Here we take a look at a Pen and Sword offering covering to brothers who served in a special way ,Special Forces - Brothers in Arms,.


The following introduction is taken from the Pen and Sword website:

The McGonigal brothers, Eoin and Ambrose were fiercely independent characters. Born and educated in southern Ireland to a catholic family but raised in Belfast, they wasted no time in enlisting at the outbreak of War in 1939. Both outstanding sportsmen, their leadership potential was quickly recognised.

Eoin was one of the first two officers selected from an Irish regiment for Commando training in 1940. After leading a troop at the River Litani battle in Syria, he became the youngest of the original officers selected for the fledgling SAS and quickly made a name for himself. Tragically, he was lost after parachuting behind enemy lines in Libya. His body was never recovered and many unanswered questions remain today.

Ambrose, having carried out multiple coastal raids with the Commandos and winning two Military Crosses, later led operations for the SBS in Yugoslavia and Italy. Post-war, he had a short but notable legal career as a Lord Justice of Appeal in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles.

Light is also shone on the brothers’ close friend, the legendary Blair Mayne and the controversial decision to downgrade the award of his Victoria Cross.

This is a thought-provoking account of lost and fulfilled potential and unswerving loyalty at a time of political and religious turmoil.


This offering from Pen and Sword looking at Eion and Ambrose McGonigal is authored by Patric McGonigal who is as it would seem most of the McGonigals are in the legal profession. This hard back book consists of 360 pages with a number of pictures spread throughout the text. This appears to me to be well written, with a good use of grammar and text that is easy to read due to the font used and the size of the text. The story of these brothers is told over 43 chapters which are as follows:


A Certain Piquancy: A declaration of war on the Irish Nation

Malone Road, Belfast

Leaders of Boys

Brothers in Law

Leaders of men: Oh that’s for me

The Royal Ulster Rifles ‘Wild Young Men’

Eleven (Scottish) Commando in Arran

Landour Spirit: ‘I’ll shoot you , Blair’

Longing for a Show: ‘The best Trained, Disciplined and Soldier-like Unit of the Whole lot’

Egypt-Cyprus: ‘C Battalion of Layforce’

The Litani River, Syria: Commando Assault 9th June 1944

Aftermath: ‘ My Silver Cigarette Case’

Blair v Keyes: ‘A Truculant Irishman’


(L) Detachment SAS Brigade: A New Breed of Derbushes

A Final four months with a ‘band of Vagabonds’

Kabrit: ‘Stirling’s Rest Camp’

Parachute Training: ‘Nice and Soft in the Sand’

A Monsterous Scheme: ‘Dessert Marching is not meant for Irishmen!’

The First (and Last) Parachute Mission: Operation Squatter

‘Eion has not yet come back’

Subsequent Missions

The VC: ‘A Signal Act of Valour’


Raiding Across the Channel: A ‘Bare-knuckled Fighting Opponent’



The SBS: ‘Urgently Required for Operations in Yugoslavia’

Into the Balkans: ‘An Aggressive, Independent Irishman’

Croatia-Unie, Cherso, Lussino, Istria: ‘Kill the F!!!ing Lot of Them’

King Farouk and the Charismatic Company Commander

Eion: ‘A Huge Character of a Guy’

A Unknown Soldier

Ambrose After D-Mod: ‘The Black Prince’

The First Death Sentence Since the Troubles Began

McElhone: ‘Shot in the Back’

‘A Torturers Charter’

‘A Lawyer, A Judge, A Soldier and a Gentleman’

Brothers and Brothers in Arms

Brother’s-Final Notes



This title looks at the lives and death of Irish brothers at war, serving in two units that still hold a special place today. These are of course the SAS and SBS, who to this day take on specialised missions for the British Government around the Globe. You get to look at the early life of these brothers, who should have grown up and gone into the legal profession, however the outbreak of war changed all of that. These two Irishmen must have had that special stuff that made them stand out as exceptional

Warriors and leaders of men. The two brothers joined the Army at the start of the war, joining the same Regiment, that their Grandfather served in The Royal Ulster Rifles. It was while serving in this regiment that they struck up a friendship with a man that many of you will know the name of Robert Blair (Paddy) Mayne. 

The progression through regiments to make it finally to the specialised units they finished with Eion was lost in a parachute drop behind enemy lines and his body was never found. The mission on which Eion went missing cost the SAS dearly, with 34 of the original 55 had not made it back having either been killed, gone missing or taken prisoner. It was discovered later that one of the aircraft carrying troops for the parachute drop had been shot down with the loss of all on board. With the loss of Eion you continue to follow the story of Ambrose and his career during the war, followed by his demob and eventually being accepted into the Belfast Bar in 1948. His legal career saw him progress on some of the legal cases of which he presided over are covered, to give you some idea of his continued service to the crown.


This offering from Pen and Sword provides you with a good insight in the progression of two men’s lives during wartime. You get to read about some of their exploits, and find out snippets of information on the death of Eion McGonyal which it would appear that Paddy Mayne believed may have been murdered. The progression on Ambrose during the war and into the legal profession makes for a well rounded and complete story. 



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