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ONUC - Operation Unokat 5 - 20 December 1961


This is the first of three articles to cover the fighting in Elisabethville during Dec 1961 where battle casualties for 35 Inf Bn and 36 Inf Bn amounted to 4 Killed and 32 Wounded.  The breakdown of the figures is:  35 Inf Bn had 7 Wounded, 36 Inf had 4 Killed and 25 Wounded.  One other 36 Inf Bn man was killed in an accidental discharge. 

The total number of UN casualties in the period were:   Killed 25, Wounded 120, Prisoners 16, Missing Presumed Dead 1 (An Indian Maj). 

Reported casualties suffered by Katangese Forces in Elisabethville and Manono were: Gendarmerie: Killed 207 Prisoners 40; Mercenaries:  Killed 7, Prisoners 11; Others: Prisoners 22 (believed to be Katangese civilians). Interestingly there is no figure for the numberof Gendarmerie who were wounded because they were evacuated to some of the eight native communes around Elisabethville. A report dated 26 Dec 1961 compiled by the ONUC Chief of Military Information puts the number of Katangese Forces casualties at between 300 and 500 killed and twice that number wounded in what was a two brigade offensive operation by ONUC.

ONUC Strength and Build-up in Elisabethville.

In Jul 1961 ONUC reached its maximum strength at 19,828 all ranks.  In Aug the Tunisian Bde withdrew and they were followed by the withdrawal of the Ghanaian Bde, this reduced the force to less than 15,000.  The Tunisians returned to the Congo at the end of December 1961 and the Ghanaians in January 1962.

During the fighting in Sep 1961 in Elisabethville, Kamina Base, at Lufira Bridge and Jadotville, ONUC had no combat aircraft and ONUC operations were severely hampered by the actions of one, possibly two, Katangese Forces Fouga Magister Jet fighters.  The UN appealed to Ethiopia, India and Sweden for combat air assets.  Ethiopia supplied four Sabre jets; they arrive in Stanleyville on 27 Sep.  Sweden provided five Saab J29 fighters, they arrived in Leopoldville on 4 Oct and India supplied four Canberra light bombers, they arrived at Leopoldville on 10 Oct.  The Swedish Fighter Sqn was based at Luluabourg in Kasai Province, the other Sqns were based at N'djili Airport, Leopoldville.

By Oct 1961 the number of mercenaries at large in Katanga Province was 237.

Escalating Tension.

From the middle on Nov the Katangese authorities had ramped up their anti UN propaganda campaign and Radio Katanga urged listeners to attack UN contingents.  During the search for abducted UN diplomats, an Indian Maj from 3/1 Gurkha Rifles and his driver were abducted, the driver’s body was located by ONUC in woods in front of Moise Tshombe’s house (President of Katanga), the Maj’s remains were never found.   During the night of 2 – 3 dec there was a firefight between the Indian contingent and the Gendarmerie at Elisabethville airport.   The Gendarmerie set up roadblocks around the city, at the Kasenga Tunnel and near the refugee camp that was located near the Irish and Swedish camps.  This meant that the UN contingents in the city became cut off from each other. On 3 Dec, seven Swedes, two Norwegian and one Argentine were abducted by Katangese Forces, they were held as hostages and were eventually released on 15 Jan 1962.  The Gendarmerie reinforced roadblocks and cut off access to the airport. Three members of the Swedish Bn were shot at a roadblock at the Tunnel, a Swedish medical officer and three medics who went to assist the wounded were detained and held until 15 Jan 1962.  One of the three wounded died and his body and the two wounded were brought to the UN Hospital. 


With the arrival of reinforcements into Elisabethville, Sector B was reorganised into two Brigades, Number I Bde consisting of two Swedish Bns and one Irish Bn, Number 2 Bde consisted of two Indian Bns and two Ethiopian Bns.  The railway line running through Elisabethville was the boundary between the Bdes with 1 Bde responsible for the area east of the line and 2 Bde responsible for west of the line.  At this time 35 Inf Bn was preparing for handover to 36 Inf Bn and elements of 35 Inf Bn had moved to Nyumzu and Niemba prior to repatriation, repatriation was completed by 25 Dec.  The Swedish 12 Bn was about to be replaced by 14 Bn. 

On 6 Dec ONUC mounted air attacks, Swedish J29s hit the railway west of Kolwezi, Indian Canberra bombers struck the airports at Jadotville and Kolwezi where they destroyed one Fouga and three other aircraft on the ground.  While over Kolwezi, two ONUC aircraft were hit by ground fire and a navigator was wounded in the leg.  In the afternoon of 6 Dec, the Swedes cleared Gendarmerie from the area of the Tunnel.  On 7 Dec ONUC aircraft destroyed a Gendarmerie ammunition dump and two trucks on the Jadotville Road.  On 8 Dec the Gendarmerie mounted an attack on the airport, it was led by a bulldozer fitted with armoured plate, ONUC destroyed the vehicle and the attack was repulsed.    On the nights 11 – 12 and 14 – 15 Dec, Katangese aircraft bombed the airport and sniping attacks continued.  From 5 Dec, the Katangese Forces fired mortars and small arms into the refugee camp and in one attack 30 Balubas were killed and 140 were wounded.  On 11 Dec, two ONUC personnel at ONUC HQ were killed by mortar fire.  For the next week ONUC came under sporadic sniper and mortar attacks.  It was evident that the Gendarmerie were building up to conduct concerted attacks against ONUC. 

Arrival of 36 Inf Bn.

The main body of 36 Inf Bn arrived in the Congo between 5 and 24 Dec 1961in twenty chalks and started to deploy in Niemba and Nyunzu in North Katanga.  On 6 Dec OC Katanga Comd informed OIC Advance Party that plans had changed and the unit would be stationed in Elisabethville.   On arrival in Elisabethville elements of the battalion manned trenches at the airport before being transported to Prince Leopold Farm.  36 Inf Bn was the first Irish unit to be issued with the Mark IV Turtle Combat Helmet and the shoulder flash with the green shamrock on the red shield. 

Death of Cpl Michael Fallon.

On 8 Dec, Prince Leopold Farm came under heavy mortar fire and Cpl Michael Fallon, A Coy, 36 Inf Bn was killed by shrapnel, Sgt Patrick Mulcahy (McKee Park, Blackhorse Ave) Tpr Michael Kenny (Kiltimagh Co Mayo), Tpr Matthew McMullan (Ballyfermot Drive, Pte William Marsh (Crumlin) and Pte Peter Gilrain (Inchore) were wounded in this attack.

