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Irish veterans proud but sadly dwindling

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  • Irish veterans proud but sadly dwindling

    Irish veterans proud but sadly dwindling
    Bernie O'Toole
    7th June 2004
    The Irish Independent

    THEIR GAIT was slower and their steps more measured as they laid wreaths in memory of their fallen colleagues.

    But for veterans like Dubliner Jack Johnstone (81), from Finglas, being present at the 60th anniversary commemorations of the D-Day landings held in Dublin yesterday "meant everything".

    "I'll never forget," said the clearly emotional former Irish Guards man who landed in France a couple of days after the first wave in the largest invasion ever mounted, on June 6, 1944.

    Mr Johnstone was one of the dwindling number of veterans who gathered at the Irish National War Memorial Gardens at Islandbridge for an ecumenical remembrance service for those soldiers who never returned home.

    Another was glider pilot Johnny Wetherall, who was just 19 when he was wounded in the battle for the bridge at Arnhem and who gave some indication of the enormous human toll on the soldiers - including thousands of Irishmen who fought for the Allies.

    "The casualty rate at Arnheim was somewhere in the region of 70pc among the gliders, that's killing, missing, wounded and lost," he recalled.

    Proud to be able to "still tell the tale" the great-grandfather of two who lives in Deansgrange, Co Dublin said that attitudes in Ireland to those who fought in the war have become far more positive in recent years.

    "At one stage it was something you didn't talk about unless you were among people of similar interests, but nowadays the general public have much more interest in these things and want to know what went on and why," he said.

    British Ambassador Stewart Eldon, who was among more than half a dozen foreign ambassadors to lay wreaths at the park's Great Cross, agreed that attitudes have altered to the Irish men and women who joined up with the British forces. "I think it's very good that it's now possible to recognise the contribution that's been made by Irish service to the second world war," he said.

    Father Des Campion told the nearly 300 people gathered that they were there to both commemorate and commend those who lived and died in the service of others. He said that the words "We will remember them" was the ceremony's theme.

    According to Pat Lynch who oversees the archives of the Royal British Legion which organised the ceremony, in conjunction with the Nation War Memorial Committee, there is now huge interest in the wars among Irish children.

    Although the exact number of Irish people who died in WWII is not known, up to 100,000 from both North and South served in the Allied forces, with about 1,000 survivors and their widows now left.

    No Irish Government representative were sent to any of the D-Day commemoration ceremonies in France. A Government spokesman said that the National Commemoration Day was 11 July 11, when the Government remembered the men and women who have fought in all wars.

    President McAleese will arrive in Messines in Belgium today, to commemorate the First World War battle of Messines Ridge, where Irish soldiers fought in 1917.

    The President will also visit the grave of John Condon from Waterford who, at the age of 14, is believed to have been the youngest person to have been killed in the Great War.

  • #2
    Very Good Documentary titled
    "D Day 60 Years On - The Forgotten Heroes"
    about the forgotten Irish Heros
    Well worth a listen!! (you'll nead Real Palyer")
    "Dwight D. Eisenhower: The best morale exists when you never hear the word mentioned. When you hear it it's usually lousy.


    • #3
      In my opinion it is a proud part of Irish history which is beging forgotten after being ignored and unaccepted for many years. In the North Rememberance day has been hijacked by Bigoted scum like paisley and the orange order ,loyalist bands take part in services and Catholics are generaly to intimidated to attend. Poppies on lone forgotten head stones in catholic grave yards are shown little respect .Hopefully these attitudes will change before it is too late !
      "We will remember them ..."


      • #4


        The Day the Sherman met the King Tiger

        Whilst taking part in Operation Goodwood east of Cagny, Lt John Gorman who was a Troop Commander in the 2nd Armoured Battalion was probing forward in his Sherman tank 'Ballyragget' when suddenly he found himself broadside to a German King Tiger , the massive German tank that no-one had yet seen. On seeing the tank he gave the order to fire his 75mm gun at it but it just bounced off the armour of the great German monster. On giving the order to fire again he was informed by the gunner that the gun was jammed and could not fire again. By now the German Tiger Tank was traversing his 88m gun onto the defenceless Sherman tank. On seeing this Lt Gorman ordered his driver L/Cpl James Brown to ram the Tiger Tank. Ballyragget struck the German tank amidships disabling the tank and causing it's crew to bail out. After seeing his own crew to saftey, Lt Gorman commandeered a Firefly, 'Ballymena', whose commander had been killed and continued to fire at the Tiger tank with his new-found 18 pounder gun until it's destruction was complete. For this action Lt John Gorman was awarded the Military Cross and his driver L/Cpl James Brown was awarded the Military Medal.


        I got to see the tank in question recently which is still in working order. The above story leaves out a bit where on of the Irish Guards ran off with the German tank crew mistaking them for his own. When he realised his mistake he stopped, saluted them and ran off in the other direction after his own lads!


        • #5
          No Irish Government representative were sent to any of the D-Day commemoration ceremonies in France. A Government spokesman said that the National Commemoration Day was 11 July 11, when the Government remembered the men and women who have fought in all wars.
          That's more than a little disapointing...pretty piss poor in fact...not like this Govt hasn't participated in commeration services in Europe before....

          I believe the John Gorman mentioned above eventually received a knighthood and was the most senior Catholic within the UUP...(assume it's the same guy).
          "Hello, Good Evening and Bollocks..."

          Roger Mellie


          • #6
            Irish Veterans in Normandy

            I am pleased to report that among the 42 people that Military Heritage Tours brought to Normandy were 4 Irish veterans.
            WE were present at Ranville on June 07 when two memorials to the Irish soldier were unveiled and dedicated by Cork Born Gen Purdon of Stavanger, St Nazare and Colditz fame.
            We will be returning to Normandy in September with at least a dozen more veterans, if you want to be amongst a fine generation of Irish heroes, put your name down now as places are filling rapidly. Don't say you did not know!

            Contact or or


            • #7
              Wasn't President McAleese at Messines? Took the establishment long enough to recognise there were irishmen in the great we have to wait another 20 years before they recognise that irishmen(and women) played a huge part in the second world war also?

              Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.