5 Irish guys you never heard of who changed modern warfare forever

If you wanted to use a a broad generalization to annoy a military historian, and frankly who wouldn’t, you might casually mention that the way wars are fought changed radically in the 20th Century, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the invention of the pointy stick.

However if you were to stare that smug sucker down and go on to mention that at least five massive, game-changers in 20th Century warfare all came from dudes you’d never even heard of, from a tiny, neutral, country with the same population as Seattle…

Well… fuck me.
That country is, believe it or not, Ireland. The country that once tried to take on the British Empire with fifteen hundred guys and a bunch of 19th century rifles.

Listen, Joe’s Ass. I’m having second thoughts about this.
The Irish are perceived as many things: funny, rude, impervious to psychoanalysys and… not white?

Can’t argue with Google…

…But not usually destroyers of worlds.

So what did these purple, hilarious, stone-cold ass-holes actually invent?

Well, when it comes to new and exciting ways to murder English people, or for English people to murder other people who hopefully aren’t Irish, the men of the Emerald Isle have stepped up time and time again, giving us…

1) The Military Submarine.

It’s well known that submarines are bad ass. They’ll fuck up your shit and you wont even see it coming; they’re the ninjas of the sea. If ninjas were crammed with tiny bearded dudes trying really hard not to have sex with each other, that is!

There was a time when the idea of an underwater boat seemed rather implausible. Many had tried, but none had really succeeded.  When John Philip Holland was born in to this time,  he took one look around and said “Fuck that!”

The Invention:

That’s right, the first ever commission for a military submarine landed on the desk of  certified Irishman John Philip Holland. Old J.P.H had previously built a submarine for Irish revolutionaries, but decided not to teach any of them how to drive it after they stiffed him on on the bill.

Plus he was having way too much fun driving it himself.
The U.S Navy wanted in on this action and on 11 April 1900, after insisting Holland tell at least one guy which levers do what, they commissioned the creatively named USS Holland.
The Impact:

Naval warfare had not been so radically altered since the invention of the boat. 15,000 allied sailors lost their lives to U-Boats in World War One and nearly 80,000  in World War Two. That doesn’t even include the Nazis or Japanese –  and they lost!

During the Cold War, nuclear submarines were developed as a means for delivering nuclear strikes almost anywhere in the world at almost any time. Fun!

3) Tanks

So that’s the oceans covered. What have the Irish given us in the line of day-to-day murder appliances that any average Joe can use on land?

What about one of these?

The Invention:

The story begins almost a hundred years ago, a chap named Winston Churchill couldn’t help noticing that World War One wasn’t going all that well, mainly because teenagers are squishy and bullets aren’t. So he let it be known that the British were looking to upgrade the tin helmet in to something that actually stopped bullets. And maybe fired a few of it’s own too.

Churchill: Also, it should look like this.

But can we really say who invented the tank? well, according to the 1919 Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors it was Major Walter Gordon Wilson of Blackrock, County Dublin and his homie Bill. And some other guys who sort of helped.  Saving teenagers from machine guns and killing them with carbon-monoxide since 1916!

The rest, as they say is history.

Awesome history.

The Impact:

 Tanks were breaching enemy lines by 1917, and by the time World War Two rolled around tanks were so useful that the Germans used them to invade an entire freaking country in just over one month.

It was only France, but still.

Sadly, however large scale armor engagements are now mostly a thing of the past,  probably due to the asymmetrical nature of modern warfare.

Or maybe it’s because one unarmed chump can stop, like, four of them.

Wait, What?

Make that like… 40. Fuck.

4) Guided Missiles

Okay so tanks, despite being awesome, are kind of on the way out but it sure is a good time for guided missiles! From cruise missiles to Predator Drones, the guided missile is the most reliable way to make sure that your enemy has no where to hide.

Even if they’re at a wedding.

Or… in a hospital.

Is anyone actually guiding these guided missiles?

The Invention:

Nevertheless the fellow that can attribute his name to the first ever practical guided missile is Castlebar-born born inventor Louis Brennan, who patented the Brennan Torpedo in 1877.

According to Brennan’s biographer, Norman Tomlinson, Brennan was inspired to create his torpedo’s unique propulsion system in 1874, when he noticed that a cotton reel, if the thread is pulled toward the operator from underneath, moves forward rather than backward.

