‘One-Inch Group’ in the Congo

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As published in An Cosantóir in February 2017
Photos: Christy Fleming & www.unmultimedia.org

The source of information for the following article is an unsigned contemporary report on the activities of 1 Inf Gp in the Congo in 1961, written towards the end of the deployment.

Written by Commanding Officer Lt Col J.C.O. O’Donovan and endorsed by Comdt M.F. Quinlan, and sent in by Congo Veteran Christy Fleming.

ONUC Irish contingent troops en-route to the airport on the first leg of their journey to Elizabethville, where fighting has broken out. 1st December 1961. © UN Photo

1 Inf Gp, or ‘One-Inch Group’ as it was affectionately called by its members, was formed in April 1961 for service with the UN in the Congo. Comprising a company from Eastern Command and one from Southern Command, with a tactical HQ, it was the first Irish formation to be armed entirely with the new FN rifle and the Carl Gustav 84mm recoilless rifle and was designed to be a hard-hitting, highly-powered, independent, self-contained unit.

Shortly before leaving Ireland it was announced they would be heading to Kasai province, where, a few days earlier, tribal warfare had broken out in the area of Mwene-ditu, where the HQ was to be based.

The unit flew out on 25th and 26th May and when they arrived in Mwene-ditu they started taking over from the Ghanaians. However, as a virulent small-pox epidemic was raging in the territory, the senior UN MO ordered that anyone who had not been vaccinated within the previous three months would have to be revaccinated before going into the area. (Throughout their deployment small-pox and other diseases were so rampant that the whole of south Kasai was known as a pathologist’s paradise.)

Irish ONUC soldier Pte W. Ambler on guard duty at Coy HQ in Albertville. 1st August 1960. © UN Photo

Due to the revaccination delay it wasn’t until 17th June that the Group had taken over the entire south Kasai sector, with an area of 6,000 sq miles to look after.

1 Inf Gp was responsible for guarding over 60 miles of important railway line that provided the main supply line from Elisabethville through Katanga and Kasai to Port Franqui.

At least three times a week the unit provided train guards to protect hundreds of refugees travelling on the line, which ran along the borders of Baluba and Kanioka territories, and also between Lulua and Baluba tribes, who were traditional enemies. Any relaxation of vigilance could mean a flare-up of the tribal wars that had unhappily caused so many UN casualties a short time previously.

1 Inf Gp held the area for over two months, eventually occupying posts previously occupied by a battalion with a recce squadron in support.

The unit’s posts were barbed-wire enclosures about the size of a football pitch, which they never left except to patrol in strength, living in primitive conditions under canvas and with a constant shortage of water; one post had to travel over five miles to collect their water in jerry cans.

The Ghanaians had taken their transport with them and the Irish had to wait a considerable time for the arrival of UN replacements. In the meantime, the transport for one company, with two posts over seven miles apart, consisted of one jeep, two pick-ups and a bullet-riddled, five-ton truck. Roads were rutted tracks and after a few miles faces and clothes were covered with a thick coating of black-red dust. Loaded weapons were carried by all personnel at all times. Snakes were also plentiful; at one post four deadly mambas were killed in one day alone.

Irish ONUC soldier on sentry duty at Elisabethville airport. 1st April 1961. © UN Photo

By the time 1 Inf Gp was withdrawn to Kamina, south Kasai was considered a ‘safe area’ due to their efforts, and the UN garrison there was not replaced. When the last company was leaving Mwene-Ditu, the Minister of the Interior came to the railway station to address the Irish, telling them that they were welcome back to south Kasai at any time. At each station on their route deputations met the train and similar speeches were made. It was a testament to the Irish soldiers’ efforts, given that two months before there had been a shooting war between local troops and UN personnel.
On arrival in Kamina after four days travelling in dilapidated railway coaches, OC 1 Inf Gp took over as base commander and as commander of the NW sector of Katanga, an area over 100 sq miles previously occupied by a Nigerian brigade, and which included 100 Swedish troops. In addition to running the huge base and its outposts 1 Inf Gp also had to garrison Kilubi, 60 miles away, where a hydro-electric station supplied power to Kamina.

With such a huge area there wasn’t much time for rest but living conditions were excellent and the work was much easier. Strength on the base, including the Swedes, was roughly 300.

Then, on August 27th 1 Inf Gp was handed two Katangan officers to guard; one a French mercenary. The next day, captured mercenaries started to roll in from the rest of Katanga and in a short time they had 150 under guard, along with 27 others they had rounded up in their own area. These mercenaries were tough and unpredictable; a roving army of ‘guns for hire’ who had fought in Korea, Indo-China, Palestine, Europe, and Cuba.
From 2nd September the Irish unit also had to send a nightly patrol of 50 into Kaminaville, 30km away.

Along with all the extra duties and extra guards, the situation meant that trouble was almost inevitable. It duly arrived.

On the night of September 12th ‘stand-to’ was ordered. There were 14 roads and a railway line leading into the base and it had been acknowledged that it would require a brigade to successfully defend Kamina, a town whose importance was recognised in the saying “who holds Kamina holds Katanga”. With small numbers, the best Lt Col O’Donovan could do was to man strategic strong points around the base and scramble the mobile reserve.

ONUC Irish contingent troops en-route to the airport on the first leg of their journey to Elizabethville, where fighting has broken out. 1st December 1961. © UN Photo

Reports coming in of enemy strength were of 1,200 troops, equipped with long-range mortars, and eight Saracens armed with 57mm cannons, twin machine-guns, and .5” machine guns; completely out-gunning the Irish unit. The enemy also had a reserve of 2,500 troops in the Kaminaville sector and it was claimed that they could arm 20,000 tribesmen.
On the afternoon of September 14th they attacked. The first wave came up against a strong point manned by 29 Swedes with an Irish mortar section in support. This attack was broken up and the 84mm knocked out two Saracens. Irish mortar fire also blew up an enemy ammunition truck containing about five tons of mortar rounds and small-arms ammunition. Lt Col O’Donovan quickly deployed his mobile reserve and further attacks were broken up as they arose. Probing tactics, sniping and mortar fire continued from the edge of the jungle, but men and weapons were quickly moved to counter threats and in all cases the enemy were beaten off.

Late on the evening of the 15th around 30 enemy infiltrated houses on the outskirts of the base where the jungle grew right up to the perimeter. At first light on the following morning an Irish platoon counter-attacked and after a fight lasting about three hours dislodged the enemy who left three dead behind.

When the base came under long-range mortar attack, Irish mortar crews crept forward under fire and brought down deadly fire on the enemy positions. The Irish crews kept changing their positions and continued striking enemy positions while their opponents seemed to be unable to shift their fire quickly in response.

The enemy never set foot on the base again and it was the nearest they came to the airport five miles away. Enemy dead during these actions was estimated at 35 killed and 48 seriously wounded.

The defenders were also subjected to regular air attacks from Fouga jets and all roads and bridges into the base had been blown up. Gradually, however, their meagre force was reinforced by air at night. As each new unit came in they took over positions from the Irish troops who moved further and further out in search of the enemy. While they came up against some sniping and mortar fire they no longer faced serious opposition.

On the night of the 19th 55 men of B Coy in Kilubi, who had been cut off when the enemy blocked and mined the road, were evacuated by helicopters. The rearguard of one officer and seven men destroyed all stores and equipment before taking off. The garrison was no longer needed in Kilubi as the power line had been cut.

1 Inf Gp used its generators for power and to supply emergency lighting for the airport’s runways and power for the control tower.

On receiving information that enemy reinforcements were moving in, 50 Irish troops were sent out to ambush them. Positions were chosen, prepared and manned, but the enemy didn’t materialise. Another 50 Irish were sent out to guard against a possible attack from the Jadotville/Kolwezi road.

By the time a ceasefire came on the night of 20th September the base was manned by 320 Irish, about 300 Swedes, and about 100 Indians, all under the command of Lt Col O’Donovan.

Not only had they secured the base but had advanced out and were holding all the ground up to the jungle’s edge.

Despite the air attacks and the vastly superior range of their opponents’ weapons (until some long-range mortars were captured and turned on the enemy), the only casualties suffered on the base were three Congolese civilian refugees killed and an Italian pilot wounded in the first Fouga attack, and two civilian pilots wounded in a later attack when their plane was bombed on the ground.
After the ceasefire the troops still had to man the outer defences and hold the ground they had won. There was little rest, with 24 hours on, 24 off. Then on 9th October 1 Inf Gp received 24 hours’ notice to pack-up and move to Nyunzu near Niemba.

The Swedish company from Kamina also moved to Nyunzu, still under the command of 1 Inf Gp.

Taking over from the Ghanaians, they were the first white troops to occupy the area. Back into the bush and into tents, but this time at the height of the rainy season. They were also back among the Balubas and carried out frequent patrols to Niemba, and sad pilgrimages to the scene of the ambush.

In Nyunzu they had 144 Katangan prisoners to look after, in addition to guarding the town, a railway, the road network and an airstrip.

By the time the report on which this article is based was written, 1 Inf Gp had occupied seven stations since their arrival in the Congo five months previously, operating for all bar two weeks at ‘battle stations’. The writer of the report said that morale, which had been very high when things were toughest, was dropping steadily with the arrival of each batch of newspapers from Ireland as the troops found that the Irish public were not being informed of their activities. Far from being a nebulous outpost of 35 Inf Bn in Elizabethville, as portrayed in the papers, Kamina was over 200 miles away and was an independent command.

While giving all credit to 35 Inf Bn for the magnificent job they did in Elizabethville, the men of ‘One-Inch’ Group felt they also deserved credit for the work they had done and the hardships they had endured in the Congo; spending their entire service stationed near small towns without shops or modern amenities, confined to their camps because all their deployments were in trouble spots. Credit they certainly deserved in light of the above story.

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.

Willys Jeep

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As published in An Cosantóir in April 2016
Report and photos by Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald

A US Willys Jeep in World War II

On the 21st January 2016 An Cosantóir visited Sean Curtis, MD of PROTAC and chairman of the Association of Irish Military Enthusiasts (AIME), which is “devoted to the preservation and promotion of our military heritage”. AIME hold a military show, ‘SALUTE’, in the National Show Centre, Swords in August every year. www.aime.ie

Last year Sean was lucky to purchase an old Willys Jeep from the 1950s, ‘ZL1240’, which was one of 40 or so Willys Jeeps in service with the Defence Forces from 1950 to 1966. From what we know the Defence Forces sold ZL1240 in the late 1960s.

An Irish Defence Forces Willys CJ3B ZL1246 on parade on O’Connell Street in 1958. Photo: Howard Woods Collection

Karl Martin’s book ‘Irish Army Vehicles, Transport & Armour Since 1922’ (2002) lists the Willys entry into service. The two models purchased were the CJ3A and CJ3B; these were civilian versions based on the famous and most recognisable vehicle of World War II – Willys Jeep. (Some say the vehicle was nicknamed the ‘Jeep’ after a character in the popular Popeye cartoon of that period.)

Roughly 640,000 Jeeps were built during WWII by Ford and Willys, and used on every front of WWII. They subsequently saw service in Korea and Vietnam. The Jeeps not only proved themselves as reconnaissance vehicles, but also as fire engines, field ambulances, artillery tractors and even locomotives. Even after the war the jeep continued its success story in both army and civilian use.

Willys CJ3A had an L-head 2.2-litre, four-cylinder ‘Go Devil’ side-valve, petrol, 63bhp engine; the CJ3B had an improved F-head 2.2-litre ‘Hurricane’ 73bhp engine. Both were 4×4 drive, three-speed gearbox with a two-speed transfer box. The Ford models were built to Willys specifications from an initial design by the Bantam Car Company who’s prototype ‘Blitz Buggy’ was built in a mere 49 days – but that story is for another day.

Sean purchased the Jeep on the grounds that it would be fully restored and not sold on for profit. This particular Jeep served in 1 Cav Sqn, Cork. Because of the vehicles’ short service there is little known about them and parts are near impossible to source in Ireland, as most ‘off -the-shelf’ parts don’t fit. Sean ordered most of the parts from France and America. Sean’s good friend, ‘Don’, an engineer by trade, and a military vehicle hobbyist who lives in the US took a list of parts and set about collecting them over the last few months. He came to visit Sean in January for ten days; this was their only window to use Don’s expertise on rebuilding the Willys Jeep. Sean had the jeep stripped and cleaned, keeping 90% of the original paint on the outer shell by not sandblasting, and having it ready to be put together with the new parts. Ten days! The task was on…

Sean and Don met over 20 years ago at the War & Peace Revival Vintage & Military History Festival, a five-day military and vintage festival held annually at Folkestone Racecourse, RAF Westenhanger, Hythe, UK. https://warandpeacerevival.com

Don said, Sean and I have been friends for many years and when I visited last year he asked for my help with the Willys Jeep – I had already restored mine. I brought over about 150lbs of parts, tools and equipment to do the job. I have one of each of the Willys Jeep types myself, but my passion is Ford’s GTB 10 ton truck, that saw service in Burma with the US Army.”

