Paddy Reid: He fought Hitler, but was shunned by his own community
Published 08/05/2013 | 04:20
Paddy Reid was the son of a deserter and grew up in Ireland an outcast.
He was shunned as a schoolboy and branded a traitor because his father fought Nazis for the British Army.
Now, at 62, the soldier's son has nothing but pride for his father of the same name.
But he has one lingering regret: that Paddy Reid senior died before legislation was finally passed vindicating him and others for their bravery during the Second World War.
"Those men did what they believed to be right and at last they are finally vindicated," Mr Reid said.
"They did nothing wrong and they paid a high price for it throughout their lives."
Barely 16 when he enlisted, the soldier boy was blacklisted and branded a deserter for serving as a gunner for the British Royal Artillery.
Mr Reid returned home in 1946 and struggled for years to find work, living hand to mouth in the deprived Docklands area of Dublin.
His wife died at just 39 as the hardship and struggle to feed their eight children took its toll, and it was 15 years after his return before he was granted proper employment, driving a horse and cart for a steamboat company at the docks.
"It took all those years to find work and when he did, he never missed a day in his life," Mr Reid said of his father, who died in 1984 aged 64.
"He worked through every flu and sickness. He was just so relieved to be employed – the sort of thing you take for granted."
The family lived like social pariahs right up to the 1960s, with the children bearing much of the brunt in the classroom.
"The teachers would let you know that you didn't belong," said Mr Reid, who now lives in Balbriggan, Co Dublin.
"They would have been very pro-Republican and they made a point of singling you out because you weren't really Irish, you betrayed the country."
He said his father was just a boy when he joined the British Army, and paid for that decision his whole life, but he never regretted it. "The thing that he did regret was the lives lost in the war. That stayed with him to his dying day – the memories of fighting the Japanese.
"There was a lot of death. And when he was dying himself, he felt a lot of sorrow for the Japanese soldiers he killed.
"How the soldiers were treated in Ireland was just so petty in comparison."
Mr Reid, a community worker who counsels and teaches literacy, said his family knew no different from the discrimination they endured.
It was normal to be shunned in the community, particularly by those considered to be well-off and the "so-called educated", he said.
"But now there's a great sense of vindication. Those soldiers did what they did and they fought with bravery.
"They should be remembered for that."