• August 26, 2016

As the terrible events of the murder of 7000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica are remembered it is important to remember that in addition to the atrocity perpetrated by the Serb military the refugees in the enclave were let down by the UN Dutch peace keepers 400 of who were charged with guarding the enclave. The argument always made by the UN and Dutch s that they were overwhelmed. However a court in France three years ago did apportion blame (see link):
So could they have done more against the might of the Serb forces and were they right to capitulate. The debate will no doubt rage for years to come.
Coincidentally however this year will see the release of a film that will celebrate a very different stance taken by UN Peacekeepers also facing overwhelming odds that chose to stand and fight and although eventually overwhelmed it prevented a massacre.
Over thirty years before the events in Bosnia Irish peacekeepers serving with the UN for the first time found themselves in a similar situation at Jadotville in the Congo.
In September 1961, about 150 soldiers from the Irish contingent were at Jadotville where the men under and their Cmdt Pat Quinlan were ordered to protect the local population from the Katangan militia and mercenaries. They were armed with light rifles, 60mm mortars and two Vickers armoured cars with turret-mounted machine guns.
On September 13th, they came under heavy attack from between 3,000 and 5,000 militia, tribesmen and mercenaries, going at them in waves of about 600 at a time and supported by a French manufactured Magister training jet, fitted with machine guns and under-wing bombs.
Quinlan marshalled his men to good effect, so much so that they held out for six days. Efforts by other UN forces to come to their relief failed. At one stage, the Irish radioed UN headquarters saying: “We will hold out until our last bullet is spent, could do with some whiskey.”
Through good, accurate shooting and well-aimed mortars, the Irish repulsed repeated attacks, knocking out enemy mortar and artillery positions, killing some 300 of their foes and wounding up to 1,000 more – all without sustaining a single fatality themselves, though five were wounded.
In the end, however, when their ammunition and water ran out, Quinlan was forced into a ceasefire and then surrender, after which the peacekeepers were held hostage for a month before being released. Pointedly there was no massacre although had they not fought its likely that such would have occurred.
Image: Irish troops in position outside Jadotville before the battle.
Note: The film the siege of Jadotville will be released in the next few weeks.
pp Celtic League Military Monitoring.
TEL: 01624 877918 or 07624 491609
The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries including our own Mannin branch. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues

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