Neil Hegarty applauds a military history infused with personal narratives
The story of the Irish soldier overseas has seldom received the attention it merits. The new Irish state was uncomfortable with the notion of its citizens fighting (as they so frequently did) under a British flag; and this particular historical neglect is only now being remedied.
For this reason, Tim Newark’s The Fighting Irish is to be welcomed, exploring as it does frequently overlooked – and often truly startling and dramatic – personal narratives.
To the tales of the regiments of ‘Wild Geese’ (Irish mercenaries) who fought for Catholic Europe and of Queen Victoria’s ‘invisible army’ of Irish soldiers, Newark adds other stories. Among these are the Irish fighters whose 1828 mutiny threatened the security of the infant Brazilian state; the San Patricios who in 1847 fought for Mexico against the United States; and other intriguing vignettes from Canada to Congo to contemporary Afghanistan.
Newark has highlighted a giddying range of historical experience, to impressive effect.
Neil Hegarty is the author of Story of Ireland (BBC Books, 2011)