Guarding neutral Ireland

The Coast Watching Service and military intelligence, 1939–1945

Michael Kennedy

Hardback €49.50
Catalogue Price: €55.00
Out of Stock
ISBN: 978-1-84682-097-7
August 2008. 392pp; ills.

'Kennedy illustrates [that] the decision to be neutral brought with it the danger of undue pressure, even invasion, from the warring parties … Kennedy uses not just Irish sources but recently released British and American material to give a detailed account of a secret aspect of the Irish wartime experience’, Books Ireland (Summer 2008).

‘[A] new ground breaking book which throw[s] new light on some of the obscure corners of Ireland’s wartime “neutrality”. Michael Kennedy’s Guarding Neutral Ireland is a definitive history of the Irish Coast Watching Service, whose secret co-operation with the British was even more extensive that previously known’, T. Ryle Dwyer, Irish Examiner.

‘[A]n excellent book that brings to light a hitherto neglected and fascinating aspect of the history of the Second World War. At about £25 stg [€29.95] the book is extremely good value for money. Highly recommended’, Richard Doherty, War Books Out Now (online, August 2008).

‘The book details every look-out post that was used along Ireland’s coast during the war and also lists the names of all the men who worked for the coast watching service. The book is a valuable record of these stories, even as other parts of that story disappear from view. Only about 70 of Ireland’s look-out towers still stand’, Carolyn Farrar, Donegal on Sunday.

‘The account of the bombing of Dublin, the swaying fortunes of the Battle of the Atlantic or the war waged by the Coastal Command of the RAF against the U-boat menace (using the Donegal air corridor) make for interesting reading, not least the occasions when the Irish fired on intruders. The book contains a detailed refutation of the standard English canard that German U-boats crews were re-fuelling or lading in western ports. In fact, as Kennedy shows in his enumeration of Allied air-crashes and the fate of their crews, the Irish authorities bent over backwards to accommodate the Allied fliers. Michael Kennedy’s analysis is essential reading for readers interested in the history of the “Emergency”’, Barry McLoughlin, Books Ireland (September 2008).

‘Michael Kennedy's new book Guarding Neutral Ireland which is now available from Four Courts Press is expected to be a popular buy in Donegal ... Anyone interested in Irish history, local Donegal history, especially Irish Military Heritage or Ireland's Coast Watching History will find this book of great interest’, Donegal Democrat .

‘A remarkable book, a book I never imagined would or could be compiled or written should be in the shops when you read this … Guarding Neutral Ireland … is published by one of the most prestigious publishing houses in Ireland or Europe, Four Courts Press, respected all across the world for its serious material … This important book sets the situation for the general reader, the modern history lecturers [and] professors … It is not possible to give or do justice to the national comprehension of this work here. I can only recommend strongly that it must join the library or bookcase of everyone with the salt sea in his or her blood and every armchair war fan, student or admirer of this proud little country’s stand alone’, Nickey Furlong, Wexford Echo.

‘For the first few months of the second World War Ireland was defenceless when it came to aerial attack … The story of that unpreparedness, and of eventual recovery from it in terms of measures in defence of the neutral state, is well-told in Michael Kennedy's Guarding Neutral Ireland … Kennedy provides an unrivalled account of the war around coastal Ireland … In marking the end of the Coast Watching Service, Dan Bryan concluded that it 'had served the Defence Forces and the State well': one might add that for the history and historiography of Ireland and the second World War, Kennedy's masterful and original study has done likewise’, Fergus D’Arcy, The Irish Times.

‘... will give its readers a fascinating insight into the lives of Ireland’s Second World War frontline troops – the men of the Coast Watching Service …The book also reveals in the greatest detail available, the secret relationship between Irish military and diplomats and British Admiralty Intelligence', Northside People East.

‘The author attempts to capture most aspects of the civilian and military experience. Some of the seven chapters, like “A declaration of war” are chronological; others, like “In Transit” about those who passed through the city, such as troops going overseas, are thematic. Within each chapter are subtitles sections that deal with a wide array of subjects: the anti-submarine nets that blocked the main entrance to the harbour, the naval minesweepers that scoured the harbour approaches every morning (and quickly located the German mines laid in 1943), the experiences of workers at Moirs, the big chocolate factory downtown that did a bonanza business producing chocolate bars for the armed forces, and the diphtheria epidemic that haunted the overcrowded city for much of the war, to name but a few. He consulted a fairly wide range of published works to identify subjects and provide context. The main research effort, however, was to comb virtually every event and theme discussed in the book. The work is meticulously referenced, with a full bibliography and 564 endnotes. It is truly a research guide for others in the field … the details [he] offers are most welcome … Dr. Kennedy’s has been a labour of love', C.I. Hamilton, International Journal of Maritime History (December 2009).

Guarding Neutral Ireland is an original, valuable and informative addition to the expanding corpus of high-quality research relating to the ‘Emergency’ … Kennedy has undertaking a painstaking labour of love by unveiling a detailed assessment of the front-line role of the Coast Watching Service (CWS) … this monograph systematically evaluates the origins, operation, performance and information gathered by the CWS … the book possesses a strong documentary foundation … the book illuminates new aspects of the Anglo-Irish and Irish-American security interdependence during the Second World War … Kennedy has performed an important service in authenticating, corroborating and expanding on previous findings that Ireland engaged in innumerable less than neutral covert deeds … [this book is] packed with detail and complexity, reflecting the nature of the materials consulted … an invaluable resource for specialists and those interested in the Second World War … Kennedy has greatly enhanced our understanding of several aspects of Ireland’s ‘special consideration’ for British and American activities, [providing] much new information and fresh insights', Mervyn O’Driscoll, Irish Economic and Social History (2009).

‘The study of neutral Ireland during World War II has become more sophisticated in recent years. Michael Kennedy’s exhaustive account of the coast watching service is the latest book to explore neglected aspects of the period’s history. He draws on extensive research in British and United States archives and makes particularly good use of the Irish Military Archive, a source that reveals important new data. As a result Kennedy is able to map all eighty-three look-out posts and indentify the personnel who served there throughout the war', Brian Girvin,  American Historical Review (December 2009).

‘Michael Kennedy has produced an important book which sheds new light on aspects of Ireland’s wartime neutrality, and chronicles the work of the country’s first line of defence, the Coast Watching Service … The text is enhanced by twenty-four pages of photographs, some showing the L.O.P.s of the Emergency period, and others the Posts in ruins today. Two appendices list the sites and the personnel who served at them. After the Services was disbanded Dan Bryan wrote in June 1945 that the C.W.S. “had served the Defence Forces and the State well”. The author has also performed a valuable service in recalling the Coast Watching Service and its contribution to the defence of Ireland in the Emergency period', P. Mulready, The Irish Sword (Winter 2009).

‘Dr Kennedy’s book on the activities of the C.W.S. is well written and admirably detailed ... He makes much use of 500 recently discovered logbooks of the C.W.S. These are reports from eighty-three local observation posts that detail belligerent activity around and above Ireland during the Second World War. The author blends these reports with wide-ranging research in British and Irish military and political archives as he attempts to join the dots between the observations of the C.W.S. and actions taken in Dublin and London … Kennedy shows a real talent for reconstructing these events in blow-by-blow detail', Robert McNamara, Irish Historical Studies (November 2009).