Cpl Michael Fallon, whose home address was Shan-le-Mar, Main St, Lucan, Co Dublin, was 18 years of age and single, his parent unit was 5 Inf Bn.   His father died when he was a child and he was survived by his mother, Margaret Fallon, his brother Cpl James Fallon, parent unit 2 Fd Engr Coy, who also served with A Coy 36 Inf Bn, a second brother Peter who was an electrician with the RAF and a sister Josephine.   On 12 Dec, the remains of Cpl Fallon and three other personnel who were killed in action in Elisabethville were transported to the UN Hospital in Leopoldville.  Cpl Fallon’s remains were flown from N’djili Airport, home from Leopoldville and they arrived at Dublin Airport on 18 Dec.  An Taoiseach was represented by his ADC, Capt Jack O’Brien, the Minister for Defence was represented by Comdt F Neill, the COS, Maj Gen Sean Collins-Powell, the AG Col PJ Hally, OC E Comd Col PJ McNally attended the funeral.  The Requiem Mass was celebrated at 1000 hours on 19 Dec in the Church of the Sacred Heart, Arbour Hill, he was buried in the Congo Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Future Articles.

In keeping with Rule 3 of IUNVA’s constitution: “To ensure that the memory of those who gave their lives in the cause of peace on United Nations service is not forgotten”, further articles will follow on the deaths of four other members of 36 Inf Bn who were killed in Elisabethville in Dec 1961:   Sgt Patrick Mulcahy DSM, Pte Andrew Wickham, Lt Patrick Riordan DSM and Cpl John Geoghegan.  If any member of IUNVA has photos or memories of our fallen comrades, please forward them for inclusion.

Compiled by George Kerton IUNVA PRO.

Photo Captions.

  1. Pte Michael Fallon.  Photo credit Military Archives.


  1. ONUC Air Fighter Sqns, the Ethiopian Air Force Sabre jets and the Swedish Air Force Saab J29 fighters are on the right of the photograph, the Canberra light bombers provided by India are at the bottom. Photo taken at N'djili Airport, Leopoldville in Jan 1962.  Photo credit UN Multimedia.


  1. Swedish and other ONUC hostages who were captured by the Katangese Forces being held under guard at Camp Massart in Elisabethville.


  • and 5. Members of the Irish contingent of the UN Force, photographed at the airport as they were about to board an aircraft for the journey to Elizabethville where they will reinforce the UN contingent in that area.  Some reader might be able to put names to the personnel in the photos.  Photo credit UN Multimedia.





Comdt Noel O’ Grady (Retd), joined the Defence Forces as a cadet in June 1973 and he was commissioned in Sep 1974.  He served initially in E Comd in 2 Inf Bn and CTD (E) before he moved to W Comd where he served in 6 Inf Bn, Grn MP Coy and 28 Inf Bn, he served in DFHQ as SO D Med Corps.  He retired in Dec 2008.  He is a veteran of thirty-four years in the Defence Forces and he served overseas with the UN in Lebanon, the Former Yugoslavia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Eritrea / Ethiopia, and fittingly his last year of service was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Noel is a uniquely gifted singer whose repertoire straddles the works of great Irish writers such as James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Seán O’ Casey, Patrick Kavanagh, and John B. Keane. A five-time winner of Oireachtas na Gaeilge for traditional singing in Irish, he is a sensitive interpreter of such iconic songs as the 8th century Dónal Óg and 17th century Úna Bhán.

TO VIEW GO TO GALLERIES - VIDEO OR YOUTUBE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kEcTw9YnKo


Opening Statement to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence

Mr Chairman and distinguished members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.

IUNVA would like to thank the Chairman and Committee for their kind invitation to attend this afternoon’s Session.

IUNVA is represented today by:

Kieran Brennan (Major General Retd) Deputy President IUNVA

John Murray (Sergeant Major (Retd) National Treasurer IUNVA.

We are also joined by Michael Thompson (Sergeant Retd) National Welfare Officer and George Kerton (Colonel Retd) Public Relations Officer IUNVA


The Irish Defence Forces has a long and distinguished history of support to the United Nations stretching back to 1958 when the first peacekeepers deployed to Lebanon. Since then, many thousands of Irish men and women have made a significant contribution to peace and security in many of most challenging security environments in the world. Relative to the size of the Defence Forces the cost has been high with eighty-seven members of Oglaigh na hEireann paying the ultimate price in their endeavour to provide a better life for others.

Two members of Oglaigh na hEireann remain missing in action namely Trooper Patrick Mullin from Kilbehenny Limerick following events in Elizabethville Congo in Sept 1961 and Pte Caoimhin Seoige from Inis Oirr, The Aran Islands following an incident near the village of Dyar Ntar South Lebanon in April 1981.I mention Trooper Mullins and Pte Seoige as this year marks the 60th and 40th Anniversary respectively of their disappearance. Today as we gather in this historic building it is appropriate that all of us, Veterans and Elected Representatives remember our fallen UN Veterans, particularly their families, who continue to grieve the loss of loved ones to this day. Ar dheis De go raibh a n-anamacha uaisle.


The Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA) was formed at a meeting on the 10th Feb 1990 when a group of personnel led by Maj Gen Vincent Savino (Retd) and currently President of (IUNVA) identified a need to look after Veterans and their families who had fallen on hard times and where in some instances the State had failed them. The constitution of IUNVA was ratified at its first Annual General Conference in October 1990 and today IUNVA is a recognised Veterans Association, not for profit, and based on the principle of volunteerism providing support to others which is in line with the ethos and values of our veterans.

As a registered charity IUNVA is compliant with all governance structures as per the Charity Regulator and has in place a robust Management Structure where the Executive Committee, who are elected at IUNVA’s Annual General Convention, run the Association on a day-to-day basis. IUNVA is a non-denominational, non-political, and non-sectarian Association where membership is open to any Irish Resident who had successfully completed a tour of duty with a UN Force or Organisation whether he or she has retired or not.

IUNVA is organised on a regional basis with twenty-one posts located throughout the country many within or adjacent to Military Installations where members affiliated to their local Posts gather, provide support to one another, and indeed reminisce about overseas trips on which they served. Most importantly it is through this network that the Executive Committee of IUNVA manage and coordinate Post activities across the full spectrum.

IUNVA remains unique within the veterans’ organisations in that among our more than 1200 members we have both retired and serving members. HQ of IUNVA is in No 1 Post Arbour House where we recently opened a museum dedicated to our Veterans service overseas, which hopefully some of you might get to visit in the future.

