By PRO IUNVA
This article recalls the death on 13 Sep 1961 of Tpr Edward (Eddie) Gaffney (22), C Coy, 35 Inf Bn ONUC in Elisabethville, capital of the breakaway province of Katanga in the Republic of the Congo. This was the first day of a weeklong offensive operation in Katanga Province – Operation Morthor.
At 1215 hours a patrol of nine personnel under the command of Sgt George Shaughnessy (parent unit 4 Mot Sqn) travelled in two trucks bringing ammunition and other supplies from the Kasenga Tunnel to the Bde Res at Albert Park. Tpr Gaffney was driving the first vehicle on Churchill Avenue and he was killed instantly by machine gun fire from a Gendarmerie M8 Staghound armoured car that was crewed by mercenaries. The M8 was armed with a 37 mm cannon and a coaxially mounted .30 inch (7.62 mm) Browning machine gun. Another member of the patrol, Pte Philip Ffrench (18) from Duncormack, Co Wexford, parent unit Mil Col, suffered gunshot wounds to his arm. The gendarmerie or other persons then set the truck on fire. Tpr Gaffney was listed as “missing, presumed dead” and it took a number of days before his body was recovered.
A guard of honour under Lieut Colm Madigan rendered military honours as the funeral cortege left Bn HQ Camp at Prince Leopold Farm to Elisabethville Airport. Representatives from contingents from India, Pakistan, Sweden, Italy, Greece, Finland paid their respects at a service at the airport. His remains were repatriated on 2 Oct and Requiem Mass was celebrated at the Church of the Sacred Heart Arbour Hill by Fr Cyril Crean HCF. The attendance included Frank Aiken, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Boland Minister for Defence, Col Sean Brennan represented An t Uachtarán, Capt Jack O’Brien represented An Taoiseach, Maj Gen Sean Collins-Powell COS, Col PJ Hally AG, Col James McPeake QMG, Col T O’Carroll Dep QMG, Col RJ Callanan OC E Comd, Col W Donagh OC CTC and Col James Cogan D Cav. He was buried at the Army Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery on 3 Oct 1961.
Tpr Gaffney came from Norristown, Camolin, Co Wexford and his home unit was 1 Armd Car Sqn, Curragh Training Camp. His parents died when he was an infant and he was raised by his grandmother, Mrs E Kinsella and an aunt, Mrs James White. He joined the DF in 1957 and he was on his second tour of UN service having served with HQ Coy 32 Inf Bn in 1960. His grandmother passed away one week before the end of that tour of duty.
He was survived by his uncle, Sean Kinsella, his aunts Mrs Pat Redmond and Mrs James White, cousins Ms Sheila Redmond, Ms Lil Redmond and Mrs Doyle.
On Sunday, 28 Mar 1976, almost fifteen years after Tpr Gaffney’s death, the community in Camolin hosted a special ceremony in his honour. Many of his comrades from 35 Inf Bn and the Cav Corps attended the ceremony. Col Hugh McNamee, OC 6 Bde, who had been OC 35 Inf Bn, unveiled a plaque in honour of Tpr Gaffney, the parish priest, Fr M Doyle blessed the plaque. Mass was celebrated by Fr Phelim McCabe HCF, Fr Ronald Neville and Fr I Howell, St Peter’s College, Wexford who went to school with Tpr Gaffney. A Guard of Honour from 1 Armd Car Sqn under Lieut Eamonn Smyth rendered honours.
I measc na naomh go raibh sé.