The force that laid siege to the Irish positions in Jadotville was led by experienced mercenary officers who had served in World War Two, Indochina and Algeria. Waves of up to 600 enemy soldiers attacking at a time were kept at bay using everything from elderly Vickers machine guns to modern FN rifles.