Aims and Key Objectives of IUNVA:

  • To ensure that the memory of those who gave their lives in the cause of peace on United Nations service is not forgotten.
  • To provide advice and assistance for members and their families.
  • To encourage, help and assist in the treatment of members who have been affected by adversely affected their United Nations service.
  • To establish, maintain and encourage contact with associations similarly constituted in Ireland and other countries.
  • To promote public understanding of the Irish role in the United Nations operations.
  • To promote and protect the interests of its members.
  • To establish a scheme or schemes to benefit members and their dependents.
  • To rent, take or lease, or otherwise acquire property for the purposes of the Association and to invest the funds of the Association in such property or in investment accounts.
  • To publish pamphlets, periodicals and other documents for the purpose of furthering the interests of the Association and its members.
  • For the purpose of promotion and achievement of the above objectives; to raise money by subscription of its members and/or raise funds by other lawful means that may be necessary from time to time; and to secure repayment of any money in any manner whatsoever.


As a volunteer organisation all funding received is used to run the Association in a professional manner and in the best interests of its members. The Department of Defence (DOD) make an annual contribution of €11,000.00 towards the running of IUNVA, which is small in the context of what we deliver for our members. A case to increase this funding to €50,0000.00 has been with the Minister for some time now and we still await a positive outcome. I do however wish to acknowledge funding of €88,000.00 provided by the DOD from the dormant account a significant portion of which was used to refurbish our newly opened IUNVA museum.

IUNVA members with the assistance of Finance Branch DOD Galway pay a monthly subscription of €2.00 which is a valuable revenue stream. IUNVA are also indebted to donations which it receives and a recent contribution of €6000.00 from the Leopardstown Park Hospital Trust was greatly appreciated. This funding was used to conduct a much need First Aid Mental Health Course for Post Welfare Officers who now have the skills set to allow them better support veterans with mental health issues resulting from their overseas service.

IUNVA Activities:

Weekly, IUNVA members are involved in a myriad of activities with the welfare of our members at its core. Ceremonially we support the families of veterans at funeral by providing appropriate military honours while the anniversary of veterans who died on overseas service is remembered on an annual basis. First Aid courses covering CPR/Defib are available to our members as required.  IUNVA is actively involved in the provision of food parcels for members in need, particularly at Christmas time, and are grateful for the support received from various businesses. IUNVA provides accommodation for several UN Veterans in the Curragh and is actively looking at for more opportunities in this area. Support to Veterans with Mental Health and other associated issues remains a priority. IUNVA participate in all State and local ceremonial events in its distinctive green blazer with the blue beret of the United Nations. Regardless of affiliation IUNVA will always provide assistance to veterans and their families in need

Interaction with the Defence Forces, Department of Defence and Veterans Organiations

IUNVA maintains strong relationships with the Defence Forces with some of its members still serving. Liaison Officers are available in all Military Locations to assist IUNVA as the need arises. IUNVA receives excellent support from Brigade and Unit Commander in the provision of facilities for our members to conduct meetings and hold functions as required. The Defence Forces Benevolent Fund provides much needed funding to IUNVA on a case-by-case basis.

IUNVA continues to have good relationships with the Department of Defence having met Minister Simon Coveney TD and Secretary General Jacqui McCrum in the past twelve months. This interaction is much needed and appreciated. Funding, in the form of an annual subvention from the Department of Defence, which is governed by a Service Level Agreement remains an issue and our aspiration to appoint a full time Administrator to manage the ever-increasing activities of IUNVA will also depend on Financial Support from the Department of Defence. IUNVA continues to get excellent support from Pensions Section in Finance Branch Galway.

IUNVA has close relationships with The Association of Retired Commissioned Officers (ARCO) and the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel.

White Paper and Veterans Strategy:

Para 7.7 of the White Paper on Defence published in 2015 includes the following statement: there is scope during the currency of the White Paper to further develop supports available to existing personnel and veterans. This translated into Project 59 of the White Paper Implementation Plan.

To advance this on the 05 December 2018 the three veteran associations, the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA) the Association of Commissioned Officers (ARCO) and the Organisation of Retired Ex-Service Personnel submitted a document titled Veterans Strategy to the then Minister with Responsibility for Defence, the Secretary General and Chief of Staff.

This Strategy has seven strategic goals namely:

  • Interface with Department of Defence and Defence Forces.
  • Transition from Military to Civilian Life.
  • Accreditation of unique military skills
  • Pensions and ancillary support.
  • Medical Support.
  • Social Housing.
  • Recognition of Military Service.

To date no progress has been made in respect of advancing in a holistic manner the aims of this document despite it being a continuous Agenda item when meeting Department of Defence representatives. In Feb this year IUNVA was informed that Project 59 had been closed. This decision was very disappointing not least as it was taken without any reference to IUNVA and other veteran organisations. IUNVA remains hopeful that a Veterans Strategy will come to fruition in the short to medium term. This will require the support of many stakeholders not least our elected representatives.    

Notwithstanding the development of this Strategy and subsequent policies to support it IUNVA strongly advocates for the immediate establishment of a Joint Office for Veterans Affairs supported by the Veterans Associations and resourced by the Defence Forces and Department of Defence. Such an Office with the capacity to link into other Government Departments, would provide Veterans with a platform through which issues of importance could be addressed by Policy Makers. IUNVA considers that the appointment of a Commissioner for Veterans Affairs, which would be in line with other European countries, would further demonstrate the State’s commitments to Veterans and the value it places on their outstanding service both on island and overseas.

Thank you for your attention.

Kieran Brennan

Major General (Retd)   

         National Memorial To Members of Defence Forces who Died in the Service of The State

On Wednesday, 17th November, the Defence Forces held a memorial ceremony at the National Memorial to Members of the Defence Forces who died in the Service of the State at Merrion Square.  Wreaths were laid by Simon Coveney TD Minister for Defence, Lt Gen Sean Clancy COS, the three national military veterans’ associations IUNVA, ARCO and ONE and families of personnel who died in service.

Michael Dillon laid the IUNVA wreath, wreaths were laid by Brig Gen Séamus Ó Giolláin ARCO President and Diarmuid Higgins the incoming ONE President.

The memorial was unveiled on 8th November 2008 by President Mary McAleese and the ceremony was attended by Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea, and families and Defence Force comrades of deceased personnel.

Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha dílse

Photo credit DDF PR Branch.