We visited Sean and Don again on 28th January after nine days to check their progress. The jeep was completely rewired, using an old style loom, new engines seals fitted, and a complete engine strip and paint had been carried out. There were no indicators on the original version, but by law these now needed to be fitted. However they looked very original on.

Don continued: “This jeep has a history, so it has provenience and will be great to restore and display.”

Sean added: “Its quite possible there’s a number of these vehicles lying in sheds somewhere in Ireland.”

By the time the ten days were up, we saw the Jeep running smoothly and in a great display condition; still retaining its authentic look. The Jeep was road-tested with two very happy enthusiasts on board. Sean hopes to have it out for this year’s 100th centenary parades, as it would have been originally on O’Connell Street in 1966 on the parade to mark the 50th Anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Well done to Sean and Don, on their successful ten-day rebuilding venture.

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.

President Visits Brú na bhFiann (Home of the Brave)

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As published in An Cosantóir in February 2017
Report and photos by Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald

On Wednesday 23rd November President Higgins visited Brú na bhFiann (Home of the Brave) to see
the work being done in ONE’s original home for former members of the Defence Forces who may have fallen on hard times and need somewhere to live. The president met several residents and staff from the home as well as some residents and staff from ONE’s other homes in Letterkenny and Athlone who were there for the occasion.

Brú Na BhFiann manager, Dick Dillon; asst manager, Sinéad Black; President Higgins; CQMS Michael Tynan (retd); and ONE CEO, Ollie O’Connor.

The current Brú na BhFiann (the original, smaller home was opened in 1994) is a six-storey, custom-built building that opened in 2003. It is managed by Sgt Major Dick Dillon (retd), assisted by Sinéad Black and a small dedicated staff. The home can cater for up to 30 residents in subsidised temporary accommodation.

The story of Brú na bhFiann began in the winter of 1988/89 during an earlier crisis in homelessness, when a number of former soldiers were among seven people who died from hypothermia while living rough on the streets of Dublin. So touched were they by the plight of some former colleagues that Pat Dunleavy and others within ONE decided to start a home for ex-soldiers down on their luck, even going as far as raising mortgages on their own houses to generate the necessary finance.

President Higgins with residents of Brú Na BhFiann.

It was in this spirit that ONE’s CEO, Ollie O’Connor, welcomed the president to the home, saying:

“Brú na bhFiann is a home built on a dream of providing a safe haven for those who through their service in the Defence Forces brought honour to Ireland, and to ensure that never again would a soldier be found dead on our streets.” In closing, he said: “In this historic year of 2016, homelessness is still very much a part of Ireland’s story and we have yet to fully attain our goals.”

Addressing those gathered, President Higgins said:

“I am delighted as Patron of the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel to have this opportunity to visit this wonderful facility and it is appropriate to have these great services available to people who served Ireland at home and abroad. It is a basic right to have food and shelter and it’s important to take steps to break the cycle of poverty; while a good health service and housing policy are very important, it is also important that people recover, as well as the economy.”

To fund ONE’s valiant homeless initiatives, which are acknowledged by the government and the Defence Forces/DoD, the organisation needs to raise €600,000 annually to continue running the homes and maintain them in a satisfactory condition.

Brú Na BhFiann manager, Dick Dillon and asst manager, Sinéad Black showing President Higgins one of the rooms available

As one small way of fundraising, a number of guest rooms are available in Brú na bhFiann for overnight stays for all serving and former members of the Defence Forces, priced at €30 for a single room, €55 for a double. To make a reservation, phone Brú Na BhFiann on 01-485 0600, Monday to Friday during business hours. By availing of this service you can also help to support the home’s great work.

The president with managers of ONE’s other homes and drop-in centres.

In addition to its other functions ONE has also assumed responsibility for representing DF pensioners, as the representative bodies PDFORRA and RACO can only represent serving personnel. ONE has also broadened its lobbying abilities to represent ex-service personnel in a wide range of ancillary areas. For more information on ONE, visit www.oneconnect.ie

 

 

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.

ONE FUCHSIA APPEAL 2013

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As published in An Cosantóir in October 2013.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos Sgt Mick Burke

On June 27th Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann Teoranta (Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and Women), or ONE as it is more commonly known, launched its annual Fuchsia Appeal in Brú na bhFiann (Home of the Brave) on North King St, Dublin.
ONE has been providing residential facilities in Dublin since 1994, and now has two other residential centres in Letterkenny and Athlone, and two drop-in centres in Dundalk and Limerick. The organisation currently provides housing for up to 40 former Defence Forces members and needs over €600,000 annually to run its current facilities.

The overall objective is to ensure the welfare of ex-servicemen and women who may have become homeless, infirm or suffer from a disability. ONE also promotes a spirit of comradeship between serving and retired members and provides information on pensions, social welfare, and other entitlements.

This year’s appeal was launched by Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Paul Kehoe TD and Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lt Gen Seán McCann.

Minster Keogh said in his speech:

“The work ONE does is practical and supports the welfare needs in hard and difficult times.” He went on to add: “It’s great to see ex-service personnel come out and parade at different events up and down the country and show their pride in the organisation.”

Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Paul Kehoe TD

In his address Lt Gen Seán McCann said:

 

“In the last three years as chief of staff of the Defence Forces, I have watched with a mixture of pride and gratitude the great work that ONE does on a daily basis for our ex-servicemen and women around the country. As I come towards the end of my term as chief of staff I am delighted to be invited here today to launch this year’s Fuchsia Appeal as ONE has a very special place in the wider Defence Forces family.”

Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lt Gen Seán McCann

Also speaking at the launch ONE CEO Ollie O’Connor said:

 

“The Fuchsia appeal is of critical importance to the organisation. It enables us to help former colleagues who are having a difficult time and without a home. Many of these people gave outstanding service to the state and to the United Nations and for one reason or another have not been able to make ends meet since leaving the service. The homes and drop-in centres do not just provide accommodation, but also an opportunity to meet and socialise with others who served. This we feel is important. Most of the people who spend time with us move on to independent living after a period of time with support and comradeship”

DF Chief of Staff Lt Gen Seán McCann, Minister Keogh and ONE CEO Ollie O’Connor at the launch.

The Fuchsia 2013 appeal ran throughout June and July but if you would still like to donate to ONE you can do so through PayPal or standing order. No donation is considered too small and all are welcome. For more information contact ONE on 01-4850666 or email info@oneconnect.ie. Registered Charity No. CHY 13868

As published in An Cosantóir in October 2013. Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.

Honouring the Dead (Part 2)

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As previously published in An Cosantóir in August 2011 issue.
By Paul O’Brien – Photos by Cpl Greg Dorney & Cpl Neville Coughlan

The Irish National War Memorial Gardens at Islandbridge commemorate the sacrifice of the almost 50,000 Irish servicemen, Catholic and Protestant, who died during the Great War.

garden6The gardens, which are located on the southern banks of the Liffey about three kilometres from the centre of the city and occupy an area of about three hectares, were designed by Sir Edward Lutyens.
Shortly after ‘the war to end all wars’ drew to a close it was decided that a permanent memorial to commemorate all those Irish men and Irish women who were killed during the conflict should be erected in Ireland. On 17th July 1919, one hundred representatives from all over Ireland met in Dublin and established a memorial committee to raise funds to further this aim. In the years that followed, a number of suggestions were put forward but all were rejected due to their impracticality, inconsistency, or failure to meet planning obligations.

In 1929 the Irish government suggested a memorial park should be constructed on the banks of the River Liffey at Longmeadows. The plan consisted of a public park, a garden of remembrance and a war memorial. The Memorial Committee would pay for the war memorial and the government would finance the gardens.

Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944), who designed the Cenotaph in London, was commissioned to prepare the design. His design was one of classical symmetry and formality; a stone cross overlooking an elaborate symmetrical garden with four classical granite pavilions linked by pergolas.
The first phase of the construction began in 1931 with a linear parkway that stretched from Islandbridge to Chapelizod. The second phase saw the memorial gardens laid out between 1933 and 1939. (The workforce for the project consisted of ex-British army personnel residing in Ireland and also ex-servicemen from the Irish National Army.)

garden5Enclosed within a high limestone wall with granite piers is the central lawn, the centre of which is a Stone of Remembrance made from Irish granite. (Lutyens designed the Stone of Remembrance for the Imperial War Graves Commission. It was designed to be used in IWGC war cemeteries containing 1,000 or more graves, or at memorial sites commemorating more than 1,000 war dead. Hundreds were erected following World War I.) The Stone of Remembrance symbolises an altar and is flanked on either side by fountain basins with central obelisks symbolising candles. The combined symbolism of the altar, candles and cross is representative of death and resurrection.

Aligned with the Stone of Remembrance and the central avenue stands the Great Cross. Inscribed on the limestone wall are the words: “TO THE MEMORY OF THE 49,400 IRISHMEN WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918.”

garden4
At either end of the lawns are two pairs of book rooms constructed in granite. These represent the four provinces of Ireland and contain the books of remembrance in which are inscribed the names of the 49,400 soldiers who lost their lives during the conflict. The famous stained-glass designer Harry Clarke carried out the ornate Celtic decoration in these books.

garden2The Ginchy Cross is also housed in one of the book rooms. This wooden cross was erected in 1917 as a memorial to almost 5,000 Irish soldiers of the 16th Irish Division who were killed in action at Guillemont and Ginchy during the battle of the Somme. The cross was later replaced by a stone one and the original was returned to Ireland in 1926.

The sunken Rose Garden is located on either side of the central lawn. Entrance is gained by walking between the granite pergolas. It is interesting to note that the garden is devoid of any military symbolism and is more a place of peace and tranquillity than a glorification of war.

The north terrace is screened by a number of trees and beyond, from the dome shaped temple, a number of tree-lined avenues radiate from its centre.

The planting of the trees and flowers were vital to Lutyens’s design and a committee was established to carry out and supervise the planting scheme. Sir Frederick Moore, a former keeper in the Botanical Gardens and Mr AF Pearson of the Phoenix Park directed the planting of the trees and the selection of over 4,000 roses for the gardens.

Though the park was opened to the public in 1937, a delay in obtaining a completion certificate for the grounds deferred an official opening and the outbreak of the Second World War postponed the opening indefinitely. In the years that followed, a lack of finances was to restrict future works and maintenance and by the 1960s the gardens were falling into disrepair, decay and dilapidation.

garden3In 1988, after a period of extensive restoration the gardens were rededicated to the many servicemen that lost their lives in both world wars. The Office of Public Works (OPW) now manages the Irish National War Memorial Gardens in conjunction with the National War Memorial Committee.

The Garden of Remembrance and the War Memorial Gardens are open to the public and are worth a visit, not just for the history that has just been made but also to remember those that have fallen and to ensure that history does not forget them.

Paul O’Brien is a military historian and published author, his website is: www.paulobrienauthor.ie

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender), The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

Honouring the Dead (Part 1)

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As previously published in An Cosantóir in July 2011 issue.
By Paul O’Brien – Photos by Cpl Greg Dorney & Cpl Neville Coughlan

In the first two-days of Queen Elizabeth II’s state visit the British monarch took part in wreath-laying ceremonies with President Mary McAleese at the Garden of Remembrance and the Irish National War Memorial. Many people who watched these moving ceremonies on television were probably not familiar with the history of these gardens.

Garden of Remembrance1

Located in Parnell Square, at the northern end of O’Connell Street, the Garden of Remembrance is dedicated to the memory of all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom.

In 1935 the government acquiesced to a request from the Dublin Brigade Veterans Association that a remembrance memorial should be constructed in Dublin city. Part of the Rotunda Gardens in Parnell Square was chosen as the site due to its historical significance: the Irish Volunteer movement was founded in the nearby Rotunda in 1913 and it was within these gardens that many of those taken prisoner after the 1916 Rising were kept overnight before being moved to Richmond Barracks and Kilmainham Gaol.

Garden of Remembrance2

Although the new garden was designed by Daithí P Hanlon as early as 1946, its construction only commenced in 1961. It is cruciform in shape and has a curving twelve-foot high, marble wall enclosing it from the rear. Access to the central pedestrian area is via a descending flight of steps that lead to a tranquil pool. The bed of the pool is decorated in a mosaic pattern of blue-green waves interspersed with weapons from Ireland’s Heroic Age. The weapons are depicted as broken because according to Celtic custom weapons were broken and cast in to the river at the end of a battle. As well as signifying the end of hostilities, many believe this was a votive offering to the gods for victory.
The railings surrounding the lawns are decorated with cast designs of the Loughnashade Trumpet and the Ballinderry Sword, all of which are pointing downwards to indicate peace.

Garden of Remembrance3

The centrepiece, Oisín Kelly’s eight-ton, 25-foot high, bronze sculpture of the Children of Lir, cast at the Marinelli foundry in Florence, Italy, was inspired by WB Yeats’s poem ‘1916’. The concept was that at certain points in history people are transformed and the artist used the depiction of human figures transforming into swans, symbolising rebirth, victory and resurrection, as in the mythological tale of the Children of Lir.

