Historical Experience

John Cunningham

Interviewed 2021


In this selection, John Cunningham discusses the experience of his father Michael Cunningham, during the years of ‘The Emergency’ (World War II), when he was stationed in Blarney, County Cork. He also refers to the reputed plans by Germany to invade Ireland during the War. Germany’s invasion plans for Britain were codenamed ‘Operation Sealion’. Their invasion plans for Ireland were codenamed ‘Unternehmen Grun’ or ‘Operation Green’. Like Operation Sealion, Operation Green was never executed. The Nazis failed to achieve air superiority over the English Channel that summer. You can read more about Michael Cunningham HERE


JOHN CUNNINGHAM: Okay. One of the first ones was I suppose in Blarney Garda Station. He was sent to Blarney in 1944 I think and I would have been born in 1946. So I was the only one born in Blarney but my sister Imelda was born in Cork and the other four members of the family were all born either Limerick or Dublin. He was originally based in Union Quay Barracks as an Inspector in Cork in the early days of World War II and apparently instructions came down from the depot in Dublin that they were to immediately be under the command of the local military authorities because there was a planned invasion of Ireland by Germany. And apparently, we’ve now just discovered that, yes, there was evidence of the Germans having a very detailed plan to invade Ireland. As a matter of fact, I was reading about it yesterday in the papers that one of the documents about the plan is up for sale at an auction this week. Now, the problem, the reason it’s not worth a whole lot of money is because the first 19 pages are missing and disappeared, so nobody knows where they are. So they reckon that those 19 pages would probably have contained most of the really really interesting stuff. But it was drawn up by the Nazi high command in Germany, in 1941 apparently, for an invasion of Ireland, with the purpose of surrounding England. So basing aircraft in Ireland which could attack the west coast of England where they had moved the industry and the north of England of course. Anyway, my father was told to repair to Collins Barracks as it was in Cork. It used to be the old Victoria Barracks. He was to repair there with 12 men on bicycles.

MS. LANDY: [Laughs]

MR. CUNNINGHAM: He was issued with a revolver and 20 rounds of ammunition and his men were issued with 12 old World War I Lee Enfield rifles and 20 rounds of ammunition each. Their instructions from the military guy was, they were to cycle to the coast guard station in West Cork down near Clonakilty and they were to occupy the station and they were to resist the German invasion until, until the Irish Army arrives from Cork.
[Laughs] Now as we all know now, a German invasion would have involved Stuka bombers and Panzers coming up the beach and thousands of well-armed men with machine guns etc. These poor 12 gobshites from Cork led by a gobshite from West Clare would have been very

MS. LANDY: [Laughs]

MR. CUNNINGHAM: would have been massacred in about five minutes! [Laughs] Anyway, my father says that if they knew then what they know now, the best thing he could have done was to turn the signpost above on the road and hope that the Germans went back towards Killarney instead of heading up to Cork City! [Laughs] But anyway, he says that was the kind of mentality. They had no idea of what a German invasion would have meant at the time. But thankfully, thankfully it never happened, but apparently, there was very definite plans and the recent documents discovered now show that they had, the Germans had detailed maps of all the towns in the south of Ireland and the southwest of Ireland and they had details on the plans as to how they were going to invade the cities. They had a lot of homework done. So anyway, I would never have been here if my father had been resisting the Nazi invasion of Ireland! Anyway, [Laughs], so what else can I say?