Ireland's UN Veterans

As part of a project to record Ireland’s contribution to world peace with the UN Peacekeeping we visited Post 11 of the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA). There we met and spoke with veterans CQMS Tony O’Reilly, Sgt Maj John Murray, and Sgt Denis Gratten; who between them served on 34 missions around the world. Both John and Denis are Kildare men all their lives, while Tony came to the Curragh in 1974 from Waterford and has called it his home ever since. The three men have unique perspectives on service overseas due to their diverse skillsets including logistics, communications, and crime scene investigation. They served in missions such as: United Nations Iran-Iraq Military Observer Group (UNIIMOG); United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon; United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II); European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) Bosnia and Herzegovina; and with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan. It was remarkable to hear the evolution of peacekeeping and overseas operations spanning almost 50 years.

Even though retired the veterans of IUNVA are still giving back and helping in the local community and supporting veterans.

Óglaigh na hÉireann / Irish Defence Forces United Nations Peacekeeping Curragh History Naas Ball

Thank you for your service.

#irishveterans #irelandsmilitarystory #kildare

Photo by John O’Byrne

This project is supported by Kildare County Council Heritage Office, CreativeIrl, Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA), ONE Ireland(the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel), and the Association of Retired Commissioned Officers.



Massacre of Thirteen Italian Air Force Personnel in the Congo in Nov 1961

In this article we look at one incident that happened sixty years ago in the Congo in Nov 1961 when Italy suffered thirteen casualties in a mass murder in what has been called the Kindu Massacre. This event shows that UN peacekeepers who might not be considered to be on the frontline were open to the dangers of the volatile situation in the Congo. It is worth noting that this happened during the interval between the fighting in Katanga Province during Operation Morthar (13 – 21 Sep 1961) and Operation Unokat (05 - 20 Dec 1961).

Kindu in Kivu Province would be known to veterans of the first Irish unit to serve in the Congo as B Coy 32 Inf Bn had been stationed there from 30 Jul to 13 Oct 1960.

In Nov 1961 the UN garrison at Kindu had a total of 206 personnel from Malaya drawn from one Coy of 6 Royal Malayan Regt and a Tp of Ferret Scout Cars from 2 Recce Regt.

The Italian Air Force Unit in ONUC.

The UN Air Transport Division was based at N’djili airport near Leopoldville and in Nov 1961 the unit had 461 military personnel made up by aircrew and ground staff from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, India, Italy, Norway and Sweden.

The Italian unit was 46 Aerobrigata from the Italian Air Force, it had seventy personnel and operated ten Fairchild C119 aircraft. The C119 all-weather medium transport twin-engine aircraft was designed for transport operations, air resupply, paratroop operations and medical evacuation. Because of its cargo-carrying capacity, it was known as the Flying Boxcar.

The Massacre.

On Saturday 11 Nov 1961, two C119s were on a routine flight delivering two Ferret Scout Cars from Kamina Base to the Malayan contingent at Kindu in Kivu Province. The Irish unit, 1 Inf Gp at Kamina Base had been reinforced by four Ferret Scout Cars during Operation Morthor in September and these were being returned to their parent unit A Sqn, 2 Recce Regt, Malayan Special Force at Kindu.

The aircraft were each crewed by six men and a medical officer was also on board one aircraft. They were scheduled to finish their tour of duty with ONUC on 23 Nov 1961. The arrival of the aircraft had been communicated in advance to the Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC). The aircraft landed after 1400 hours and after unloading, the thirteen Italians were driven by Maj Daud, OC B Coy 6 Royal Malayan Regt and commander of the UN garrison, to the Malayan dining hall, 2 Km from the airport, for a meal.

The ANC used Kindu as a staging post for troops being deployed from Stanleyville in Orientale Province to North Katanga and 935 ANC personnel were in Kindu on 11 Nov.

At around 1600 hours, a party of forty ANC arrived at the dining hall, twenty six entered the building, they were in an agitated state and under the influence of alcohol and/or other volatile substance. The Medical Officer tried to reason with them through French, the ANC said he was a Belgian speaking Flemish and proceeded to attack and beat the Italians with rifle butts. Approximately 200 more ANC troops arrived at the scene and the Malayans were overwhelmed and disarmed. The Comd of 3 Gp ANC, Col Vidal Pakasa arrived and tried to intervene to free the Italians but he was man-handled by his own troops and he fled back to the airport. The Medical Officer attempted to flee through a window but he was shot dead. His body and the twelve others were put on vehicles and taken to the town prison. They were again beaten and they were shot dead that night in their cells, the bodies were then butchered.

On the following morning, police Superintendent Amisi Lukanyaka ordered a police Chief Sergeant to remove what remained of the mutilated remains from in front of the prison and to arrange burial. The remains were buried by a work party of prisoners in two pits at Tokolote cemetery some 4 Kms from Kindu. The ANC besieged the Malayan garrison for two weeks and following negotiations between Central Government and ONUC they withdrew from the airport and returned to their camp. On 25 Nov, the two C-119s were recovered and were flown to Leopoldville.

ONUC and Congolese Central Government Inquiry.

Sture Linnér (Sweden), the Officer-in-Charge of ONUC proposed to the Central Government of the Republic of Congo that a joint investigating committee be established by ONUC and the Government. Because of the security situation at Kindu, this Mixed Commission of Inquiry was established in Stanleyville on 19 Dec 1961. The purpose of the commission was to investigate the circumstances in which thirteen Italian UN personnel were assassinated in Kindu on 11 Nov 1961 by ANC soldiers; to identify the persons guilty of these murders and other crimes in this connection; to ensure the arrest of the culprits in cooperation with the competent authorities; to submit a report on the findings to the Prime Minister and to the UN.

The ANC personnel involved in abducting the Italians were identified by the Malayan commander as belonging to 2 Coy 6 Bn under the command of a Lt Michel Urera. This unit was deployed into northern Katanga in order to obstruct any proper inquiry into the massacre. Twenty one personnel from 20 Bn and nine from 7 Bn were charged in relation to the killings, two other soldiers were found in possession of human flesh, two others were found in possession of the wrist watches and dollars belonging to Malayan officers.

The Mixed Commission of Inquiry found its final report on 18 Jul 1962 that none of the thirty soldiers from 7 Bn and 20 Bn had taken part in the massacre, it found the following ANC persons guilty of involvement in the killings: Col Pakasa (Comd 3 Gp ANC), Maj Malungi (Kindu Grn Comd), Lt Michel Urera (OC 2 Coy 6 Bn) and the two soldiers found in possession of human flesh, Ptes Vincent Hakizimana and Ferdinand Osombo. The commission’s investigation did not result in the apprehension and punishment of the actual culprits and no one was tried in court for the murders.

