By PRO IUNVA
Sixty years ago, on 9 May 1962, Capt Ronald McCann died from injuries suffered in a road traffic accident while he was serving with Opération des Nations Unies au Congo (ONUC) in the Congo. He was the twenty fourth of twenty eight members of the DF to die during Ireland’s first armed UN mission.
Capt Ronald McCann (44) joined the DF during the Emergency as a Pte and after he was commissioned, he served in Athlone as an Inf Corps officer. He was serving as Adjt CTD (W) in Athlone when he deployed to the Congo as a Staff Officer in the Force HQ in Dec 1961. He was serving in the Port of Matadi and he was due to complete his tour of duty on 15 Jun 1962. Matadi was the major seaport in the Congo and it was about one hundred miles from the capital Leopoldville down the Congo River. The port was a key installation for transporting supplies for ONUC and from famine relief in the Congo.
On 8 May 1962 he was critically injured while he was driving in Matadi when a tyre burst and his vehicle overturned. He was taken to the ONUC Hospital in Leopoldville where he died from his injuries on the following day Wednesday 9 May 1962.
His body was repatriated with the homecoming advance party of 36 Inf Bn on Saturday 12 May following a military ceremony at Ndjilli Airport.
On 15 May, the coffin was taken from St Bricins Military Hospital to the Garrison Church Arbour Hill. On Wednesday 16 May, following Requiem Mass at 1000 hours celebrated by the Acting HCF Very Reverent P Duffy, he was laid to rest at the Congo Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery. The Minister for Defence, Gerald Bartley represented the government. Lt Gen Sean MacEoin COS, Maj Gen Sean Collins Powell AG, Col J McPeake QMG, Col R Callinan ACOS, Col JP McNally OC E Comd, Col J Emphy OC W Comd, Col Donal McCormack and Col James Quinn led senior DF personnel at the funeral. Comdt B Houlihan represented the President and Comdt Jack O’Brien ADC represented the Taoiseach. Capt T Gleeson was OIC pallbearers and Lt Kevin Knightley was OIC of the 2 Mot Sqn firing party.
Capt McCann lived with his wife, Una and their three children Nuala (10), Richard (6) and Deirdre (3) at Auburn Terrace in Athlone. Mrs Una McCann’s father was an Old IRA and Free State Army Veteran, Sgt Murt Whelan who died in the General Military Hospital, the Curragh Camp in 1944.
Capt McCann’s son, Comdt Richard McCann (Retd), joined the DF as a Cadet in 1974 and he was commissioned in Oct 1975. He served in the Corps of Engineers and he completed two tours of duty in UNIFIL. Richard’s son (Ronald’s grandson) Comdt Donal McCann joined the DF as a Cadet in Sep 2003 and he was commissioned in Jul 2005 and is currently serving in 1 Bde Engr Gp, he completed two tours of duty with UNIFIL. Donal is the fourth generation to serve in the DF.
We remember Ronald McCann on the 60th anniversary of his death and the loss to his family, his comrades and the DF.
Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a anam dhílis
Capt Ronald McCann and his wife Una on their wedding day. Photo credit Comdt Richard McCann private collection.