By PRO IUNVA
This article covers the death of Cpl John Geoghegan B Coy 36 Inf Bn on 28 Dec 1961, he was the last member of the unit to die in 1961.
On 24 Dec 1961 at approximately 1600 ours Cpl John Geoghegan (41) and a Pte were on guard duty at Post No 1 in B Coy lines close to the Tunnel in Elisabethville. Suddenly, a number of people rushed across the road from the area of the adjacent Compagnie du Chemin de fer du Bas-Congo au Katanga (BCK) Railway Company Camp. The camp was on Luxembourg Ave and one of the the crowd knocked over the Pte, he fell to the ground and one round was discharged from his Gustaf SMG wounding Cpl Geoghegan in the stomach. This was not an attack or an attempt to disarm the guard. The Pte said that the cocking stud caught in his clothing and a shot was fired. Cpl Geoghegan was evacuated to the UN Hospital in Elisabethville where he was operated on for a torn intestine. The Italian surgeon, who carried out the operation, said it would be six days before it would be possible to say if the operation was a success. On 27 Dec some improvement was noted but on Thursday 28 Dec his condition deteriorated and he died at 1443 hours. His remains were transferred to the UN Hospital in Leopoldville on 29 Dec.
On 6 Jan 1962, his remains were removed to N’djili Airport and they were flown home by North Star flight. The ceremony at the airport included an Irish bearer party of six from HQ ONUC, four buglers from the Queen’s Own Nigerian Regt, an escort Party from the ONUC Supply Dep consisting of one officer and twelve enlisted personnel, MP and Movement Control. A wreath was laid on behalf of the Force Commander. The buglers sounded Last Post and Reveille before the casket was loaded on the aircraft.
His funeral was held in Athea, Co Limerick and he was buried in Templeathea Cemetery.
John Geoghegan was a native of Rooskagh East, Athea, County Limerick and enlisted in the Defence Forces during the Emergency in 1940, he was demobilised in 1944 and he re-joined in 1946. He was survived by his wife Margaret, seven children, Patrick (16), Mary (12), Breda (10), Ettie (9), Anne (8), John (3) and Leo (9 Months). His parent unit was 15 Inf Bn FCA. His comrades in F Coy 15 Inf Bn erected a tombstone at the family plot.
Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a anam dhílis.
Photo Credit: Geoghegan family private collection.