Recovery of the Remains.

On 20 Feb 1962, two doctors from the Austrian Red Cross and two Italian Air Force NCOs, who were escorted by troops from the Ethiopian battalion, located the graves at Tokolote cemetery. The soil in the cemetery preserved the remains, the Italian NCOs, Staff Sgt R Battistutti and Staff Sgt M Meschi, identified the thirteen remains and they were photographed by a UN photographer. On 23 Feb 1962, a C-119 crewed by Lt Col L Picone and Maj Poggli, flew from Leopoldville to Kindu. The remains were exhumed and transported to Kindu airport for onward transport to N'djili airport Leopoldville.

Memorial Service and Funeral.

On 10 Mar all ONUC posts held a memorial service and formal parade for the Italian fatalities, this took place as the formal ceremony was being held at N’djili airport. The HQ ceremony included solemn requiem mass on the tarmac with the thirteen coffins placed in front of a Globemaster aircraft, wreaths were laid by the Officer-in-Charge of ONUC Robert Gardiner (Ghana), the Force Commander Lt Gen Sean MacEoin, the Italian Base Comd, Col N Pasqualli, ONUC Air Chief, Air Commodore Morrison (Canada), the Congolese Prime Minister, Cyrille Adoula and the Italian Ambassador, Piero Franca. Following two minutes silence, the Guard of Honour consisting of 100 personnel from the Queen’s Own Nigerian Rifles presented arms, the last post was played, three volleys were fired and reveille was sounded.

A US Air Force Douglas C-124 Globemaster transported the coffins to Wheelus Air Base in Libya where they were transferred to a Lockheed C-130 Hercules for the flight to Pisa Airport in in Tuscany, Italy on 11 Mar 1962.

In 1994 the thirteen Italians were awarded the Gold Medal of Military Valor. A monument to the Kindu Massacre victims was erected of Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome and a second monument was erected in Pisa.

The thirteen Italian aviators who were killed were:

Crew of India 6002 Callsign Lyra 5.

Maj Amedeo Parmeggiani (43) Detachment Commander, Pilot.



In this article we remember the tragic events of sixty one years ago in Nov 1960, when Ireland suffered the highest toll on peacekeeping operations when nine men were killed by Baluba tribesmen near a bridge on the River Luweyeye on a dirt road approximately 23 Km from Niemba village in the northeast of Katanga Province in what was then the Republic of the Congo. 

The nine men from A Coy 33 Inf Bn of the UN Force, Opération des Nations Unies au Congo (ONUC) who were killed were:

Lt Kevin Gleeson, 2 Fd Engr Coy, aged thirty from Terenure, Dublin originally from Borris, Co Carlow, 

Sgt Hugh Gaynor 2 Mot Sqn, aged twenty-nine from Leixlip, originally from Blanchardstown, Dublin, 

Cpl Liam Dougan 5 Inf Bn, aged twenty-four from Cabra, Dublin 

Cpl Peter Kelly 5 Inf Bn, aged twenty-five from Templeogue, Dublin,

Tpr Anthony Browne MMG  2 Mot Sqn, aged twenty from Fatima Mansions, Rialto, Dublin 

Pte Matthew Farrell 2 Hosp Coy, aged twenty-two from Swords, 

Tpr Thomas Fennell 2 Mot Sqn, aged eighteen from Donnycarney, Dublin, born in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, 

Pte Gerard Killeen CTD (E), aged twenty-seven from Rathmines, Dublin,  

Pte Michael McGuinn 2 Fd Engr Coy, aged twenty-one from Blackhorse Ave Dublin, originally from Carlow town.

The eleven-man patrol from Number 2 Pl, A Coy, 33 Inf Bn had departed their base at Niemba at 1330 hours.  Niemba was 140 Kms from the Bn HQ at Albertville and the post at Niemba had been occupied since 8 Oct.  

The patrol consisted of one Lt, one Sgt, two Cpls and seven Ptes.  The patrol was armed with two Bren light machine guns, four Gustaf sub-machine guns, and four Lee-Enfield No 4 Mk 2 rifles, the medical orderly was not armed.  The patrol travelled in two vehicles, a Land Rover and a VW Pick-up truck, the Pl at Niemba Post did not have any other vehicle and the patrol was not equipped with a radio.  The patrol’s mission was to carry out reconnaissance on the southern route from Niemba village towards Kiamba and Manono, to check the state of the track, and to clear obstacles if possible. During the patrol they cleared several obstacles along the route.    

At around 1500 hours, the patrol arrived at a crossing point where the road from Niemba crossed the Luweyeye River.  The planks from the bridge had been removed from the bridge and the tree trunk spans were dislodged.  The patrol dismounted from the vehicles and moved forward to see if the bridge could be repaired.   In a short time, the patrol was surrounded by a large number of Baluba tribesmen located on both banks of the river.  The Balubas attacked without warning.   Lt Kevin Gleeson ordered the patrol to disperse, and to try to escape from the ambush.  They were overcome by sheer weight of numbers and only three managed to escape from the killing zone.   

Eight of the nine bodies were recovered within days and it was two years to the day before Trooper Browne’s body was recovered from the bush. 

Two members of the patrol, Pte Joseph Fitzpatrick (then 21), 2 Inf Bn, from Charlemont Street, Dublin and Pte Thomas Kenny (then 24), 2 Fd Engr Coy, from Ballyfermot, Dublin survived the ambush. Pte Fitzpatrick was found on 9 Nov by a search team and Pte Kenny was recovered on 10 Nov.  They were taken to hospital in Albertville and their statements on the ambush were taken by Comdt Patrick Liddy, Legal Offr 32 Inf Bn.

In the follow-up operation to recover the missing and to retrieve the bodies, Pte Patrick Davis, 2 Fd Engr Coy died after he was shot accidentally on the night of Thursday 10 Nov 1960 during an alert.   He had been manning a Bren LMG on a veranda and a fellow soldier fired through a door at a figure he believed to have been an attacker.

On 13 Nov 1961, one year after the killings, five men from the Niemba area were tried in front of Judge A de Bevere at Elisabeth District Court Penal Sitting for their part in the ambush.  All were found guilty of murder and attempted murder, without pre-meditation. 