Brennan then went in search of a problem to solve with this weirdly specific solution he had discovered. He realized that the only device which needed propulsion for a limited distance and which did not have to make a return journey, was a torpedo.

Fuck this bread shit! We make torpedoes now!

The torpedo was powered by two contra-rotating propellers that were spun by rapidly pulling out wires from drums wound inside the torpedo. Differential speed on the wires connected to the shore station allowed the torpedo to be guided to its target, up to 2,000 yards (1,800 m) away, at speeds of up to 27 knots (31 mph).

You know… like this?

The Impact

Thanks to his wily business partner, J.R. Temperley, Brennan ended up selling his invention to the British Government for over £100,000 which, in the 1890s was Facebook-buying-Instagram kind of money.

The Brennan Torpedo became a standard harbour defence throughout the British Empire and was in use for more than fifteen years. Operational stations were established in the UK at Cliffe Fort, Fort Albert on the Isle of Wight and Plymouth. Other stations included Fort Camden in Cork, Ireland, Lei Yue Mun Fort in Hong Kong and Forts Ricasoli & Tigne in Malta.

In 1905 the Committee on Armaments of Home Ports issued a report (a port report if you will) in which they recommended the removal of all Brennan torpedoes from fixed defences due to their comparatively short range and the difficulty of launching them at night.

Manufacture of the Brennan torpedo finished in 1906 but our man Louis had proven to the world that you didn’t have to run right up to the enemy and stuff grenades down their kacks to make sure they got blown up…

5) Blair “Paddy” Mayne

…unless you really wanted to – and Newtownards man and Irish international rugby player Blair “Paddy” Maine really, really did.

Whole books can, and have, been written about the origins of what we would now refer to as “special forces” units, but when it comes to the sort of maniac bad-assery that would make even the developers of Call of Duty snort incredulously, we’re only ever going to be talking about one unit – the Special Air Service, of which Paddy was a founding member

The idea for the SAS actually came from a Scotsman, Lieutenant David Stirling. Stirling’s idea was basically that a small team of highly trained soldiers with the advantage of surprise could exact greater damage to the enemy’s ability to fight than an entire platoon.

What this meant in practice was driving around the desert in Jeeps bristling with  machine-guns, killing Nazis (and Italians) blowing up all their stuff and then high-tailing back home.

Pictured: Bristling

Paddy took over the SAS (or SRS as it became known) after Stirling got his Scottish ass captured and went on to become one of the most decorated officers in the British Army – his medal citations read like plot synopses of Sylvester Stallone movies:

‘The following damage was done on or in the vicinity of the aerodrome: (a) Bombs were placed on 14 aircraft. (b) 10 aircraft were damaged by having instrument panels destroyed. (c) Bomb and petrol dumps were blown up. (d) Reconnaissance was made down to the seafront but only empty huts were found. (e) Several telephone poles were blown up. (f) Some Italians were followed, and the hut they came out of was attacked by sub-machine gun and pistol fire and bombs were placed on and around it. There appeared to be roughly thirty inhabitants. Damage inflicted unknown.’

Legend has it that he destroyed at least one airplane’s instrument panels with his bare fucking hands.

‘On 10 July 1943, Major Mayne carried out two successful operations, the first the capture of CD battery the outcome of which was vital to the safe landing of 13 Corps. By nightfall SRS had captured three additional batteries, 450 prisoners, as well as killing 200 to 300 Italians. The second operation was the capture and hold of the town of Augusta. The landing was carried out in daylight – a most hazardous combined operation. By the audacity displayed, the Italians were forced from their positions and masses of stores and equipment were saved from enemy demolition. In both these operations it was Major Mayne’s courage, determination and superb leadership which proved the key to success. He personally led his men from landing craft in the face of heavy machine-gun fire. By this action, he succeeded in forcing his way to ground where it was possible to form up and sum up the enemy’s defences.’

Let me just grab a pen…

So Paddy may not have invented Special Forces warfare per-se, but he was probably its greatest ever single practitioner. So next time you’re playing one of those silly driving levels in Call of Duty, just remember that our man Paddy was doing that shit non-stop for four years, right in the middle of three different theatres of the largest fucking war the world has ever seen.

Then he came home and died in a car crash. But still.

Some text taken from Wikipedia.


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