Have you ever stumbled across a movie that surprises you? How about when that movie is based on a real event you never heard of? Well, in 2016, that’s exactly what The Siege of Jadotville did for me. I stumbled across it on Netflix, saw a FAL, and hit go! FALs always get the play button, especially when the guy wielding it has a groovy mustache.
The Real Siege of Jadotville
Holy crap, I can’t believe I never heard this tale. The Siege of Jadotville occurred in September of 1961. A small unit of Irish soldiers was serving with a UN Peacekeeping mission in the Congo. The country had been split by civil war, and Peacekeeping forces were trying to keep a lid on things.
The Irish troops were stationed in the mining town of Jadotville and were attacked and subsequently placed under siege by an attacking force. The force was made up of a mixture of local nationals, Belgian settlers, and mercenaries. These men made up the Katangese forces. Katanga was an unrecognized state in Africa that existed from 1960 to 1963 that opposed unification and the UN.
For the next five days, the small Irish force of 155 soldiers held off 3,000 to 5,000 attackers backed by a jet fighter. The Irish fought largely alone, although Irish, Swedish, and Indian forces attempted to relieve them. However, the Katangese held them back. The Irish defenders at Jadotville faced mortars and field guns until their support platoon knocked them out.
A fighter jet destroyed the Irish light armor, and they were perilously under-armed. They had rifles, old water-cooled Vickers guns, and a section of mortars. Yet they fought hard, and throughout the entire five days they only had five wounded while killing over 300 enemies and wounding 1,000 more.
They fought till they ran out of ammo, water, and food before surrendering to the Katangese.
Obviously, the film dramatizes the event but seems to accurately portray the events. There were some Hollywood moments. For example, when a helicopter attempts to resupply the troops with water, it’s shot down. In real life, the helicopter delivered water, although they used petrol containers rendering it unsafe to drink. The armored cars aren’t mentioned though they were insanely valuable and fired over 15,000 rounds during the battle.
However, the film is entirely enjoyable to watch. I don’t think anyone watches a dramatic film expecting perfect accuracy, anyway. They certainly don’t get that here. We get tense conversations with the head mercenary before the battle, balls-to-the-wall action, and lots of Rah-Rah moments. However, the film is still very enjoyable and a blast to watch.
I certainly suggest it to war movie fans. It’s no Saving Private Ryan, but it stands on its own two feet. Plus, it tells a story the majority of us are not familiar with from a war that a majority of us are not familiar with. These Irish troops had some serious balls.
The Guns And the Accuracy
The FAL that got me to click the Play button was not the only standard rifle at Jadotville. It was there, but according to a website called History Ireland, the World War 2 era, Lee Enfield was much more common than the FAL at Jadotville. The siege took place in 1961, and that was the same year the FAL saw adoption by the Irish forces, so it’s unlikely the entire military was equipped in a few short months.
However, the FAL certainly saw combat on both sides of the Siege. The FN FAL is the right arm of the free world. Like the Kalashnikov, the FN FAL has been spread across the world, and the Katangese and Irish both carried the rifle in battle.
We do see a few Lee Enfields in the hands of the Irish fighters. The Lee Enfield, specifically the No. 4 Mk1 and the No. 4 Mk1 (T), are seen in use in the film. The (T) designates the sniper rifle variant of the Lee Enfield rifle. Interestingly enough, there is a very weird scene I still don’t understand. The Sniper puts his sniper rifle down and loads a single round into a Bren machine gun to make one accurate shot.
The Bren is a very accurate LMG. In fact, it’s so accurate that there is this weird urban legend that it’s too accurate to create an effective beaten zone. Still, I don’t think it’s more accurate than his scoped sniper rifle. I guess it has bipods for stability…but sandbags and the prone also offer stability.
Going Full Auto
Oh yeah, we got Bren LMGs, which are most certainly historically accurate for the time period. This top-loading magazine-fed weapon was the LMG of the commonwealth and had a sterling reputation. Serving with the Irish beside Bren was the old school belt-fed Vickers guns.
Even in 1961, the Vickers machine gun was ancient, but the military will keep guns around ever. These men would have been much better served with a true General Purpose Machine Gun, but the real Siege at Jadotville had a Vickers gun, and so does the film.
The NCOs of the Irish troops wield the always-awesome Carl Gustav M/45, aka the Swedish K., The Swedish K was an open bolt 9mm submachine gun. It’s one of the most reliable, accurate, and robust SMGs of the time. It was also a weapon used by the Irish until the adoption of the AUG.
The Katangese wield a wider variety of machine guns, including the Russian Dshk, the M2 Browning, the FN MAG, and even the Browning 1919. Did the Katangese have these guns at the Siege of Jadotville in real life? I have no idea, but they did have FN MAGs, M2s, and 1919s in their armory, so big ups to the filmmakers who used the information they had to outfit the Katangese troops.
The Siege of Jadotville mostly portrays the action like a down-to-earth war film. It’s still very Hollywood, but there are no gun-fu John Wick-style firefights. They aim their weapons, reload, and there is even a scene where an NCO reminds his men to control their fire and conserve ammo while making hits.
There might be massive digitally inserted muzzle flashes, but other details they get right. The Swedish Ks are fired from the open bolt, and the Irish troops seem to implement Bren’s into an actual squad structure to supplement the FALs and Lee-Enfields. It’s not perfect, but The Siege of Jadotville does a pretty goo job of portraying firefights with a decent degree of accuracy. It’s worth a watch.
What do you think? Do you agree that the Irish at Jadotville had balls so big they needed their own fighting holes?