Two received sentences of three years and three received two-year terms of penal servitude.

On 7 Nov 1962, Comdt John Gallagher (Op Offr 37 Inf Bn), accompanied by Capt James Lavery (Armd Car Gp 38 Inf Bn), Comdt Thomas McMahon (Legal Offr 38 Inf Bn) and Comdt Brendan Heaney (Medical Offr 38 Inf Bn), escorted by a platoon drawn from the Malayan contingent, located the skeletal remains of Tpr Browne, the last soldier missing from the Niemba ambush.  The remains were transported by road to Albertville.  On 8 Nov 1962, exactly two years after the ambush, the remains were brought to Elizabethville, where an anthropologist at the Ruasi University identified the remains as those of Tpr Anthony Browne.

It is believed that Tpr Anthony Browne, escaped from the ambush area but he was killed near the village of Tundulu, after surviving for a few days.  He was awarded the Military Medal for Gallantry with Distinction.  The 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.


  1.  Members of Number 2 Pl, A Coy 33 Inf Bn ONUC photographed at the Curragh Training Camp in Aug 1960.  The photograph includes six of the personnel who were killed on 08 Nov 1960:                                                                                                                      

Front Row:  Cpl Liam Dougan (2nd from left), Lt Kevin Gleeson (6th from left), Sgt Hugh Gaynor (7th from left), Cpl Peter Kelly (10th from left).                                                                            

Third Row:  Tpr Thomas Fennell (9th from left) and Pte Michael McGuinn (extreme right).                                                                                                                      Back Row:  Pte Thomas Kenny (1st left) and Pte Joseph Fitzpatrick (5th from right) both survived the Niemba Ambush.

The three other members of the platoon who were killed in the ambush are not in this photograph as they were posted to the platoon later:  Pte Gerard Killeen, Pte Matthew Farrell and Tpr Anthony Browne An Bonn Míleata Calmachta Le Dearscnacht (The Military Medal for Gallantry with Distinction).  All nine victims of the ambush were awarded An Réalt Míleata (The Military Star). 

  1. Monday 7 Nov 1960.  This photograph was taken on the day before the ambush when a patrol led by Comdt P D Hogan, Bn 2/IC visited the bridge.
  2. The bridge over the River Luweyeye with the spans and planks in position.
  • & 5. Search parties near the ambush site.
  1. Search party vehicles on the north side of the bridge.

7, 8 & 9.  Friday 18 Nov, Fr John Crowley CF celebrating mass at Albertville Airport.  Eight of the nine coffins had been loaded on the Seven Seas Airline chartered aircraft on the night before.  Under Congolese law, remains being air transported from the country had to be in lead-lined coffins.  The crane in front of the hangar in Photo 9 was used to load the coffins on the aircraft.  The president of the breakaway province of Katanga, Moïse Tshombe and a sizeable number of people from Albertville attended the mass and expressed sympathy with the families of the victims and the unit. 

  1. For two days, tens of thousands of people from all over the country filed past the coffins lying in state in a hangar at Baldonnel Aerodrome. On 22 Nov 1960, the funeral of the eight recovered bodies from the ambush and Pte Davis moved to Glasnevin cemetery. Media article said that more than a half million lined the funeral route.  This photograph shows the cortege turning from Bachelors Walk onto O’Connell St. Six members of A Coy accompanied the remains: Capt Donal Crowley, Cpl Michael Colton, Cpl P Anderson, Pte Kennedy, Pte P Donnelly and Tpr T Feeney and they are in the photograph marching behind the band.
  2. The vehicles carrying the coffins as they approach Glasnevin cemetery.
  3. The firing party firing three volleys over the coffins.
  4. The citation for Tpr Anthony Browne.
  5. The Niemba Roll of Honour showing all eleven members of the patrol.




Comdt Joe Fallon DSM (Retd) has recently published a book titled “Green Cap and Blue Beret” [ISBN:9781999616250].  His book provides an account of his family background and his service in the Defence Forces, covering both military and non-military events at home and overseas.

Comdt Fallon’s wide range of appointments gave him direct contact with senior military and civilian leaders in Ireland particularly during the Northern Ireland Troubles, and while on United Nations service in the Middle East with UNTSO during the October 1973 War (also known as the Yom Kippur War).  Fighting from 6 to 25 October 1973 between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria resulted in the establishment of the Second United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF II October 1973 to July 1979) in the Sinai and (UNDOF  31 May 1974 to the present day in the Golan Heights).

Joe is donating the entire receipts from sales of his book to welfare homes for retired soldiers.

Copies of the book at €20 plus postage are available from Hayesprint Publishing.

Contact Details: Main Street, Ennistymon, Co. Clare

Telephone: 065 7071125          Fax: 065 7071717 

Web: hayesprint.ie          Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


With deep regret we report the death of Thomas Kenny who was one of the two survivors of the Niemba Ambush in which nine personnel from Number 2 Pl, A Coy 35 Inf Bn were killed on 8 Nov 1960.

ripie notice:  The death has occurred of Thomas KENNY, Ballyfermot, Dublin

KENNY Thomas (Congo) – survivor of the Niemba Ambush, November 1960 (Ballyfermot, Dublin 10) October 30, 2021 – (peacefully) at Our Lady’s Hospice, in the presence his loving family. Beloved husband of the late Rose. He will be very sadly missed by his loving children and their spouses, grandchildren and their spouses, great-grandchildren, extended family, friends, and his 3 boys with the 4 legs.

May he rest in peace.

A private funeral has taken place. Donations, if desired, to Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W or www.olh.ie.

“He is now walking in the forest and the birds are singing”

Date Published: Tuesday 2nd November 2021Date of Death: Saturday 30th October 2021

With deep regret we report the death of Thomas Kenny who was one of the two survivors of the Niemba Ambush in which nine personnel from Number 2 Pl, A Coy 35 Inf bn were killed on 8 Nov 1960.

ripie notice:  The death has occurred of Thomas KENNY, Ballyfermot, Dublin

KENNY Thomas (Congo) – survivor of the Niemba Ambush, November 1960 (Ballyfermot, Dublin 10) October 30, 2021 – (peacefully) at Our Lady’s Hospice, in the presence his loving family. Beloved husband of the late Rose. He will be very sadly missed by his loving children and their spouses, grandchildren and their spouses, great-grandchildren, extended family, friends, and his 3 boys with the 4 legs.

May he rest in peace.

A private funeral has taken place. Donations, if desired, to Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W or www.olh.ie.

