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From the Archives: A Company 36th Infantry Battalion UNOC

Posted On March 29, 2021 at 7:27 pm by / No Comments

 

We recently received a clip from RTE Archives featuring members of A Company 36 Infantry  Battalion. In sharing this clip with you, we were very conscious of the history of that unit and have attempted to summarise some of it briefly here.

The main body of 36th Infantry Battalion deployed to the Congo in twenty separate chalks from 05 to 24 December 1961. They did so in the full knowledge that hostilities were inevitable. On 07 December 1961, one of the aircraft carrying forty-six members of A Company was hit in the region forty times while in the process of landing in Elisabethville (Lumumbashi) Katanga. Two fuel tanks and one of the engines were damaged but the aircraft landed safely with no injuries.

The following day, 08 December 1961, Corporal Michael Fallon was killed in the Leopold Farm Area by mortar fire from the Gendarmerie and five of his colleagues were injured including Sergeant Patrick Mulcahy. On 12 December 1961 Sergeant Mulcahy was wounded for a second time by mortar fire and died of his injuries on 16 December 1961, the day of the Battle of the Tunnel.

A Company, mostly Dubliners under Commandant Joe Fitzpatrick, was to lead the attack. B Company, under Commandant Bill Callaghan, was to make the secondary attack. C Company, under Commandant Dermot Hurley, was in reserve.

At dawn, in pouring rain on 16 December 1961 the attack was launched. Their enemy were battle-hardened Katangans and South Africans who knew the terrain and were holding prepared positions. For the first few hundred yards the advancing Irishmen came under sporadic machine-gun and mortar fire but as they approached their objective it became more intense, both from the tunnel itself, and from flanking positions in railway carriages.

The Irish assault was driven home against fierce fire. Leading the attack, Platoon Commander Lieutenant  Paddy Riordan was killed as was the Platoon Signaller Private Andrew Wickham from Wexford. Six Katangan soldiers were killed.

Fourteen members of A Company 36th Infantry Battalion were awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, including the aforementioned Sergeant Mulcahy and Lieutenant Riordan, making it the most decorated company in the Defence Forces.

The Sergeant P Mulcahy DSM ONE Branch was named in memory of Sergeant Paddy Mulcahy and is going from strength to strength under the chairmanship of Mick Kinahan.

While downtime and entertainment were scarce commodities, the Irish always had the ability to improvise and A Company 36 Infantry Battalion were no exception as shown in the clip below from RTE Archives. The accordion player is identified by RTÉ.

Can you help identify the others participants in the clip?

 

May all of those who gave their lives and those who have since passed away Rest In Peace.

 

https://www.rte.ie/archives/2013/0716/462715-irish-troops-in-the-congo-1962/

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