Neutral Shores, Ireland and the Battle of the Atlantic
Posted by: Mark McShane
Date: May 26, 2012 02:25PM
From September 1939 until the last days of the war in 1945 Ireland was host to a constant flow of casualties from the Battle of the Atlantic. Ireland's unique location situated near the vital shipping lanes of the Western Approaches placed the country in the immediate conflict zone once the war at sea began.
Neutral Shores, Ireland and the Battle of the Atlantic, tells the largely untold story of how many merchant navy ships during the war were attacked and sunk, and their surviving crews left adrift on the hostile Atlantic Ocean in a desperate struggle for survival. For the fortunate ones sanctuary was found along Ireland's rugged Atlantic shores, where the local people took these men from the sea into their homes and cared for them without any consideration of their nationality or allegiances to any of the belligerent nations.
Beginning with an introductory chapter explaining Irelandís neutral position from the outset of the war and how the important role of voluntary agencies, such as the Red Cross and The Shipwrecked Mariners Society assisted the survivors once safety had been reached. The book continues chronologically from the sinking of the passenger liner Athenia in September 1939, when 449 survivors landed in Galway and the city mobilised to aid the first casualties of the war at sea, through to April 1945 when the sole survivor from the coaster Monmouth Coast was rescued and taken ashore on Arranmore Island. There were also two occasions when large contingents of naval personnel found refuge in Ireland. Both events involved German sailors, including the crew of U-260 that had managed to survive the Battle of the Atlantic for two years, only to succumb to a British minefield off the Cork coast in March 1945. Other merchant seamen survivors were less fortunate and found themselves closer to Newfoundland in open lifeboats when their ordeal began and were obliged to make the long voyage east.
For the Irish reader there is an additional interest with the sinking of the CIL lighthouse tender Isolda and the Irish shipping steamer Irish Oak. Two other notable Irish shipping involvements were the rescue by Irish Willow of the survivors from the British steamer Empire Breeze in August 1942 and the heroic rescue by Kerlogue of the German sailors from The Battle of Biscay in December 1943.
In keeping with the theme of Warsailors , Norwegian ships feature in Neutral Shores, including Songa, Steinstad and Austvard, whose losses and eventual landing of their crews along the Irish coast are covered in several chapters. However not all the Norwegian ships covered were war casualties. The important role of the rescue ship is also mentioned. Knute Nelson who landed 449 survivors in Galway city from Athenia, and Ida Bakke was kept busy picking up survivors from the British tankers British Influence and Cheyenne.
Each chapter describes in graphic detail the events leading up to and the subsequent loss of the ships involved. Using archival material from Irish, British and German sources, the accounts are thoroughly researched with many new revelations told for the first time, including the revised fates of several u-boat successes against merchant ships during the bitter convoy battles on the Gibraltar and Atlantic routes.
My thanks to webmistress Siri Lawson for her kind permission to use material from warsailors.com in writing Neutral Shores.
Published by Mercier Press
Available from 01 June 2012 in paperback and ebook.