“He is now walking in the forest and the birds are singing”

Date Published: Tuesday 2nd November 2021Date of Death: Saturday 30th October 2021


My Charlie Bird Story

I was saddened to hear that Charlie Bird, the former RTE journalist, has been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and I though back to an encounter I had with him some twenty six years ago in the town of Shaqra in South Lebanon. In 1995, Shaqra was the second most important town in the Irish area of operations after Tibnine and it had a population of around 6,000 who were exclusively Shia Muslims. It contained some of the wealthiest residents in the Irish battalion area of operations with most of the wealth coming from remittances from abroad.

On 15 June 1995 Dick Spring, then Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, visited 77 Infantry Battalion of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. At the time I was the Military Information Officer for the battalion, Minister Spring was on a three-day visit to Lebanon and Israel. He was accompanied on the visit to the battalion by Brigadier General Pearse Redmond, UNIFIL Deputy Force Commander, Colonel Tony Murphy, Senior Liaison Officer, Hugh Swift, the Irish Ambassador to Egypt and Lebanon, a party of four from Foreign Affairs, John Foley from the Government Information Service and two journalists. Patrick Smyth of the Irish Times and Charlie Bird from RTE were covering the visit.

RTE had hired a Lebanese camera operator and sound technician to film footage for Charlie’s report on the visit. As often happens in South Lebanon, heavy traffic on the costal road from Beirut delayed the TV crew and they arrived too late to film the ceremonial Honour Guard for the arrival of the minister at Camp Shamrock in Tibnine. Understandably, Charlie was annoyed and anxious to get working. I started to give Charlie a terrain briefing from a vantage point in the camp showing him the key features and the Israeli-controlled compounds on the ridgeline with the camera rolling. Within seconds the camera operator announced that his camera battery was dead. Petty Officer Pat Donoghue, one of the Signals Platoon technicians, came to the rescue and he was able to boost-charge the battery. This of course took a short enough amount of time but the touring party had to continue with the visit schedule and visit UN posts on the ground and to meet with local dignitaries. I inform the Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Fred Swords of the hitch and he agreed that I would take Charlie on his own around the area of operations.

Charlie wanted to see where recent incidents had occurred, so I brought him to a few locations including Shaqra where residents had been casualties of Israeli Defense Forces and Israeli-controlled De Facto Forces shelling.

Between 1910 hours and 1915 hours on 30 May 1995, De Facto Forces fired six medium mortar high explosive rounds into the centre of Shaqra. The firing was reported by an Irish battalion Observation Post from C Company (Position 6-28A at Shaqra), this position was fifteen metres from the De Facto Forces compound designated DFF 30. Three young girls aged between 14 and 16 years of age were in the street near their homes, one was killed instantly by a shrapnel wound to her neck that almost decapitated her, another had her lower leg severed and the third suffered shrapnel wounds to her face and upper body. At 0900 hours on the following day an Irish Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team examined the scene, the examination revealed that three rounds with proximity fuses (that is, they detonated above ground level) and one with direct impact fuse had detonated within a fifty metre radius. Shrapnel fragments of four rounds including two tailfins were recovered. Minor damaged was caused to one civilian car and to three houses.

On 14 June, the day before the minister’s visit, armed elements had launched a coordinated attack on DFF 30 and DFF 109 (2 Km to the north of DFF 30) firing ten 106mm recoilless rifle round and five Saggar Soviet-manufactured anti-tank missiles. The Israeli Defence Forces and the DFF responded with 155mm artillery, heavy mortars, tank main armament and heavy machine gun fire. Four civilians in Shaqra were injured by this firing, one was a 68 year old woman, another a 50 year old man and two were boys aged 4 and 10.

As soon as we arrived in Shaqra, many of the population turned out to see what the TV crew were doing. Because we were on a tight schedule, I was keen not to delay too long in the area and I arranged interviews between Charlie and a few residents. One of the interviewees who came forward was the father of the girl who had been killed on 30 May. Hassan Fawaz, one of the Irish battalion interpreters, translated the questions from Charlie and the replies from the girl’s father. It was a very moving interview and it hit home to all who were present.

As we were walking back to the vehicles we came to a corner in the narrow streets, we saw the two young girls who were injured on 30 May. They were sitting in front of a house; one had a bandage on the stump of her leg and the other had dressings on her face and her head. Charlie froze and I thought he might be suffering from heat exhaustion and might keel over. I took hold of his elbow and we walked on to the vehicles. Charlie’s eyes welled up with tears and he said that the journalist in him wanted to get more footage for the story but he could not put the girls through it.

I am sure that countless people have stories of meeting Charlie in his role as a broadcaster over many decades. Twenty six years ago, I saw a different side to this hard-nosed and dogged journalist that others might not have witnessed. Charlie, I wish you well in your fight against this dreadful disease.





Coy Sgt Felix Grant, B Coy 33 Inf Bn was the first member of the Defense Forces to die on UN service. He died at the King Albert Hospital, Albertville on 3rd Oct 1960 following an operation for appendicitis. He was 43 years of age when he died and his home unit was the 12 Inf Bn, Kickham Bks, Clonmel, County Tipperary. He was buried at St Patrick’s cemetery Clonmel on 26th Oct 1960. He was born in Ballymagross, Downpatrick, County Down in 1917 and he enlisted in the Defence Forces in Limerick in 1940. He married Catherine Lillis in Clonmel in 1945 and they had three children, two boys (twins) and a girl. The two boys, Felix Anthony (known as Tony) and Billy later enlisted at the Army Apprentice School at Devoy Barracks, Naas and served for some years in the Defence Forces. Tony served with Depot Engineers at the Curragh Camp and with the UN Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) and with the UN Emergency Force in the Sinai (UNEF 11), (25 Infantry Group). He is a member of IUNVA Post24 in Clonmel, he lives in Limerick.

Photographs Captions.

  1. Coy Sgt Felix Grant DSM.
  2. The funeral cortege leaving Albertville.



In this article we look at the killing of Trooper Edward Gaffney, C Company 35 Infantry Battalion in action during Operation Morthor and the first Irish personnel who were captured by the Gendarmerie

Trooper Edward Gaffney.

