‘The Galway Gunman’ documentary on TG4

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A documentary on TG4 documentary tonight will focus on a teenager who left his native Galway City to enlist in the British Army in 1941.

Paddy Devlin was 17 when he went to Belfast to become a member of the Royal Ulster Rifles, serving in a glider battalion which fought on D-Day and in the invasion of Germany.

He saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers after crossing the Rhine but was himself seriously wounded.

He was one of an estimated 67,000 southern Irishmen who joined up to fight Nazism during World War II.

He was a crack shot who became one of the best snipers in the Allied forces, and fought in the Battle of Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge and the Crossing of the Rhine operation.

Paddy was wounded by German machine fire in the Rhine battle while defending his comrades, but returned to service. After the war he joined the RAF and retired as a warrant officer after 28 years.

He settled in Moycullen and wrote a memoir of his wartime experiences, a valuable record of the experiences shared by tens of thousands of Irishmen.

In the TG4 documentary at 9.30 on Wednesday night, Paddy’s niece Elayne Devlin explores why her uncle and nearly 70,000 other Irish men and women ignored Irish neutrality to fight for Britain in the war.

Elaine, an RTÉ journalist, explores why Paddy and so many others risked death in battle and hostility at home to fight as a soldier of the Crown.

Irish men and women who joined up to fight the Nazis were given a warm welcome in Britain during the war, but often found a cold house on their return home. It was a tale largely written out of Irish history for more than a half a century.

Their huge involvement in the Allied war effort was largely ignored, and tens of thousands of families did not speak about their families’ role in it.

A silence descended on Irish servicemen which only began to be lifted from the 90s onwards, when the conflict in the North was coming to an end.

It is only now that their heroic sacrifices in a struggle which claimed the lives of 5,000 Irishmen are being fully recognised.

Paddy Devlin, Gunnadóir na Gaillimhe, told through the experiences of one family, lifts the lid on that secret history at 9.30pm on Wednesday, 8 November.