On the wall a poem entitled ‘We saw a Vision’, by Liam Mac Uistin, reads:-

In the darkness we saw a vision.
We lit the light of hope and it was not extinguished.
In the desert of discouragement we saw a vision.
We planted the tree of valour and it blossomed
In the winter of bondage we saw a vision.
We melted the snow of lethargy and the river of resurrection flowed from it.
We sent our vision aswim like a swan on the river. The vision became a reality.
Winter became summer. Bondage became freedom and this we left to you as your inheritance.
O generations of freedom remember us, the generations of the vision.

Garden of Remembrance4

President Eamon De Valera officially opened the Garden of Remembrance on Easter Monday, 1966, the golden jubilee of the 1916 Rising. The Office of Public Works (OPW) maintains the gardens.

Paul O’Brien is a military historian and published author, his website is: www.paulobrienauthor.ie

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender), The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

Carlow Military Museum

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As previously published in An Cosantóir in March 2013 issue.
By Cpl Paul Millar – Photos by Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald

Co. Carlow Military Museum LogoThe Carlow Military Museum punches well above its weight and its story is as interesting as the stories of the 7,500 items it currently holds. 

IMG_3373The museum began life in 1995 as a memorial to Chief Warrant Officer Donal Cunningham, a Carlow native who served with 10 Inf Bn before moving to America, who, after several tours abroad as a helicopter pilot, was killed in a training accident in Cyprus. To remember Donal, some of his former comrades in the Reserve put together a collection of his kit in their drill shed. As word grew, donations came in and it became apparent that a larger building was needed.

After a long search, the group was allocated St Dympna’s Church, in Carlow Hospital grounds, by the Health Board. The church is ideal for the museum as it is an historic building in its own right: the stained glass window over the altar, worth over €1.2 million, has proven to be an attraction all of its own. The move to the church in 2001 was only the beginning of many years work and dedication on behalf of the volunteers.

IMG_3382Today the military museum covers all aspects of Carlow’s warrior history, from medieval times to the 21st century. Most displays are interactive. For example, the medieval exhibits give a real sense of the weight of chain mail armour and weapons, and an appreciation of the time it took to get suited up for battle. There’s also a small area on the 1798 rebellion with a restored ‘Brown Bess’ musket holding centre stage.

IMG_3383The most extensive exhibits in the museum cover the period from 1900 to 1950, with a selection of uniforms, ordnance, bayonets, kit, and an atmospheric reconstruction of a three-man observation trench overlooking no-man’s land in Ypres.
All the exhibits have a Carlow connection and were donated by people who served in various armies, or by family members.

All donations are cared for by a dedicated team of volunteers and together they highlight the personal sacrifices made by the people and families of Carlow during various wars. The museum has just received a donation of Black-and-Tan medals and even during our visit donations of various medals were made.

Taking main stage in the medal collection is the Military Star awarded to Lt Kevin Gleeson, who lost his life in the Niemba Ambush, a significant event in Defence Forces’ history. All services are represented, with an Air Corps presentation and a display for PO TJ Doyle, who died in service with LÉ Róisín.

IMG_3385Members of 10 Inf Bn were key in advertising and collecting for the museum and the unit is now honoured with an area that celebrates its life and times.

Many older serving or retired members of the DF would remember the various uniforms, kit, bicycles and comms equipment on display. A lot of the ordnance and kit was sourced with the help of Comdt Gerry Shinnors (Retd) and is reason enough for a visit. There’s even a collection of DF pottery complete with chamber pot!

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An Cosantoir Staff with Museum Staff and visitors

The work of the museum is ongoing and the staff is doing a fantastic job cataloguing current stories from today’s Carlow natives serving with a range of armies. This will become the history of the future. Whereas Carlow used to be a gateway to the Pale, now it’s a gateway to the past. A visit here would be part of an ideal day out for people interested in the best of what a small volunteer museum can offer. For more information ring 087-6904242, or visit www.countycarlowmuseum.org, or checkout their Facebook page

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender), The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

FOUGA MAGISTER ON DISPLAY

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As previously published in An Cosantóir in July/August 2013 issue.
Report & photos by Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald

IMG_9793In the early hours of Monday the 5th June members of the Air Corps transported a Fouga Magister aeroplane (216) from Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel to Clarke Square, in Collins Bks.

IMG_9783The plane was then reassembled and will be on display in the National Museum of Ireland: Decorative Arts & History and is on load for the summer months from the Air Corps Museum & Heritage Project.

IMG_9784“It’s a great privilege to be displaying a Fouga Magister aircraft, we are very grateful to the Air Corps” said a member of the museum staff.

With its distinctive ‘butterfly’ tail, the iconic French built Fouga CM 170 Magister was a 1950s two-seat jet and was Fouga’s greatest success with nearly 1,000 constructed. It had a top speed of: 715km/h, a wingspan of: 12m and a length of: 10m.

The Fouga Magister has a unique place in Irish military history: one was used to attack Irish troops serving as UN peacekeepers in the Congo in 1961. This lone Fouga was flown by a Belgian mercenary in the Katangan Air Force who carried out the bombings and machine gun attacks on Irish troops.

IMG_9791This was the first occasion on which Irish troops would experience an air attack. The Air Corps operated six Fouga Magisters (CM170-2) from 1975 to 1999, four of which equipped the Silver Swallows Aerobatic display team.

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The Silver Swallows were famous internationally for winning the Lockheed Martin Cannestra trophy for ‘best display by an overseas team’ at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford in 1997. This plane is one of those used by the Silver Swallows.

FOUGA BookFor more information and history on both the Fouga Magister and the Silver Swallows I recommend reading: Fouga Magister – An Irish Perspective by Joe Maxwell and Radu Brinzan with original drawings by Philip Avonds. ISDN: 978-0-9562624-1-7 – 108 Pages, 210 x 297 mm. Price: €22. www.maxdecals.comjoe@maxdecals.com

You can also learn about Ireland’s military history since 1550 at the permanent Soldiers & Chiefs exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland: Decorative Arts & History in Collins Bks. www.museum.ie/en/exhibition/soldiers-chiefs.aspx

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender), The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

Sir Roger Casement Branch, ONE

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As previously published in An Cosantóir in May 2012 issue.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald

ONE_BadgeThe Sir Roger Casement Branch of ONE (Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and Women) was established in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, in late 1979. The branch has grown from strength to strength over the years mainly due to the efforts of its members and the great relationship it has had since its foundation with successive GOCs and serving Air Corps personnel.

 

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ONE Memorial Garden

Significant events undertaken by the branch include: establishing the ONE Memorial Garden in Baldonnel with a monument to the memory of deceased former Air Corps personnel who have served within the Air Corps; holding an annual Mass of Commemoration in the Garrison Church; the presentation of a unit flag designed by a member of the branch to the Apprentice Training School; and a presentation to GOC Air Corps of a book of copies of the letters of Roger Casement.

In addition, every year the branch organises a number of trips to places of historical interest as well as organising events that provide an opportunity for former colleagues to meet and renew old acquaintances. An example of the latter is the annual Christmas lunch for retired Air Corps personnel. This very popular event has become a favourite reunion for former colleagues.

Paddy O’Meara, who stood down as branch chairman in January 2012, joined the Air Corps as a boy apprentice in 1956 and served for 12 years, mostly as an instructor in the Air Corps Apprentice School, retiring as a flight sergeant in 1969. After leaving he joined AnCo the industrial training authority that had been recently set up to promote industrial training throughout the country. Paddy has been an active chairman since his election in January 2007.

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ONE Memorial Garden

During his tenure he oversaw the updating of the magazine-style version of The Link newsletter, which is circulated to all members on a quarterly basis and is greatly appreciated particularly by overseas members. An extensive website was created that provides full details of the branch’s history, committee, and details of upcoming events. Copies of The Link are also archived on the site. The website has been the key in generating contacts from many former Air Corps members who are scattered around the world and who wish to maintain contacts with their old comrades. A new Facebook page and email address were also created for the benefit of all members.

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Finnbar Lyons & Paddy O’Meara

In addition, Paddy successfully negotiated with the board of ONEt and the Dept of Defence, with the kind support of the GOC Air Corps, for approval for the members of the branch to wear Air Corps-style forage caps as part of their ONE uniform. This headgear has been very popular with the members. It further identifies the branch and its members with the Air Corps family and branch membership has increased as a result.

A programme of collection days was set up in selected shopping centres to generate support for ONEt’s national Fuchsia campaign. These collections were professionally arranged with the use of advertising posters, backdrops and videos. In addition to the funds generated, the PR spin off for the branch was invaluable, particularly with the communities in the Baldonnel, Clondalkin and Dublin Airport catchment areas.

Paddy will continue to serve as a committee member, with special responsibility for maintaining the communications systems, and he wishes the incoming chairman every success in the position.
The new chairman, Finnbar Lyons, enlisted in 1953 as a direct-entry aircraft mechanic and served with No 1 Fighter Squadron (Gormanstown) until he left in 1961 to work for Aer Lingus as an aircraft technician. Finnbar says his main focus as chairman will be to continue Paddy’s great work through the communications media, events and outings, and to increase membership, which currently stands at 150+.

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Branch members on the Fuchsia Campaign

Personnel who have served in any part of the Defence Forces are welcome to join the branch and to attend its meetings, held on the third Thursday of the month at 20.00hrs in the NCOs’ Mess, Baldonnel. For more info on the branch, contact the secretary: Noel Murphy, onerogercasementbranch@gmail.com or visit www.oneaircorpsbranch.com or www.facebook.com/pages/ONE-Roger-Casement-Branch/100278033401653

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender), The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

THE NAVAL SERVICE

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As previously published in An Cosantóir in May 2013 issue.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos: Cpl Colum Lawlor, 105 Sqn

On March 28th staff from An Cosantóir joined the Naval Service’s LÉ Emer (P21) on a patrol in the Irish Sea.

LE EmerIt was a cold, early start for us on Dun Laoghaire’s east pier, where our escort picked us up in a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) powered by twin Yamaha 400 outboard engines. We were given a safety brief, which was precise and to the point – life jackets were fitted and its safety devices pointed out – “Sit forward, at all times keep your arms and feet inside, and don’t let go” – and then we were off.
002 COL_0102The RIB parted the emerald waters of the Irish Sea as we made our way out into Dublin Bay to LÉ Emer where the crew awaited our arrival.

The ship, which is due to be decommissioned as part of the fleet replacement programme when the first of two new naval vessels enters service; P61 is due January 2014.

003 COL_0106LÉ Emer still looked really impressive as we drew alongside. The RIB was hoisted aboard and we were very warmly greeted by the ship’s executive officer and 2 i/c, Lt (NS) Gavin McCarthy, who gave us another safety brief as we removed our life jackets and wets. We were also informed that we would be told when and where we could take photos, as much of the ship’s operations and equipment are classified.

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Lt Alan Flynn (NS) checks the charts

Our first visit was to the bridge, where we were introduced to the ship’s captain, Lt Cdr Daniel Wall, and some of his crew. We were invited to observe the ship’s navigation system and view our lane out of Dublin Bay and into the Irish Sea. As the ship moved out smoothly in the Force 5 sea-state, Lt
McCarthy told us about the ship’s recent activity and upcoming tasks. “On Monday and Tuesday we took part in a two-day examination at sea for future ships captains’ who were undergoing the Senior Command Operations Course (SCOC) conducted by the Naval College,” he told us.

“This is the culmination of a six-week course for our future ships captains. On Wednesday we were on a fishery patrol on the East Coast; today we have a press visit; on Sunday some of the crew are involved in the 1916 commemoration ceremony at the GPO; and then on Monday we start a four-week fishery patrol.”

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Navigator S/Lt Tadhg Clarke

Lt McCarthy then gave us a brief rundown on what is involved on a fishery patrol, including boarding operations. “Being boarded for inspection is very common for fishing vessels,” he explained. “It’s just like drivers being stopped and having their tax and insurance checked by An Garda Síochána.” He then showed us the screen displaying the Fishery Intelligence System (FIS), which is updated hourly by satellite and enables the NS to monitor all of the vessels in their patrol zone.

After the bridge we were given a tour of the ship, where we met many of the crew going about their daily routine. While at sea there will generally be around 20% of the crew resting at any one time due to shift rotations. We were then invited to lunch in the Senior Rates Mess, were we relaxed and conversed with the crew over some tasty soup and rolls.

006 COL_0532Later the ship’s crew gave us a fire-fighting demonstration and a display of a boarding party’s equipment and tactics.

Unfortunately my sea legs went missing for parts of the visit, much to the amusement of my fellow visitors and the ship’s crew, but during those absent times I at least had the pleasure of visiting many of the ship’s ‘heads’ and I felt I did my bit to help keep them clean after use.