Today we remember the 60th anniversary of the death of Trooper Edward Gaffney, C Company, 35 Infantry Battalion ONUC who was killed on 13th September 1961 in Elisabethville in the Republic of the Congo. He was killed instantly by machine gun fire from a Gendarmerie Staghound armoured car that was crewed by mercenaries.  At 1215 hours a patrol of nine personnel under the command of Sergeant George Shaughnessy travelled in two trucks bringing ammunition and other supplies from the Kasenga Tunnel to the Brigade Reserve at Albert Park. Trooper Gaffney was driving the first vehicle on Churchill Avenue and he was killed in the cab.  The gendarmerie then set the truck on fire. Trooper Gaffney was twenty two years of age, he came from Norristown, Camolin, County Wexford and his home unit was 1 Armoured Car Squadron. 

Operation Morthor.

Operation Morthor commenced at 0400 hours on 13 Sep.  2 Platoon and 3 Platoon, C Company plus the Mortar section were tasked to seize and hold the Kasenga Tunnel at Chavssee de Kasenga (known as the Tunnel). The Gendarmerie counterattacked almost immediately with mortars and sniping.  This action has been called the First Battle of the Tunnel; 36 Infantry Battalion fought in the Second Battle of the Tunnel in December 1961.

C Company 35 Infantry Battalion personnel holding the Tunnel manned trenches from the start of Operation Morthor on 13 Sep until they were relieved by B Company on 18 Sep, and the two Companies rotated each week thereafter.  During this time, they were under fire from Gendarmerie mortars, medium machine guns, rifles and armour cars, this firing was intense up to 15 Sep and it was sporadic up to 21 Sep when a ceasefire agreement came into effect.  On 15 Sep, the Fouga jet dropped bombs or rockets on the positions at the Tunnel and no injuries were suffered.    

1 Platoon C Company minus one section was tasked to seize and hold College St Francois De Sales (known as the Radio College), the other section secured the Factory Camp.    Around 1200 hours the platoon minus at the Radio College was reduced to section strength as personnel were withdrawn, some were redeployed to guard the Italian-run UN Hospital where casualties from the fighting and from the earlier attacks by mobs were being treated. 

Heavy fighting continued across the city throughout the night of 13 Sep as UN positions came under attack.


At 1600 hours on 14 Sep, Lieutenant Tom Ryan, (Platoon Commander 1 Platoon) was guarding the Radio College with one Sergeant, two Corporals and Seven Privates, they had one Bren Light Machine Gun.  He was approached by a French mercenary in civilian attire along with a priest.  They knew the strength of the Irish guard at the Radio College was eleven and they had details of their weapons.  The showed him one Gendarmerie armoured car and a jeep on the street with a recoilless rifle covering the college, at a signal from the mercenary, armed whites in civilian attire and uniformed Gendarmerie appeared from firing positions in the surrounding buildings.  Lt Ryan was forced to surrender in the face of overwhelming opposition. The eleven C Company personnel were the first 35 Battalion personnel to be captured by the Gendarmerie and held as hostages.

While the names of those who surrendered at Jadotville have been in the public domain, little has been written about the Radio Station prisoners.  They were Lieutenant Tom Ryan, Sergeant J O’Driscoll, Corporals M Conway and A Colclough, Privates W Browne, E Donohue, T Daly, J Doyle, C Doolan, P Moriarty and M Moran, 3 Infantry Battalion was the parent unit of all the enlisted personnel.  They were joined in captivity by personnel from the Cahalane Patrol on15 Sep.

They were held initially at a farm southeast of Elisabethville, on 16 Sep they were moved further south to Munama near the border with Northern Rhodesia and about 30 Km from Elisabethville

On 18 Sep, an officer and five enlisted personnel from the Italian Hospital were taken prisoner at the Italian Stores Depot in Elisabethville and they were brought to Munama.  The Irish and Italian prisoners were guarded by between sixty and eighty Paracommandos who were commanded by a French mercenary Captain.  On the night of 21 – 22 Sep the prisoners were moved to Briqueville.  On the following day they were driven on an eighth hour journey to Jadotville where they joined the A Company hostage.   

On 25 Oct, the C Company hostages and other UN personnel were released at the Old Air Strip in Elisabethville in exchange for Gendarmerie and Katangese police who had been captured by the UN.   

Best wishes to all our members out there assisting the H.S.E.and pharmacies fight this virus.Also members who are helping out their fellow veterans by making contact with them.We include here members who are assisting in distributing food cloud  medicines and other items to Veterans in need.Thank you for your service and keep safe.



Sixty years ago on 3rd October 1960,  the Defence Force suffered its first death on overseas service when Company Sergeant Felix Grant, B Company, 33rd Infantry Battalion died at the King Albert Hospital, Albertville in the Republic of the Congo on Monday 3rd October 1960 following an operation for appendicitis.  33rd Infantry Battalion lost a total of twelve men, including those killed in the Niemba Ambush six weeks later 8th November 1960.  

Felix Grant was 43 years of age when he died, and his home unit was the 12th Infantry Battalion.  He was buried at St Patrick’s cemetery Clonmel on 26th October 1960.  He was born in Ballynagross, near Downpatrick, County Down in 1917 and he enlisted in the Defence Forces in Limerick in 1940.  He served for a short time in Ballincollig and then moved to Clonmel.  He married Catherine Lillis in Clonmel in 1945 and they had three children, two boys (twins) and a girl.  The two boys, Tony and Billy later enlisted at the Army Apprentice School and served for some years in the Defence Forces.  Tony completed three tours of duty in Cyprus and one tour in the Sinai with UNEF 11.  He is a member of Post 24 in Clonmel.

80322 Company-Sergeant Felix Grant was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal with  Merit and the citation reads as follows:                                                                                                For distinguished service with the United Nations Force in the Republic of the Congo, for devotion to duty and zeal of a high order. He continued to discharge his duties in an exemplary and devoted manner although suffering from an illness which eventually caused his death.

John Wade is Secretary of IUNVA Post 2 here in Kerry. Post 2 of the Irish United Nations Veterans Association were proud to have John, who hails from the Creggan Estate in Derry but is resident in Listowel, travel to attend the funeral of John Hume in his hometown.

John met with Pat Hume and the grieving family and offered them the sincere condolences of the Irish United Nations Veterans Association.

He told Pat - "The Irish United Nations Veterans Association offer you our sincerest condolences. We were Peacekeepers and John was a Peacemaker".

This was gratefully acknowledged by Mrs. Hume who was a great strength behind John Hume's determination to bring peace to the island despite the verbal snipers.

When the hearse and family cars turned out from St. Eugene's Cathedral to bring John on his final journey to the City Cemetery, John Wade stood on the roadside of Creggan Hill and saluted the passing hearse, and family cars, whilst all around people loudly applauded.














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