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 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

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.

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.