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Fire-fighting team were (l/r): A/Mech Alan Murray, A/Sea Justin Guinan, L/Sea Tom Kiely and TT/ERA Ken O’Donovan

Although we only spent a few hours on board, I think our short visit still gave me a good understanding of what it takes to be a member of the Naval Service. They truly are a dedicated team of hard-working professionals; even seasick sailors still have to get on with the job.

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Pictured in the ships galley are (l/r): A/Sup Rena Doran, PO/Ck Johnny Brunnock and A/Ck Aileen Hanna

The Naval Service is acknowledged, nationally and internationally, as a flexible, impartial, multi-skilled, well trained, highly motivated, professional maritime service that is responsive to the needs of the nation. The primary role of the Naval Service is the maintenance of our maritime sovereignty by the delivery of operational patrols, over which Ireland claims jurisdiction by establishing a physical presence at sea.

This includes deterring intrusive or aggressive acts, conducting maritime surveillance, maintaining an armed naval presence, ensuring right of passage, protecting our fisheries and other marine assets, and combating illegal drug and weapons smuggling. The Naval Service must also be capable of supporting army operations through sea-lift and close naval support.

008 COL_0375In 2012 the Naval Service patrolled 132,000 sq miles of sea (approx four times the land mass of Ireland, representing 15% of Europe’s fisheries) during their 1,480 patrol days. They boarded and inspected 1,325 fishing vessels from Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Lithuania, Belgium, Portugal, Denmark and the Faroes. 40 fishing vessels from Ireland, UK, Spain, France and Lithuania were warned for 53 infringements and they made 20 detentions for alleged infringements of fishing regulations. The Naval Service Diving Section is the states primary dive agents and was called out on 79 operations. They were involved in 14 separate Search and Recovery operations following requests from the Coastguard and An Garda Síochána lasting 49 days.

All of the Naval Service operates 24 hours per day, 365 days a year. It is a testament to the men and women of the Naval Service that this feat is achieved with a small fleet of eight ships and only 1,094 personnel. To find out more about the Naval Service visit: www.military.ie/naval-service/

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender), The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

 

Cavalry Memorial’s 50th Anniversary – 2013

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As previously published in An Cosantóir in October 2013 issue.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald

On Saturday 7th September 2013 on the 50th Anniversary of the opening of Cavalry Memorial in Plunkett Bks a special commemorative plate was unveiled by Lt Col John McKeown (Retd), son of the late COS Lt Gen Seán McKeown, who originally opened the garden in 1963.

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Lt Gen McKeown opening the Memorial Garden 1963. Photo courtesy of Military Archives

The memorial garden at Plunkett Bks, Curragh Camp, to honour cavalry personnel who lost their lives under the flag of the United Nations, was opened on Sunday 6th October 1963 when the central monument was unveiled by Chief of Staff Lt Gen Seán McKeown.
Construction of the garden was carried out after normal duty hours under the direction of Comdt Joe Foley and Capt Tommy Roche and was undertaken by volunteers from the units in the barracks. As worked progressed, Mr George Spiers, a landscape designer of Spiers Nurseries, Burtstown, Athy, was engaged.

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Lt Gen Conor O’Boyle (COS) and Col Anthony Bracken (Dir of Combat Sp & ISTAR) laid wreaths at the memorial.

The cromlech design of the memorial is based on the megalithic monuments at Moytura Conga in County Mayo, where, according to mythology, a great battle took place between the Fir Bolg and the Tuatha Dé Danann three thousand years ago, and the capstone is shaped like a cavalryman’s Glengarry.
The inscription on the gate into the garden reads “In omnem terram exivit sonus eorum”, a motto given to the Irish troops in the Spanish army by Phillip V of Spain in the sixteenth century which means “Their fame has gone throughout the world”.
During his address at the unveiling ceremony, Lt Gen McKeown said:

“The memory of your dead comrades, perpetuated here in this memorial, will be a source of inspiration for future generations of Irish soldiers and future generations of Irishmen in all walks of life. I hope too that it may provide some small consolation for the families and loved ones.”

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Members of the Cavalry Corps, IUNVA and ONE with the DF No 1 Band parade at the memorial garden.

The memorial was funded by voluntary subscriptions from personnel in cavalry regular and reserve units, Cavalry Workshops and Technical Stores and individuals, along with grants from Plunkett Officers’ Mess, the Cavalry Club and the 11th Cavalry Association. The initial cost for materials, lighting, shrubs and plaques amounted to £1,851-8s-6d.

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Members of the Cavalry Corps, IUNVA and ONE with the DF No 1 Band parade at the memorial garden.

On Saturday November 5th 1966 the inaugural Remembrance Day for cavalry personnel killed while serving with the United Nations in the Congo and Cyprus took place and since then it has been held on the first Saturday in September.
In recent years the Cavalry Club has provided funds for the maintenance of the memorial. The Club’s Rule 2.4 is:

“To provide for, and when deemed necessary to expend funds on, the maintenance of the Cavalry Corps Memorial Garden in Plunkett Barracks, Curragh Camp, Co Kildare.”

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender), The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

Niemba Peacekeepers Remembered

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As previously published in An Cosantóir in December 2013/January 2014 issue.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos by Sgt Mick Burke

On 8th November 1960, the biggest loss of life of Irish soldiers in any single incident overseas happened in the Belgian Congo. This heartbreaking and significant moment in the history of the Defence Forces took place while these troops were serving as UN peacekeepers with 33 Inf Bn as part of the Organisation des Nations Unies au Congo (ONUC).

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Erecting the Niemba memorial in the Congo, 1961.

On that fateful day Lt Kevin Gleeson took his 11-man patrol over a bridge on the Luweyeye River near the town of Niemba where Baluba tribesmen ambushed them. After a courageous fight against overwhelming numbers, nine of the patrol were killed. One member of the patrol, 20-year-old Tpr Anthony Browne from Rialto, Dublin, survived the initial attack but was subsequently killed. His body was not found until November 1962. Tpr Browne was also posthumously awarded the first ever An Bonn Míleata Calmachta (Military Medal for Gallantry), the Defence Forces highest military honour, for his conduct during the ambush.

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His citation reads:

“He endeavoured to create an opportunity to allow an injured comrade to escape by firing his Gustaf, thereby drawing attention to his own position, which he must have been aware would endanger his life. He had a reasonable opportunity to escape because he was not wounded but chose to remain with an injured comrade.”

Those that lost their lives were: Lt Kevin Gleeson (30), Sgt Hugh Gaynor (29), Cpl Peter Kelly (25), Cpl Liam Dougan (34), Pte Matthew Farrell (22), Tpr Thomas Fennell (18), Tpr Anthony Browne MMG (20), Pte Michael McGuinn (21) and Pte Gerard Killeen (27).

Two members of the patrol survived, Pte Joseph Fitzpatrick (then 21) and Pte Thomas Kenny (then 24).

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Members of ONE and IUNVA

On 10th November 1960, in a follow-up operation to recover remains, Pte Patrick Davis died after he was shot accidentally. He was laid to rest with his colleagues from the ambush. From 1960 to 1964, 12 Defence Forces units with almost 6,200 troops, served with ONUC. In those four years 26 Irish troops paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of peace.

On Saturday 9th November 2013, the 53rd Niemba Commemoration took place in the Garrison Church, Cathal Brugha Bks, with a Mass at 1200 hrs followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Memorial Garden outside the church.

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Niemba Memorial in Cathal Brugha Bks

The annual ceremony is organised by the Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and Women (ONEt) on the first Saturday in November. The veterans of ONEt and IUNVA provided a guard of honour and the ‘Last Post’ was played by members of the Army No 1 Band. This was followed by a minute’s silence, ‘Reveille’ and then the national anthem as the national flag was raised to full mast.
Wreaths were laid by Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin, Councillor Pat McCartan; Chief of Staff Lt Gen Conor O’Boyle; Secretary General of the DoD Maurice Quinn; ONEt President John Hennessey; the UK Ambassador HE Dominick Chillcot; US Defence Attaché Lt Col Sean Cosden; Dan Garland of IUNVA; Lt Col Joe Aherne (retd) of ARCO; Brig Gen Jerry Enright (retd) of 33 Inf Bn; Comdt Earnan O’Naughton of RACO; Mark Scally of PDFORRA; Comdt Eugene Gargan of RDFRA; Declan Pendred of the Irish Naval Association; Noel Cullen of the Royal British Legion; and Martin Coyne ONEt (on behalf of the American Legion in Ireland). Also present was former Swedish army officer Stig von Bayer who served in the Congo at the time of the ambush.

Even though most of these trailblazing peacekeepers have now retired, their memories of the Congo and places such as Elizabethville, Jadotville and Niemba are still very strong within the Defence Forces as we continue to remember and honour them.

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UN plot at Glasnevin Cemetery

On the previous day, Friday 8th November, members of the IUNVA, with families and friends of troops of 33 Inf Bn, held a ceremony and reception in Glasnevin Cemetery and Museum at the monument and plot for Irish soldiers who died while on service with the UN and for members of Óglaigh na hÉireann, which is where the state funeral for those who died in the Niemba Ambush took place.

After the ceremony the family of Tpr Anthony Browne (MMG) presented his old bull’s-wool uniform to IUNVA for a loan. It will be put on display in IUNVA’s HQ at Arbour Hill.

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UN Veterans Ronnie Daly and Dan Garland with Tpr Browne’s uniform

Supporting Our Leinster Veterans (ONE)

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As published in An Cosantóir in May 2014
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald

Badge Main IMG_0439On Tuesday April 1st, An Cosantóir met with one of the newest branches of the Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and Women (ONE), the Royal Meath, situated in the north Leinster area.
The Royal Meath branch was set up just over a year ago (January 2013) so that ONE members from the area wouldn’t have to travel to Dublin or Drogheda/Slane for ONE meetings and events.

The branch chairman, Conor Swords, who has served with ONE for 25-years, told us that he and other members of the Fr James Gilmore Branch (Artane) established the new branch and formed a committee. They canvassed the areas of Kells, Navan, Trim, Oldcastle and Virginia looking for new members, and now have 34 active members in the branch. Members of the new branch have sponsored three flags (national, UN and branch) as well as the chairman’s chain of office.

IMG_0443 editDespite being in existence for just over a year, the Royal Meath Branch has taken part in many events, and not just ONE events; others have included the French Foreign Legion Day, Anzac Day, and the Royal British Legion. The Branch has also built up a great relationship with the Thurles Memorial Trust, with Royal Meath members being made honorary members of the Trust.
The Branch has planned a church collection on August 3rd and they hope to hold their first annual Mass and Lá na bhFiann (Soldier’s Day) in September.

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Branch PRO, Bridget Quinn, who is possibly the first female PRO in ONE, told us that branch members have a long history of travelling on the International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes, with Bridget completing 14 trips and Conor with in excess of 20.

Always on the lookout for new members, the Branch meets on the first Tuesday of every month in the Martry Restaurant (formerly the Silver Tankard), Kells Road (R417), Navan, Co Meath. Prospective members can also contact Peter Rogers, the branch secretary, on 086-4040049 or Bridget Quinn on 087-8332762.

Defence Forces Veterans’ Day Parade 2014

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As published in An Cosantóir in October 2014
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos by Cpl Neville Coughlan

14931744937_81b6d6b6b1_oOn 2nd September 2014 the first Defence Forces Veterans’ Day Parade was held on McDermott Square, DFTC, Curragh Camp. Many veterans from around the country joined under their respective flags. In attendance were the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA), the Organisation of Ex-Servicemen and Women (ONE), along with the Association of Retired Commissioned Officers (ARCO). The Minister for Defence, Mr Simon Coveney TD, officially attended and was accompanied by the Chief of Staff, Lt Gen Conor O’Boyle and Brig Gen Seamus Ó’Giolláin, GOC DFTC.

14931738108_33bd9b436b_oThe Minister in welcoming past servicemen and women confirmed the Defence Forces were committed to our veterans:

“There are many honours and responsibilities associated with service in the Defence Forces. Today I am happy to acknowledge the important service that former servicemen and women have contributed to Irish society in domestic operations and in hostile regions around the world. Today we are recognising the service of all former members of the Defence Forces across all three services, the Army, the Naval Service and the Air Corps, at home and abroad”.

_EVL2985The Minister complimented the Defence Forces on our 54-years of international peacekeeping:

“The 27th July 1960 was a watershed moment when Ireland sent its first peacekeepers with the 32nd Inf Bn to the Congo, the first complete Irish unit sent overseas as part of a UN mandate. For a further fifty four years the Irish Defence Forces contributed to the cause of peace in places like Lebanon, Chad, Liberia, East Timor and Syria (to name but a few) and continue to do so today”.

The Minister reviewed a parade of the representative associations, and also serving members from the Army, Naval Service and the Air Corps. Following a short multi denominational religious service by Rev Fr John Marsden and Rev Fr PJ Somers CF, and a lament was played by piper CQMS David Usher (Ord Sch), and then the Minister laid a wreath along with the three representative associations to honour our deceased servicemen and women.

