Last Saturday the surviving Members, and next of kin, of the ‘A’ Company, 35th Infantry Battalion of the Defence Forces who served at the Siege of Jadotville were presented with a Unit Citation for bravery.
Picture Credit: Defence Forces
The Siege of Jadotville took place in the Congo in September 1961 and lasted six days. The ‘A’ Company, of the Irish 35th Infantry Battalion representing the UN held off a 3,000 strong Katangese force, led by British, Belgian and French mercenaries. With supplies running out the Irish eventually surrendered and were subsequently held as “Prisoners of War” for over a month. Remarkably there were no fatalities just a small number of injuries the Irish side. The opposition suffered 300 deaths and in the region of 1,000 injuries.
The leader of the Irish / UN Force Commandant Pat Quinlan was cited for a Medal by is UN superior and he also cited a number of troops for the Military Medal for Gallantry (MMG), Ireland’s highest award for military valour. For reasons unknown the actions of the ‘A’ Company, of the Irish 35th Infantry Battalion were never formally recognised until now. In 2005 a Defence Forces inquiry cleared Quinlan and ‘A’ Company of allegations of soldierly misconduct. A commemorative stone recognising their bravery was erected in the grounds of Custume Barracks in 2005.
A new movie, entitled the The Siege of Jadotville is in selected Cinemas now and will be available on Netflix over the coming days. Jamie Dornan plays the role of Commandant Pat Quinlan.
Saturday’s event marked the first time that a unit citation had ever been awarded within the Defence Forces. The Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe TD, presented copies of the citation and wreaths were laid in remembrance of the deceased members of the company. Among those honoured were six Roscommon soldiers including Elphin native Michael Tighe and Boyle man George Tiernan (RIP).
Senator Frank Feighan, who attended the ceremony, said it was a great source of pride to be among the large attendance at Custume Barracks in Athlone last Saturday. “I was delighted to see a number of Roscommon men who were among that courageous group of soldiers honoured last Saturday. It was wonderful to see the Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe, present a Unit Citation to the Company at Custume Barracks in recognition of their bravery and heroism.
“Unfortunately, the bravery of these Irish man was never fully recognised until last Saturday’s event and the emotion was very palpable among former soldiers and the families as the long wait for recognition was finally over” added Frank Feighan.