62nd Anniversary of the Niemba Ambush
Today the annual ceremony to mark the 62nd Anniversary of the Niemba Ambush took place in Cathal Brugha Barracks.
Cormac Kirwan, ONE CEO welcomed all those in attendance. Cormac especially welcomed the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Niemba. Cormac thanked Lt Col Fox, OC 7 Inf Bn and HCF Pascal Hanrahan for their outstanding support.
The 33 Inf Bn was dispatched on 16th August 1960 to the Congo, this was following a further UN request for more troops. 33 Inf Bn was located in different parts of Albertville, except for A Coy, which was located in Kamina.
Niemba is a small village in the province of Katanga. At the beginning of November there were some concerns surrounding the number of roadblocks that the 33 Inf Bn were finding around Niemba. It was decided to mount two simultaneous patrols to clear one of the roads. Throughout 7th Nov they cleared numerous roadblocks. After arriving at a damaged bridge in Niemba, it was clear that the repair would take hours. It was decided that Lt Kevin Gleeson’s patrol would do the same route the following day, 8th November 1960.
Lt Kevin Gleeson (Terenure) commanded the patrol from No 2 Platoon, A Coy, 33 Inf Bn. Lt Gleeson was assisted by Sgt Hugh Gaynor (Leixlip), and his NCOs Cpl Peter Kelly (Templeogue), and Cpl Liam Dougan (Cabra). The rest of the patrol was made up of Pte Matthew Farrell (Swords), Tpr Thomas Fennell (Donnycarney), Tpr Anthony Browne MMG (Rialto), Pte Michael McGuinn (Blackhorse Ave), Pte Gerard Killeen (Queen St.), Pte Joseph Fitzpatrick (Charlemont St.) and Pte Thomas Kenny (Ballyfermot).
On 8th November 1960, Lt Kevin Gleeson commanded an 11-man patrol, and later that day, 9 of them were killed in action in the cause of peace in an engagement with Baluba tribesmen. Pte Joseph Fitzpatrick and Pte Thomas Kenny both survived the attack.
The Niemba Ambush was, and still remains, the greatest loss of life overseas in a single incident for the Irish Defence Forces.
We also remember Private Patrick H Davis, 2 Field Engineer Company – who lost his life on 10th November 1960 in a follow-up operation. He was laid to rest in Glasnevin Cemetery with eight of his comrades from the ambush following a State Funeral on 22nd November 1960. Mick Colton, who joins us today, accompanied the fallen on that journey from the Congo to Ireland.
Wreaths were laid by the following, Cllr Caroline Conroy, the Lord Mayor of Dublin; Assistant Chief of Staff Brig-Gen Rossa Mulcahy on behalf of the Defence Forces; Ms Jacqui McCrum, Secretary-General, Dept of Defence on behalf of the Dept of Defence; National President of ONE Mr Diarmuid Higgins on behalf of ONE; Brig Gen Shay Ó Giolán (Retd), President of ARCO, Michael Colton, Chairman IUNVA; Capt Charlie O’Rourke (Retd), from the 33 Inf Bn; Brian Coughlan Vice President of RACO; Mark Keane, President of PDFORRA; Comdt (AR) Eugene Gargan, President of RDFRA, Mr Ken Crawford, Royal British Legion; Conor Galvin, Royal Naval Association; Chief Superintendent Peter Duff, on behalf of An Garda Síochána, member of our Oireachtas Senator Gerard Craughwell and Mr Larry Walsh, Chairperson of the Leopardstown Park Hospital Trust. The families and guests present were invited to lay a wreath along with other veterans’ associations.
This was followed by a one-minute’s silence, and then by ‘Last Post’ and ‘Reveille’ played by members of the Army School of Music. The National Anthem played by a military bagpiper concluded the event.
“Cuimhnímis – Remember Those Who Served”
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