15095327196_a472b479b4_oThe Minister finished by paying tribute to the 86 members of the Defence Forces who died on operations at home and abroad in the service of their country, “They paid the ultimate price in the cause of peace”. The day was finished off with light refreshments and displays of current weapons and vehicles and also a display of historical vehicles and weapons brought in by the Irish Military Vehicle Group (IMVG).

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

In Their Footsteps

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Pupil Ethan Harrington wearing medals of his great great grandfather Andrew Sherlock

As published in An Cosantóir in December/January 2014
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos by Sgt Mick Burke

On Tuesday 21st October 2014, students and teachers from the Patrician Primary School in Newbridge, Co Kildare held a World War One re-enactment parade from the Bord na Móna HQ (the old British Army Barracks) on Main St. Newbridge to the train station on the outskirts of the town – to re-enact the troops leaving Newbridge to head for ‘The Front’ in 1914.

Hundreds gathered outside the Bord na Móna HQ, as an introduction to events and the roll call of those 26 Newbridge men who had fallen in ‘The Great War’, were 26 students dressed up in their WWI uniform and gave a full description of the person they were representing.

The framed medals of William Willmot

The framed medals of William Willmot

Like student John Crofton: “William Willmot, Irish Guards, 1st Battalion. Killed in action France on 26th March 1916, age 24. Born Brownstown. Son of George and Kate Wilmot, Linden House, Athgarvan, Newbridge.”

This idea of organising the re-enactment stemmed from School Principal John O’Donovan, to celebrate the centenary of the school titled ‘100 years of Education in Newbridge’ and to tie it in with the anniversary of World War One.

Pupil Óran Mc Donnell with a recruitment poster

Pupil Óran McDonnell with a recruitment poster

The school used many a military connection to put replica uniforms and equipment together, and to their credit they were of great quality and exemplary turned out as soldiers of 1914. Other school children were dressed in civilian clothing of that period and were accompanied by the school band – which to everyone’s delight played exceptionally well. More pupils were holding up placards with the fallen family names on and with recruitment posters from that period. The other teachers dressed up were Frank Kirke and Cormac O’Shea.

parade_7275The parade of 70+ students and teachers followed by a hundred or more townspeople marched out towards the train station. Upon their arrival a pair of cavalry vehicles greeted them, a Scorpion CVRT and Mowag Piranha MkIII under the command of Lt Donacha Lenihan, 1 ACS, DFTC.

1 Mech Coy GOH and Piper CQMS Davy Usher (Ord Sch)

1 Mech Coy GOH and Piper CQMS Davy Usher (Ord Sch)

Before entering the platform the pupils were given a farewell salute by an honour guard drawn from 1 Mech Coy, DFTC and under the command of Sgt Gary O’Brien, whilst Military Piper CQMS Davy Usher (Ord Sch) played a lament.

The students in return put on a fine display of military drill, accompanied by their band and followed by the applause of everyone watching. It truly was a great spectacle especially the rendition of the ‘Minstrel Boy’ by both military piper and teacher Frank Kirke on the drum.

Pupil Naoise Mc Bride representing fallen soldier

Pupil Naoise McBride representing fallen soldier

The students then took the 11.48am train to Dublin – Heuston to simulate the soldiers going “off to war”. They did in fact take a museum tour of Collins Barracks, Dublin. The real finish was that they did eventually take the train on the Thursday that took them on their journey to visit the battlefields of Europe including Ypres and the Somme.

The School gladly thanked all those who had helped make this celebration one to remember, and especially thanked: Manguard Plus, An Post, Irish Rail, Bord na Móna and the Defence Forces including: Chief of Staff, Lt Gen Conor O’Boyle, Tomás Caulfield, John O’Brien, Padraig Murray, Martin Sweeney and Seoirse Devlin.

The Curragh Military Hospital and the Army Nursing Service

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As published in An Cosantóir in March, 2012
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald / Photos by Cpl Noel Coss (retd)

302_001The Curragh Military Hospital has a long and varied history. Over many years its staff has treated British troops, World War Two internees, and IRA prisoners, as well as countless numbers of our own troops and their families since the Irish Free State Army took over the hospital from the withdrawing British Army in early September 1922.

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Members of the newly formed Army Nursing Service outside the Curragh Hospital in 1922, the only person identified is Sister Mary Ward (back row centre) from Kilfenora, Co. Clare, who was Lt Col CJ Browne’s great-aunt.

One of its busiest periods was during the 1970s when many prominent Republican prisoners were treated there, including a number who had gone on hunger strike in Portlaoise Prison. Many of the current sisters of the Army Nursing Service (ANS) came to the hospital during the ‘70s, and they speak very admirably of this period in the hospital’s history. Staff Sister Miriam Hyland told us that when she came in 1976 there were 34 sisters in the hospital providing full-time care 24/7, 365 days a year for soldiers, and from 1983/4 to their families as well.

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This document is an Army Form C. 348, dated 6th June 1904, from OC 11th Hussars asking for his men to be inoculated on a Sunday, and the hospital’s OC replying that Sunday was not convenient.

The Curragh hospital was the first to be licensed to inoculate against yellow fever within the Defence Forces and over the last five decades the majority of our troops who have travelled overseas on UN peace-keeping missions have received their inoculations there.
In the current era, the hospital’s main function is in the area of occupational healthcare, with the sisters specialising in vaccinations and operating the family clinic (the only one in service in the DF) and is centred on primary care. With only five sisters remaining the hospital provides out-patient and specialist clinics to soldiers, and GP care to their families. With the reduction in staff, the hospital now provides only a 9-5 military medical facility and the family clinic.

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The remaining members of the ANS at the Curragh: (l/r) Sisters Margaret Grelish, Merriam Hyland, Sheila Deasy, Marion Cleary. (Not in the photo is Sister Finola Neylon.)

With an average service of 32 years and a combined service of 158 years, the remaining sisters have some great memories, and also some tragic ones, from over the years.
An interesting little fact we came across was a door on the now decommissioned chapel, which carried a sign saying ‘The blessed sacrament is not revered here’ and yet it still houses statues made by a Benedictine monk in the 1970s.

Whatever the future holds for the hospital, we hope the long-standing ghost story of the army nurse in her grey uniform and red cape doing her rounds in Ward 7 in the middle of the night doesn’t put off any prospective tenant.

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Sister Deasy cares for a young family member Aaron Fitzgerald.

We would like to thank Lt Col C Browne (Rtd), Lt Col M Murphy (OC CMH) and the sisters for kindly speaking to us and allowing us to visit.

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

The Naval Association (An Cumann Chabhlaigh)

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NA BadgeAs published in An Cosantóir in March, 2012
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald with photos Tom Lawlor (INA)

The Naval Association (INA) was established in 1962 and termed An Cumann Chabhlaigh. The Naval Association and its constitution was approved in May 1977 by the then Minister of Defence, Mr Oliver J. Flanagan, T.D. Membership of the Association is restricted to serving and retired Officers, NCOs and Ratings of the Naval Service, the Naval Service Reserve (formally An Slua Muirí) and the Marine Service (1939-1946) and the Maritime Inscription (1939-1947).

At a meeting held at the Stella Maris Seafarers Club, Dublin on 24th March 1992, an Executive Council was elected and the first branch of the association was formed and subsequently called the Leading Seaman Michael Quinn Branch after L/S Quinn DSM who in 1990 gave his young life (27) in an attempt to rescue 16 stranded Spanish Sailors from their stricken trawler Nuestra Senora de Gardtoza, (Our Lady of Gardtoza) on rocks off Bantry Bay.

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Irish Naval Association General Secretary Declan Pendred parades INA Colours.

The aims of the Association are: To promote Social, Cultural, Educative and Sporting Activities; To establish a comprehensive listing of all ex members of the different sections of the Naval Services since 1939; To render Aid and Assistance, when necessary; To promote and further interests in matters appertaining to the sea; To maintain the sea faring traditions of the Irish Nation.

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Irish Naval Association President Gerry Kennedy, laying a wreath at the Cenotaph memorial.

Active Branches of The Naval Association have been established in Dublin, Waterford and Limerick.
On Sept 11th 2011, The Irish Naval Association was invited to participate with the RNA at their Bi-Annual commemoration ceremony to the Cenotaph in London.

With over 360 Shipmates parading in Whitehall London with 62 Area and Branch standards and the National Standards of the Royal Naval Association (RNA), The Royal Marines Association (RMA), The Association of Wrens (WRNS) and the Irish Naval Association (INA).

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Note the privileged position given to the association at the Cenotaph.

Prior to the ceremony in London, the INA spent the preceding evening with the RNA Birkenhead Branch, where a great evening was had by all, with a singing competition taking place between the two organisations, and according to the RNA:

 “The Irish Association contingent led the singing but the drinking competition was declared a draw!”

INA National PRO Terry Cummins presented the chairman of the Birkenhead Branch with a framed embroidered INA Crest. The Irish Naval Association also wants to say a big thank you again to their Secretary Tony Cheyney and Becky and all the lads for a great evening…

For further info: The Naval Association, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Naval Service Reserve HQ, Rathmines, Dublin 6 – Ph: 01 2986614 – email: navalassociation@eircom.net – Web:
http://homepage.eircom.net/~navalassociation/index.htm or contact Declan Pendred, National General Secretary – Ph: 087 6998724

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Commodore Mark Mellett DSM (FOCNS) and Lt Malachi O’Gallagher (Retd.) INA after receiving the Christy King Asgard Award at the presentation of the NA Service Medal awarded by National President Gerry Kennedy Naval Association.

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

Fallen Hero Honoured – Pte Gerard Killeen

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As published in An Cosantóir on October 1, 2011
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald with photos by Armn Neville Coughlan

Pte KilleenOn the 30th August 2011, a lecture room in Cathal Brugha Bks was named in honour of a fallen colleague of the staff of the 2nd Eastern Brigade Training Centre (2 E BTC). The Private Killeen Lecture Room, located in ‘B’ block on the main square.

810242 Pte Gerard Killeen joined the Defence Forces in February 1952, after serving 6-years in the 2 Inf Bn, he then transferred to the Command Training Depot East (CTD E, then named 2 E BTC) on his qualifying as a cook, this was following in his father’s footsteps.

PlauqeIn August 1960, Pte Killeen was deployed overseas to the Congo as a Peace-keeper with ‘A’ Coy, 33 Inf Bn. As part of a 706 strong Battalion with the newly founded UN mission ONUC (l’Opération des Nations Uniesau Congo). The Congo was only granted independence on 30th June 1960, after almost a century of Belgian rule. This was the first armed overseas mission undertaken by the Defence Forces since the foundation of the state.

summer 11 xx 002Pte Killeen was killed (along with 8 others) on the 8th November 1960 at a river crossing near the village of Niemba in Katanga, when an eleven-man Irish patrol was ambushed by Baluba tribesmen. This was, and still remains, the greatest loss of life for the Defence Forces in a single incident overseas.

Pte Gerard Killeen was posthumously awarded An Réalt Míleata – The Military Star.

CertThe other members of that fatal patrol were:

Lieutenant Kevin Gleeson – 2 Field Engineer Company
Sergeant Hugh Gaynor – 2 Motor Squadron
Corporal Peter Kelly – 5 Infantry Battalion
Corporal Liam Dougan – 5 Infantry Battalion
Private Matthew Farrell – 2 Hospital Company
Trooper Thomas Fennell – 2 Motor Squadron
Private Michael McGuinn – 2 Field Engineer Company
Trooper Anthony Browne MMG – 2 Motor Squadron

May Gerard’s soul, and all the souls of Defence Forces personnel who died while serving at home and overseas, rest in peace ‘Amen’

summer 11 xx 006The Killeen Room GroupThe Killeen Room Group: Standing Back Row: Sgt Cole, Cpl Mc Guinness, Capt Freely, CQMS Pender, Cpl McDonagh, Sgt Tuite, Coy Sgt Masterson, Sgt Pearse, Lt Ryan, Lt Whelan and Capt Curtis. Sitting Front Row: Coy Sgt John de Lacy (Retd), Mrs Catherine Homan (Wife), Comdt Maureen O’Brien OC 2 E BTC, Mr Gerard Killeen (Son) and Col JJ O’Reilly (EO 2 E Bde)

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

Veterans Remember

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50th Anniversary of the 36 Inf Bn, United Mission in the Congo – Opération des Nations unies au Congo (ONUC).

