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.

IUNVA Annual Wreath Laying Ceremony 2014

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As published in An Cosantóir in July/August 2014
Report and photos by Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald

IMG_0994 editOn May 25th 2014, the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA) held their 16th annual wreath-laying ceremony in remembrance of all Defence Forces personnel, members of An Garda Síochána and civilian personnel who died on UN peacekeeping missions throughout the world. The ceremony was held at the memorial garden in IUNVA’s HQ on Mount Temple Road, behind Arbour Hill Church and Cemetery, where a memorial stone is inscribed with the names of those who sacrificed everything in the cause of world peace. The garden was opened by President Mary McAleese on November 8th 1998.

IMG_0993 editWhat makes this year special is that it is the 25th anniversary of the formation of IUNVA. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the formation of UNFICYP in April 1964, when 606 members of 40 Inf Bn arrived in Cyprus, and the 50th anniversary of the ending of Irish involvement in the Congo when 2 Inf Gp left ONUC in June of the same year.

The ceremony started at 12am with the parade commander, Sgt Major John Egan (retd), marching the UN veterans into position. Then the MC, Comdt George Kerwin (retd), introduced the IUNVA chairman, Michael Butler, to address all those present.

IMG_0985 editDCOS Sp, Rear-Admiral Mark Mellett DSM, addressed the parade, thanking IUNVA for making sure the memories and names of all those that made the ultimate sacrifice for world peace are remembered. Fr Pat Mernagh CF and the Very Rev John Marsden, Dean of Kildare, led those present in prayers and then Airman Michael Whelan read out his poem ‘Fallen Friends’. The roll of honour was then read out by members of IUNVA posts from around the country.

IMG_0946 editIMG_0948 editWreaths were then laid on behalf of the Defence Forces by Airman Michael Whelan (Air Corps), Pte Tadgh Luby (7 Inf Bn) and A/Sea Michelle Thompson (Dublin Unit, NSR). A wreath was also laid by representatives of other armed forces.

After representatives and families laid their own wreaths a minute’s silence was observed by all before a piper’s lament was played followed by ‘The Last Post’. The National Flag was then raised and the bagpipers were joined by two members of the Army Band in playing the National Anthem.

IMG_0970 editThe day went very well and although it was such a solemn occasion it was very uplifting with everyone enjoying the parade and the opportunity to remember lost loved ones in good company.

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

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.

Photo 2

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.

Photo 3

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.

Photo 4

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