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

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.

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.