As published in An Cosantóir in October 2011.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald, Photos by Airman Neville Coughlan

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On the 30th August 2011, I met with some members from ‘A’ Coy, 36 Inf Bn – who served in the Congo 50 years ago. Here is a brief glimpse of their memories:

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Pte John Woolley

Pte John Woolley
Unit: Spt Coy, 2 Inf Bn – Service: 6 years, Enlisted 1 Jan 1960 – Overseas: 34, 36, 2 Inf Gp – Congo and 41 Inf Bn – Cyprus
“I was at the now famous ‘Battle of the Tunnel’, and one of my favourite memories is of our Pln Sgt Joe Scott, he was a great man and one who I greatly admire to this day”

Pte Confrey

Pte Tony Confrey

Pte Tony Confrey
Unit: 5 Inf Bn – Service: 3 years, Enlisted in 1960 – Overseas: 36 Inf Bn
Served as a Marksman on the Vickers Machine and was also at the Battle for the Tunnel. “My first experience was just before landing on ‘Chalk 2’, we received gun fire from the ground. On later inspection, we discovered 40 hits on the fuselage; two storage tanks were leaking aviation fuel. Our biggest fear was unloading the US Globe master in double-time wearing hob-nailed boots”. “Within two days we had our first casualty, Cpl Mick Fallon (5 Inf Bn) and within a week at Liege Crossroads, we came under heavy mortar fire for many days. Where I received shrapnel wound to my hip, I was medically treated locally and then about fifteen years later I was still being treated and doctors discovered more shrapnel”.

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Pte Confrey’s memorabilia including his latest piece of removed shrapnel

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CQMS Clarke

CQMS James ‘Nobby’ Clarke

CQMS James ‘Nobby’ Clarke
Unit: 2 Garrison S&T – Service: 43years, Enlisted in 1959
“We all have many memories of our service with A Coy and it is very difficult to condense them into a few words. However, our long haul flight of 24 hours duration Dublin – Tripoli – Kano – Leopoldville and finally Elizabethville and a very hostile ‘Reception’ we got. We went out as Peace Keepers but overnight we became Peace Enforcers. One will never forget the prolonged bombardment at Liege Crossroads which included mortar, small arms and sniper fire and eventually leading up to the capture of the Tunnel – Our Tunnel. As a result of many acts of bravery and courage displayed by the members of A Coy, it later became the most decorated sub unit in the history of our Defence Forces – with the award of 14 Distinguished Service Medals an achievement unlikely to be surpassed. A conventional war fighting company-in-attack action had not, nor since, been undertaken by the Irish Army in combat. During the hostilities of that December we suffered 4 fatalities – Lt Paddy Riordan(DSM) & Pte Andy Wickham both Killed in Action (KIA), Sgt Paddy Mulcahy (DSM) & Cpl Mick Fallon both died from wounds received in earlier actions. In addition 14 more were wounded – some seriously. An Annual Commemoration is held in December to remember our comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who have died since”.

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CQMS Clarke’s photo album, where every page tells a story

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.

Super-Trooper – Sean Campion (RIP)

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As published in An Cosantóir in February 2015.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald

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Sean and Mick in Connolly Hospital

When Mick Hennessy, a former private with 2 Inf Bn, was admitted to Connolly Memorial Hospital, Blanchardstown, he struck up a conversation with his neighbour in the next bed. The other man, Sean Campion (68), then said:

“I have to go shave, as I got used to shaving every day while in the army.”

When Mick told him he had served a few years himself a great camaraderie developed, as it generally does when any two ex-servicemen or women meet up – full of humour and plenty of slagging! Despite a 40-year age difference the two guys got on great and since Mick’s release from hospital he has continued to visit Sean. After hearing the story, staff from An Cosantóir also visited Sean on a few occasions to hear his story and see how he was keeping.

Sean enlisted with 4 Motor Sqn in Plunkett Bks, Curragh Camp, in January 1967; “on a wage of six pounds five shillings,” he recalls. During his time in the DF, Sean completed a Ranger’s course (in 1969 with the late Lt Gen Dermot Early as one of his instructors), experienced the early days of the Troubles, and served in Cyprus with 23 Inf Gp, UNICYP.

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Irish troops being briefed prior to their departure for Cyprus in the 1960s. C/O www.curragh.info

In 1974 Sean emigrated to Australia for £25 pounds (borrowed from his sister), working for a few months in a Dunlop factory, before signing up to serve in the Australian Armoured Corps from 1975-78. “There was a big difference from the Irish Defence Forces,” Sean says, “and even getting used to drill orders in English wasn’t as easy as it sounds.” He was issued with an FN self-loading rifle (SLR), which he kept by his bunk every night, signing out the bolt from the armoury every morning. He was stationed in Puckapunyal (Valley of the Seven Winds), central Victoria and still has his passing out parade on Super 8mm film.

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Two Leopard MBTs cross the Mary River floodplain. Artist: Barry Spicer © www.barryspicer.com

Sean served as a tank gunner/radio operator on the Centurion and also trained on the Leopard, the first German-built tank since WW2. His regimental sergeant major was Gus Ballantyne, a German WW2 veteran who Sean recalls as being “a real hard bastard!”

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2 Cav Sqn renders the drive-past salute to Brig Gen ‘Rinty’ Monaghan (GOC E Comd), as they leave Griffiths Bks for Cathal Brugha Bks on 15th September 1988. Photo: Military Archives.

Returning to Ireland in 1978, he re-enlisted and after a short refresher course was posted to 2 Cav Sqn, Griffith Bks. He served with 48 Inf Bn, UNIFIL, and in 1982 he transferred to the cadre staff of 11 Cav Sqn, Griffith Bks where he served, first in Griffiths Bks and then Cathal Brugha Bks, until he retired in 1993.

Sean was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years ago and deteriorating health led to his current stay in hospital where he is recovering from the amputation of the lower half of his right leg. Nevertheless, he is in good spirits, and says he is getting healthier and stronger every day with medication, physiotherapy and great care from the hospital staff . Although wheelchair-bound at present, he is looking forward to receiving a prosthetic limb so he can get walking again.

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Sean keeps himself busy reading and watching movies, and has a large collection of books and DVDs, mostly military related. He takes particular inspiration from the film Reach for the Sky (1956), the true story of Douglas Bader, who overcame the loss of both legs to become a successful fighter pilot in World War II.

During his hospitalisation, Sean has been immensely cheered by visits from members of ONEt, IUNVA, and the IDFVA. He is still warmly remembered by former colleagues and we wish him well on his road to recovery.

For information on diabetes contact: Diabetes Ireland (CHY 6906), 19 Northwood House, Northwood Business Campus, Santry, Dublin 9. Tel: 01 842 8118 or email: info@diabetes.iewww.diabetes.ie

Sadly Trooper Sean (Campo) Campion passed away peacefully in hospital in the early hours of the 9th April 2015. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam – “May his soul be on God’s right side”

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.

Kilbride Camp Open Day

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As published in An Cosantóir in August 2011.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos Cpl Greg Dorney

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Potential new recruit Jack McKay

On 20th June 2011 on a lovely hot summer’s day, over 100 children gathered to watch and enjoy an open day in Kilbride Camp, County Wicklow, one of the Defence Forces’ most used training facilities, which can house up to 140 troops and their equipment. Not since the British Army were billeted in tents there in the late 1800s has the Stage Five area seen so many potential new recruits!

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Sniper spotted

The children from the neighbouring St Bridget’s national school in Manor Kilbride were invited by the Camp Commandant, Comdt Patrick Lavelle, to view a number of military displays provided by a variety of units and corps from throughout the Defence Forces. It was hoped that these displays would give the children an understanding of what goes on in the Kilbride training area and what causes those loud bangs and explosions they may hear from time to time in school or at home.

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Lt Adam Mollen answers questions

The children and two of their teachers, Ms Bernie Shorne and Ms Ciara Coakley, were guided around by the camp’s senior NCO, CQMS Patrick McKay, who gave them a safety brief and told the children to keep an eye out for any lost or wandering adults. Most of the camp staff also brought along their own small children to view the displays and to see where Daddy worked.

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Section under attack

The displays started at 11am with Cpl Clive Dunne leading his section (from 5 Inf Bn) in arrowhead formation across open ground in search of a hidden ‘enemy’. This demonstration was being explained to the now very excited children by Lt Adam Mollen (5 Inf Bn) who able fielded a barrage of questions coming rapid fire from his young audience. It wasn’t long before Cpl Dunne’s section came under fire from an enemy sniper. After taking cover in a nearby ditch the section carried out a left-flanking attack under cover of smoke on the enemy sniper who was being pinned down by the section’s FSG.
After the fire-fight was over all the participants moved to a position in front of the children to give them a close-up view of the soldiers and their equipment.

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AW139 comes in for a closer look

Within minutes of the end of this display an Air Corps AW139 helicopter swooped down out of the sky. The aircraft, piloted by Capt O’Reilly and Lt Hynes, whizzed into view and hovered above the viewing stand to allow the crewman, Sgt Mark Dunne, to wave briefly at the children. The ‘Wow!’-effect as the children watched this great, green beast perform some quick and exciting manoeuvres above them was clearly written all over their faces. The pilots then landed the heli in the camp on a hard stand among the other displays still awaiting the children.

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Sniper School

Also on view in the display area in the camp were a mobile EOD unit from 2 E Bde Ord Coy, manned by Cpls Carl Esmonde and John Groarke, who provided a close-up view of their equipment, and members of 5 Inf Bn with battalion support weapons and a sniper rifle system, complete with spotting scope set up for all to try. However, it was the AW139 that stole the show, with so many of the children and the adults wanting their photograph taken at the aircraft.

The day finally ended with everyone being treated to a hearty lunch in the brand new dining facility, which cost €1 million to build and equip. The excellent meal, prepared and served by Cpl Ian Barry (2 LSB) and his staff, provided many different choices for their hungry young guests.

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.

Veterans Recall Happy Memories

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As published in An Cosantóir in October 2012.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos Cpl Noel Coss

IMG_2586IMG_2608On 2nd August 2012 staff from An Cosantóir visited Hamilton Park Residential Facility in Balrothery, Co Dublin. The centre looks after people with a range of health problems, including Alzheimer’s illness and brain injuries and provides pre- and post-transplant convalescent care, as well as day care and respite care. IMG_2612Two of the facility’s residents are retired Defence Forces personnel, Pte Oliver Reilly and Sgt Patrick Reilly (no relation).

Oliver (aged 76), from Stamullen, Co Meath, served in Gormanston Camp with Tpt Pl, Air Corps Admin Coy, from1957-1980. Oliver is a veteran of 37 Inf Gp ONUC, Congo, and also served with UNICYP, Cyprus, in 1973. Patrick (aged 86) from Granard, Co Longford, served 25 years and also finished his service in Gormanston Camp, although he had a long career prior to that with 5 Inf Bn in Collins Bks, Dublin.

The two former soldiers’ behavioural therapist in the centre is a serving RDF member, Cpl Gillian Dunne of A Coy, 65 Inf Bn, based in Swords. Gillian, who has served six years in the RDF, had contacted us to let us know about the two retirees who still enjoy having the Cosantóir read out to them. Director of Nursing, Debra Lynch, said that along with family visits, seeing us in uniform and hearing stories from An Cosantóir will help Patrick and Oliver to relive their old soldiering memories, which also helps the residence with their care.

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Pictured (L/R): Debra Lynch, Patrick Reilly, Oliver Reilly and Gillian Dunne

We hope our two former colleagues will enjoy this article and we send them our best wishes.

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.

Technician to Poet – Armn Michael Whelan

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As published in An Cosantóir in November 2011.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald

Airman Michael Whelan MA, winner of the Paul Tissandier Diploma 2010 awarded by Federation Aeronautical Internationale and if that wasn’t enough he came joint second in the Patrick Kavanagh International Poetry Award 2011 for a collection of unpublished work titled ‘Against the Black Sky, We Listen: An Irish Peacekeepers Poems’.

Armn Whelan 2Michael joined the Defence Forces in Feb 1990 with the 36th Recruit Platoon, CTD E. He was then posted to the Admin Wing of the Air Corps in Baldonnel from 1990-94. In 1994 he was posted to Air Spt Signals and served as a Radio Operator in South Lebanon with the 75th Inf Bn, he stayed in Signals until 1997. He was successful in gaining an apprenticeship as an Air Craft Technician in Spray Painting/Panel Beating with the Air Corps College and Bolton Street from 1997-02. When he finished his trade he was posted to Engr Wing (now No 4 Spt Wing). In 2000/01 Michael served with the 3rd Tpt Coy KFOR as a Radio Operator, which was a busy time during the first free elections in Kosovo.

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Armn Whelan

It was in 2001 that he indulged his interest in History and commenced a degree course in Local and Community Studies with NUI Maynooth. During his studies he asked the then CAS OPS – Col Paul Fry (now GOC AC) if he could start collecting pieces of Air Corps History. He began with a small pile of interesting artefacts in the corner of No 4 hanger and again Col Fry gave him permission to display the collection and it has grown to a now well respected and much visited collection of Air Corps aviation history.

In 2002 Michael received his Certificate in Local History, in 2003 he was awarded a Diploma in Local/Community Studies and in 2005 his BA in Local History.

The Battle of Jadotville2006 saw him awarded an MA in Modern History and in the same year he wrote his first book ‘The Battle of Jadotville: Irish Soldiers in Combat in the Congo 1961’ published by South Dublin Libraries (SDL) and is a well sought after publication. During 2009 he self printed ‘On Hurting Ground: Poetic Silhouettes on Soldiers, History, Love and Tragedy,’ which is a collection of poems with all the proceeds split 50/50 between The Marie Keating Foundation and The Irish Heart Foundation. His latest offering titled ‘Allegiances Compromised: Faith, Honour and Allegiance – Ex British Soldiers in the Irish Army 1913-1924’ (2011) was also published by SDL.

will-you-answer-the-call-for-webMichael has had his work published in too many literary magazines to mention and is a constant contributor to An Cosantóir. He is a member of the Military History Society of Ireland and the Military Heritage of Ireland Trust. He was involved in the South Dublin Heritage Plan (June 2011). He was appointed by the Defence Forces Chief of Staff to the Editorial Committee for the 1916 Anniversary Commemorations in 2006. United Nations 50th Anniversary of Peacekeeping publications June 2008, he also edited the 32 and 33 Irish Battalion Congo Histories (unpublished).

 

IRISH WINNER OF THE PAUL TISSANDIER DIPLOMA 2010:
Airman Michael Whelan, nominated by the National Aero Club of Ireland (NACI) and Brig Gen Paul Fry, General Officer Commanding the Air Corps (GOC AC) was awarded the Paul Tissandier Diploma 2010 by Federation Aeronautic Internationale.

The Citation reads:

“Airman Michael Whelan, No 4 Spt Wing, Irish Air Corps through his curatorship of the Air Corps Military Aviation Museum, his contribution to the collation of Irish military history and his literary publications, has enhanced the standing of the Air Corps and the Defence Forces nationwide. The importance of his contribution to the preservation of aeronautical artefacts is deserving of great praise.”

Visit Michael’s personal blog for many of his stories and poetry: https://michaeljwhelan.wordpress.com/

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.

NATO Commander visits the Irish Defence Forces

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As published in An Cosantóir in April 2014.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos by Cpl Neville Coughlan

Recently An Cosantóir had the pleasure of talking to Lt Gen Frederick Hodges (US Army) Commander of Allied Land Command (COM LANCOM) NATO on a visit to Ireland. On his brief but busy visit he was shown demonstrations of our equipment and capabilities.

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Lt Gen Hodges, a native of Quincy, Florida, he graduated from the US Military Academy in May 1980 and his first assignment after commissioning was as an Infantry Lieutenant in Germany. Since then he has commanded Inf units at Coy, Bn and Bde levels of the 101st Airborne Division and in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. His most recent operational assignment was as Director of Operations, Regional Command South, in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He has also served in a variety of other positions to include: Inf Sch Tactics Instructor; Chief of Plans, 2nd Inf Div, Korea; ADC to SACEUR; Task Force Senior Observer-Controller, JRTC, Fort Polk; CJ3 of MNC-I in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM; COS, XVIII Abn Corps, Fort Bragg; and Dir of the Pakistan Afghanistan Coordination Cell on the Joint Staff. His previous assignment was as Chief of Legislative Liaison for the US Army (July 2012).

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Can you briefly explain what forces you command and where are they stationed?

Well first of all Allied Land Command was created by the Agreement of the Alliance of the 28 Nations [NATO] to be responsible for the effectiveness and inter-operability of all NATO Land Forces and our partners, the nations with whom we most commonly train and operate; obviously Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Austria and others. We are a stand-alone Headquarters, part of the NATO command structure, we report directly to SACEUR [Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Philip M. Breedlove USAF], we are the only Land Command for NATO.

We have no direct command over any forces or any other units, our headquarters sits in Izmir, Turkey. We are responsible for going out to other nation’s exercises; we do certifications for the NATO Response Force and are an advocate for land forces across the Alliance and the Partners and making sure that counter-IED proficiency, medevac, HUMINT, maintenance, logistics, fire-support, engineering and all aspects of land operations. We represent that to the NATO command structure and advocate for it and advocate for improved inter-operability between the nations in those capabilities especially in terms of communications and information systems (CIS).

The instance where we would have command responsibility over somebody would be if what’s called a Major Joint Operation (MJO+) which would require multiple corps to be involved. We would become the Land Component Command (LCC), under JFC Naples, or JFC Brunssum, the Joint Force Commands, and then we would have those two, three or four corps under us for the operations.

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How important is Ireland’s engagement to Partnership for Peace (PfP) and Peacekeeping?

The Irish Defence Forces has such a great reputation for excellence and skill in conducting peacekeeping operations. The Irish show up everywhere, everywhere there is a difficult challenging peacekeeping operation – Ireland shows up. There is obviously a demand and a need for what the Irish bring to peacekeeping.

When you look at what the potential future is for the Alliance and the years after the ISAF mission [Afghanistan], after 2014 when ISAF is concluded and resolute support mission which is what’s happening in Afghanistan. I think the members of the Alliance are going to be looking to help prevent or shape future conflict so PfP countries like Ireland tend to be very reliable and effective at doing that sort of engagement much like you’ve done in Chad, Liberia, Mali and Mogadishu in Somalia.

Ireland is a country and the Irish Defence Force is a force that shows up and is prepared to do that and that makes you extremely effective and important and its part of the reason Allied Land Command wants to reach out to the Irish Defence Forces because we don’t really have that type of expertise. Everybody has been focusing on ISAF or to a small extent KFOR and Iraq prior – the current relevant skills that the Irish Defence Forces have we would welcome that expertise in Land Command.

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Where do you see Partnership for Peace (PfP)/Peacekeeping in 20 years from now?

I think that is going to be an extremely important and very visible part of the role of land power for the Alliance, partner nations and the EU. Every country including the United States is getting smaller, there is downward pressure on budgets and most administrations would like to be able to prevent conflict instead of having to respond to a conflict. If that is the case, and you can have peacekeeping forces that are skilled, disciplined and ready to go somewhere that is a much better situation than having to send thousands of troops into to respond to a situation that is gone bad.

I think over the next 20 years you’re going to see a lot of interest by the members of NATO and PfP nations looking over the horizon into Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and other places where you would like to be able to prevent conflict.

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What is your impression of the Irish Defence Forces on your brief visit?

It’s my first visit here and I have been extremely impressed with the overall professionalism, competence, discipline, confidence in just how people do things even though the size of the force is relatively small compared to many of the nations in NATO.

The professionalism of the force the skill level and the quality of the people I’ve met is exceptional, the quality of the equipment and the capabilities that have procured and developed. All the equipment that I saw today for counter-IED, ISTAR, Special Forces and your CIS, I was very impressed by the quality and that tells me that the Irish Defence Forces has been smart in recognising that you are going to be small in numbers but will have to deliver an effective capability in many places around the world typically in Spartan locations. You have made some smart decisions about procurement.

And finally I found a real willingness to continue to participate and to be a part of the international community in terms of security and stability and the desire to cooperate with NATO as a member of the EU you are part of the Partnership for Peace, it’s very clear every soldier, officer and non-commissioned-officer I have spoken to has demonstrated a willingness and desire to continue to be an effective and respective part of that – it’s been a very uplifting experience for me to come here to get to understand your capabilities and to understand some of the nature of who and what you are.

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.

Uachtarán na hÉireann – President Mary McAleese

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As published in An Cosantóir in November 2011.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photographs by Corporal Greg Dorney & 105 Sqn

PresidentAfter her recent visit to Lebanon and coming in to her last few weeks in office after her great tenure of service to our nation, the president spoke briefly to An Cosantóir about her memories of the Defence Forces.

Under the constitution, Supreme Command of the Defence Forces is vested in the President. What does this role entail, and how has it manifested itself during your 14 years in office?

President departs bal 03Operational command of the Defence Forces is vested in the Minister and the Government but the Supreme Command of the Defence Forces is vested in the President – a role often referred to as Commander in Chief and one that I was anxious to signify by developing an active relationship with the Defence Forces both at home and abroad. The staff in the Aras ADC’s office have become my friends and colleagues these past fourteen years and of course members of the Defence Forces have played a central role in all the ceremonial duties of the Presidency. I had regular meetings and briefings with various Chief’s of Staff, visited many barracks, accompanied the troops twice on their Military Pilgrimages to Lourdes, invited retired members of the Defence Forces and families of serving soldiers to the Aras, took part in commemoration ceremonies, was transported safely to various destinations by the Air Corps and was particularly proud to be the first President to visit our troops serving overseas with the United Nations, of Ireland’s most important national engagements with the wider world is our peacekeeping work with the United Nations. Ireland’s Defence Forces have served for over fifty years with outstanding distinction and considerable sacrifice. I wanted to honour and draw attention to that work and so my first and last foreign visits as President were to Irish troops serving in Lebanon, where forty seven of our troops died in the service of peace, more than any of the other foreign armies serving there. It has been an abiding theme of my Presidency to acknowledge the immense contribution of our Defence Forces since the foundation of the State.

You have visited many overseas missions during your time, is there any one that stands out the most?

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President McAleese meets her security element while visiting Irish troops in Lebanon, October 14, 2011.

Each visit abroad stands out in terms of the sheer professionalism of our soldiers and each carries very special images but there was something dreadfully poignant about Liberia, which I visited in late 2004. The place was a mess with virtually no infrastructure, a wickedly hot climate, with troops patrolling in temperatures that could soar to 50 degrees centigrade. They didn’t complain, just got on with their work and in their spare time helped out at a hospice for people dying of Aids. In a country mired in chaos their positivity and simple decency were so needed and appreciated.

Both Ireland and the Defence Forces have changed substantially over the past 14 years. How important a contribution do you think the three services of the Defence Forces make to the State today?

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President McAleese meets her troops from the 102 Battalion before they deploy to Chad, December 16, 2009.

The Defence Forces have been a rock solid centre of gravity since the foundation of the State, an essential element in Ireland’s early pathway to stability and democracy and today they are part of the warp and weft of our civic life at home while abroad they are the outward expression of Ireland’s commitment to global peace. The loyalty of our Army, Air Corps and Naval Service to Ireland and her values has been exemplary. They showcase to the highest level of professionalism and integrity what big things a small, militarily neutral country has to contribute to global peace. It was a proud moment for me, though no surprise, to hear General Asarta who is the current Commander of UNIFIL say that the people of South Lebanon begged him to bring the Irish troops back to Lebanon because their experience of them had been so good.

What memories will you bring with you of the Defence Forces?

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President McAleese presents the troops with their UNIFIL Service medals, October 14, 2011.

I have many great memories of our Defence Forces, some relating to events at home others to visits overseas. The enormous contribution of our Defence Forces during the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was particularly memorable and evoked pride across the entire land. I have loved the Guards of Honour, the Bands with their wonderful marching tunes, the Cadets at Garden of Remembrance, the Buglers, the Artillery, the Air Corps with the fly past, the care for one another when serving abroad, the shocking all consuming sadness when a member of the Defence Forces died and the camaraderie that was so evident at funerals and commemorations. I remember the combined Irish army and civilian medical relief teams that went to Honduras after Hurricane Mitch and that my husband Martin was so honoured to serve two rotations with. The stories of those days are regularly told and retold and always the core story is of Irish soldiers who can through sheer can-do determination and skill, work miracles in the most difficult of conditions.

“I take this opportunity to thank the Defence Forces and their families for their truly wonderful support and friendship during my time in office. I could never hope to repay them but hope they know the pride and respect they evoke in me, in every Irish person and in all whose paths they cross. Those who serve today are building on a very proud tradition and I know from direct experience that they will honour that tradition brilliantly.”

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

The World’s Toughest Cycle Race (RAAM)

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Published in An Cosantóir on June 1, 2011.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos courtesy of Donncha Cuttriss

01 RAAMIt requires stamina, true grit and sheer determination to take on a gruelling 12-day, 3,000-mile journey on a bicycle, but that is exactly what 39-year-old, former corporal, Donncha Cuttriss has been training for every day since he left the Defence Forces in January. His goal is to be the first Irishman to participate as a solo competitor in the Race Across America (RAAM), widely recognised as ‘the world’s toughest cycle race’. The race starts in Oceanside, California, and ends in Anapolis, Maryland, passing through Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania on the way, and climbing to 10,849ft at its highest point.RAAM logo

Donncha (‘Capper’ to his friends) is an ultra-cyclist adventure sports athlete with a growing reputation. The ethos that moulds an athlete like Donncha is probably best summed up in a quote from the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) cyclist Lance Armstrong who said:

“Pain is temporary; it may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”

02 RAAMWhen Donncha left the Defence Forces in January 2011 he had completed 21 years service, during which he had served in 1 Fd CIS, the DFTC, and 1 Fd Engr Coy. He also had 10 trips overseas to missions in Lebanon, Eritrea, Liberia and Chad. He credits his military service with equipping him with the necessary attitude and skills required when training for a challenge such as the RAAM. Donncha must average 22 hours cycling a day to achieve the fitness and stamina levels needed to compete in the race. He has already completed 24- and 30-hour cycles with his crew, and his training continues. He departed for the US on May 16th to complete his last month’s training before the big race starts on June 15th. On the day the race starts RTÉ are to broadcast a documentary on Donncha’s training and preparations for the race.

03 RAAMUsing his efforts to raise money for charity is also very important to the Corkman and his chosen charity is the Meath-based Aisling Group International, founded in 1988 by Marie Byrne, which provides help and information for people in relation to drugs and alcohol misuse. The Aisling Group’s domestic and international charity work received deserved recognition in 2008 when it was presented with an All Islands Special Endeavour Award by President Mary McAleese. Thankfully, people like Donncha give us mere mortals a chance to help worthwhile charities the easy way, by ‘donating a little to help a lot’.

04 RAAMFundraising was launched 2 months ago by Cork’s Lord Mayor Michael O’Connell where Donncha was accorded a Civic Reception. In one event Donncha’s friends organised a 25km charity cycle through Cork City, setting out from Collins Bks and stopping off at the Elm Tree Bar & Restaurant in Glounthane for light refreshments. The Elm Tree is owned by Capper’s old schoolmate and lifelong friend Derek Walshe who generously donated €3,000 towards Donncha’s costs for the RAAM, which are estimated at €20,000. Everything received above that amount will go to the Aisling Group. Donncha’s bike worth €6,000 was sponsored by www.cyclesuperstore.ie in Dublin.

Another of Donncha’s old school friends, Sgmn Darren O’Connell (1 Fd CIS), also deserves special mention for his enthusiastic support for Capper’s efforts. Anyone wishing to donate to Donncha’s venture can do so through the ‘Donate’ section of the Aisling Group’s website, www.aislinggroupinternational.ie or ring 046-9074300. You can follow Donncha on his journey by visiting blog www.donnchacuttrissraam2011.com.

Donncha signed off, saying:

“I hope I can inspire others to believe they can achieve whatever they want to achieve in their lives, and I also hope I can provide any information and support to help anyone to achieve their life’s goals.”

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

UNIFIL An Irish/Lebanese Experience

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Published in An Cosantóir on July 1, 2011.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos DF Photographers & Courtesy www.unmultimedia.org

2 LEBANON1On the eve of the return of an Irish battalion to serve with The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald met with Mr Guy Jonas of the Irish-Lebanese Cultural Foundation to find out about his organisation and his views on the return of Irish troops to South Lebanon.

 

Can you tell us something about yourself?
GuyJones 2I am from an emigrant family; my grandfather was born in Buenos Aires, and I was born and raised in Lebanon. My mother still lives in Jounieh, just outside Beirut. I left Lebanon in 1976. I am an engineer by profession and I met my wife, who is from Thurles, while working in Abu Dabi in the UAE. We married and lived for several years in Abu Dabi but when we decided to start a family we felt we wanted to raise our children in Ireland so we moved over here 12 years ago. I had always enjoyed my trips to Ireland.

How did the idea for the Irish-Lebanese Cultural Foundation come about?
It’s funny really. I saw the parade through O’Connell Street of the last Irish battalion to serve in Lebanon in 2001 and that was the first time I knew that Irish troops had been serving in my country. I was amazed then when I found out that they had been there since 1978! I became very interested in the Defence Forces’ time in Lebanon and the more I found out about it the more I felt that there was a lack of a concrete link between our two countries to continue and develop the ties that had grown over all those years. That was when I decided to establish a cultural foundation. Since then it has grown all the time and we are strongly involved with Irish UNIFIL veterans. I have been organising and accompanying groups of veterans to Lebanon for several years now.

How much contact do you have with your homeland?
A lot. I go to Lebanon at least four times a year and leb flagkeep in touch with family by phone. I also read the Lebanese papers on-line every day and listen to the Lebanese news. Although I left Lebanon in 1976 I returned for a few years from 1984 to 1988, during which time I worked very closely with the Lebanese Armed Forces. The guys I knew at that time who were all captains and majors are now generals, so I still have very good links with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

What is the Lebanese view of UNIFIL at the current time?
Awareness of UNIFIL has never been as good in the north of Lebanon. When I lived in Lebanon there was strict control of information which meant that we knew almost nothing of what was going on in South Lebanon. A number of years ago President Gemayel had instituted a medal for UN peacekeepers who served in Lebanon but the parliament voted to discontinue it quite soon after and very few were awarded.

First Phase DigitalI was approached about this matter by some Irish veterans and I said I would do what I could. So, when I met the chief of staff of the LAF I brought this subject up with him and told him that I felt Irish UNIFIL veterans would be delighted with a special Lebanon service medal. He was very much in favour and although he said it would be very difficult to reinstitute the same medal he would have no problem instituting a new medal of appreciation and asked me how many I wanted!

Subsequently we received 500 medals, which were distributed to veterans. They are in huge demand and I could do with many more.

What do people think about the impending return of the Irish to South Lebanon and how do you think things will work out?
The minute the people of Tibnine heard that the Irish might be coming back to Lebanon, they organised a petition that was signed by many people, including Mr Fawaz, the deputy mayor, requesting that they should be based back in Tibnine.

This petition was sent to UNIFIL HQ in Naqoura and then forwarded to UN HQ in New York. This shows the extent of the goodwill that is there and the connection that exists between our people.
This view is shared by the Lebanese government. In a letter to the Irish-Lebanese Cultural Foundation in March the Osseiran said,

‘…the Irish battalion is preparing to be redeployed in South Lebanon in the next couple of months and I can assure you that the government and people of Lebanon are looking forward to receiving those Irish men and women with open arms.’

SG Field CoverageAfter 2000, when the south was liberated, it was natural for Ireland to pull its troops out as there was nothing really for them to do. Since then we had the war of 2006 followed by UN Security Resolution 1701 which gave UNIFIL a renewed, stronger, more efficient mandate to create a buffer zone and to protect the border. This has brought new rules of engagement that are very different to those that were in place previously. The rise of planned protest along the border by people demanding the right to return to their homes, a legitimate demand in my opinion, but one that is not being carried out in a proper fashion, is leading to a very different situation. Your presence is needed and will be welcomed by a lot of people but it won’t be the same as it used to be. You won’t be mingling with the public to the same extent. Lots of things have changed.

Another big change is in relation to the LAF. In the past the Irish only had people like the local mukhtar to turn to for information and support whereas now the Lebanese army is deployed all the way to the border and is working hand-in-hand with UNIFIL. Also, several LAF officers have attended courses in the UN school in the Curragh and have established very good relations with their Irish counterparts.

Finally, what are your hopes for the future of your country?
We have a wonderful opportunity in Lebanon at this time. We have a president in Michel Sleiman, a former commander-in-chief of the LAF, who is extremely scrupulous in the application of the law and who is intent on helping Lebanon to become a better place. Also the events that are taking place all around the Middle East and North Africa are taking the spotlight off Lebanon for once. For too long we were seen as the ‘black sheep’ of the region, even though we generally enjoyed more freedoms and human rights protection than most other countries in the region.

leb shotOf course, we are also facing a lot of serious challenges, like emigration, but the country had been doing very well economically. At a time when most of the world’s economies almost collapsed, Lebanon was still achieving growth rates of 6% or 7% a year. Indeed, Irish troops returning to Lebanon who may have served there in the past will be amazed by the development that has take place in South Lebanon, as seen in the new roads and fine villas that have grown up all around places like Haris. Given the chance that a permanent peace would provide, I believe Lebanon has much to give to the world. We are a talented, resourceful, multi-lingual people and with the help and goodwill of the international community I truly believe that we are going to pick up from here and do very well.

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie

Dinny – A True Legend

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Published in An Cosantóir on May 1, 2011.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos by Airman Greg Dorney

Dinny A True Legend - May 2011

Dinny finally receives his Emergency Medal (65 years late) from Col John Courtney (EO DFTC)

Dinny McGuinness was born at Newtown Park, Blackrock in 1914. His parents Abraham and Alice had eight children, six of whom survived (four boys and two girls: Dinny, Abby, Billy, Owen (aka Mick) and Alice and Olive). Dinny’s father served in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in World War One and the effects of shellshock contributed to his death at the early age of 41.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Cardinal McRory and the Catholic Church supported the Nationalist cause and General Eoin O’Duffy recruited an Irish brigade to serve in Spain. Of the 7,000 interviewed 700 were chosen for the new unit and 200 of these made their way to Spain in small groups. The remaining 500, including Dinny McGuinness, boarded a German ship at Galway in November 1936 and sailed for El Ferrol in north-western Spain.

On 19 February 1937 the Irish unit was deployed to the Jarama battle area but when approaching the front line they were hit by ‘friendly fire’ from a newly formed, allied Falangist unit from the Canary Islands. In an hour-long exchange of fire four Irish and 13 Canarians were killed.

In a later offensive action against the village of Titulcia two more members of the unit were killed before the unit was placed in defensive positions at nearby La Maranosa. The brigade was demobilised in June 1937 and returned to Dublin where Dinny found work as a handyman for the Mother Mary Martin African Mission Society.

In 1939 Dinny returned to military life when he joined the 43rd Battalion of the Local Defence Force (LDF), which trained in Blackrock College and guarded the ammunition in the old police station. In that year Dinny also got married to Rita McGlynn, with whom he would have 10 children. (Rita’s brother Peter served as a company sergeant with 3 Inf Bn). Dinny served with the LDF throughout the Emergency except for a five-month spell when he worked in a munitions factory in Liverpool.

After the Emergency Dinny spent much of his working life with Petree’s Modern Display, Dublin, which produced signs and displays.

Dinny A True Legend 2 - May 2011

Dinny with his extended family and members of the Defence Forces outside the Military Museum at the Curragh Camp

Dinny is now aged 97 years and has 18 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren, with number 20 due to arrive shortly. Some of Dinny’s grandchildren have taken a great interest in his service during the Spanish Civil War. His granddaughter Niamh has completed a thesis based on his experiences in Spain, and another granddaughter, Linda, has produced a video of Dinny speaking about his experiences during that conflict.

After a family member contacted the Defence Forces to tell them that Dinny had never received the Emergency medal, a special medal presentation ceremony was planned for Dinny at the newly opened Curragh Military Museum.

When Dinny arrived I asked him if he had received any medal for his time in the Spanish Civil War and he said to me: ‘No, and what’s more I received no medal for the time I spent in the LDF during the Emergency either!’

Of course, he knew well that oversight was about to be rectified, even though it was 65 years late. The ceremony was hosted by the museum’s director Comdt Moore and Dinny was presented with his medal by Col John Courtney (EO DFTC).

DO THE CRIME SERVE THE TIME

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Published in An Cosantóir on March 1, 2013. 
Written by Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos Corporal Noel Coss

Rules, Regulations, Defence Acts and Civil Law, we must abide by them all and at all times. This is what makes a well disciplined armed force. But cross the line… and you may get to visit the Military Detention Barracks or otherwise known as ‘The Glass House’, so called because of its distinctive glass roof.

prisonerRecently the An Cosantóir staff visited the Military Detention Barracks (MDB) under the watchful eye of its current ‘Governor’ and Assistant Provost Marshal (APM) Lt Thomas Caulfield. Luckily for us it was only a visit and not from the wrong side of the bars.

The MDB was a purpose built prison constructed in 1863. It operates as a detention barracks for military detainees going on nearly 130 years. In 1972, the MDB had an intake of civilian prisoners, initially subversives but later problem prisoners with no subversive connections were detained there, but now they were in Military Custody under the MP Corps. The then Depot Military Police Corps unit relocated its HQ to the old internment camp a hundred metres away. Both civilian and military prisoners were treated equally within the prison system but security and discipline was tighter than in a civil prison. In 1995, the MDB was handed over in its entirety to the Irish Prison Service where it was used as a civil prison with no military involvement.

In 2008 it was taken back over by the military and under the control of the now renamed Military Police Company, Defence Forces Training Centre or MP Coy, DFTC for short and they are housed within the MDB.

The strict prisoner regime and I mean for all prisoners as there is no rank held while in detention, is the real power in the MDB.

Early morning discipline starts off with a whistle blast! Step out from your 6×6” cell and stand to attention, on the next blast left or right turn depending on which side of the block house you are on. Another whistle blast and this is to march into line for breakfast, I think you start to get the picture about the strict prisoner regime.

IMG_8493The next item on the programme is military discipline again this time in the form of ‘Foot Drill’. Conducted in the exercise yard with its high dull grey walls and its daunting confined presence, where sometimes even sunlight would need a lift to shine in. Foot Drill not being a favourite pastime for many a soldier I’m sure then the allotted 3-hours per day of it would wear the best of us down.

When you finally get to your evening or night quiet time, it may be your only time for a temporary reprieve from the strict military regime. But trying to read a book under a constant blue light that shines in your small cell room all night isn’t easy, and you are always under the watchful of eye of your MP custodian. This strict military discipline continues throughout day and every day for the duration of one’s stay in the ‘Glass House’. One can only conclude there is probably no Sky+ with little or no treats to be gained or lost. When one comes to the MDB to serve time your wages stop on conviction and it’s counted as non-reckonable service for pension purposes.

Most prisoners don’t book in for another stay, one long vacation away from family and loved ones in the ‘Glass House’ is enough to tame us all.