By PRO IUNVA
In this article we remember the killing of two members of Armd Car Gp, 35 Inf Bn in Elisabethville in Sep 1961.
At approximately 2045 hours on 14 Sep 1961, a four-vehicle patrol departed from the Bn HQ Camp at Prince Leopold Farm. The patrol commander was Comdt Patrick Cahalane, Gp Comd Armd Car Gp. The order of march was: a Ford armoured car leading, followed by a Willys Jeep with an 84 Anti-tank team, followed by a bus with an infantry section and a turretless Ford at the rear. The mission of the patrol was to resupply detachments of the battalion dispersed throughout the city, to check on the guard at the Radio College and the guard at the Factory and to locate and recover the body of Tpr Gaffney who had been killed in an ambush on the previous day. As they approached the Radio College, the lead Ford armoured car was hit by an anti-armour projectile. The patrol commander was concussed from the blast and Sgt Timothy Carey was wounded while carrying him from the vehicle. Tpr Patrick Mullins and Cpl Michael Nolan were unconscious and unresponsive in the armoured car. The patrol took refuge in buildings adjoining the Radio College and two of them, Capt Frank Whyte and Sgt Peter Dignam volunteered to go for help, they made their way back to Bn HQ on foot.
During the hours of darkness, the lead Ford was started and drove off. On the following morning, Sgt Carey was taken to hospital by priests and he was eventually evacuated to the UN Hospital in Leopoldville by air. The remaining fifteen members of the patrol were surrounded by armed whites in civilian attire and uniformed Gendarmerie and forced to surrender. A patrol was mounted by Bn HQ but they failed to find any trace of the Cahalane patrol.
Tpr Mullins and Cpl Nolan were listed as “missing in action”. The missing armoured car was located several days later on Boulevard Elisabeth by a team led by Capt Art Magennis and there was evidence of a fire fight but there was no sign of the two men. After more than a week, information was received that a body had been buried in a coffin by a nun in a mining company cemetery. A detachment led by the Engineer Officer, Capt Sean Doolan and including Capt Art Magennis, Armd Car Gp and the battalion legal officer, Comdt Tadgh O’Shea dug in the graveyard and Cpl Nolan’s remains were identified by his identity discs.
There was no trace of Tpr Mullins and he is the only fatality from UN service in the Congo whose remains have not been recovered. UN records show that in Oct 1963, his status was changed from “missing” to “killed in action”.
Tpr Mullins was born on 19 Nov 1942 and he came from Boher, Kilbehenny, Co Limerick on the Cork Limerick border. He was the youngest child of Ned and Catherine Mullins and he grew up on the family farm. He had two brothers, Tom and Denis and three sisters, Mary, Peggy and Nelly. He enlisted at Collins Bks Cork on 9 May 1960 and when he completed recruit training he was assigned to 1 Mot Sqn in Fitzgerald Camp in Fermoy.
Cpl Nolan was twenty two years of age and he came from Knockadoo, Colbinstown, Grangecon, Co Wicklow. He enlisted at the Curragh Camp in Apr 1958 and he was assigned to 1 Armd Car Sqn at the end of recruit training.
On Thursday 15 Nov 1962, the remains of Tpr Anthony Browne, who was killed after the Niemba Ambush in Nov 1960 (he was the first recipient of the Military Medal for Gallantry) and Cpl Michael Nolan were repatriated and they were taken from Dublin Airport to the Church of Our Lady Queen of the Holy Rosary, McKee Bks. On 16 Nov, Requiem Mass was celebrated by Very Rev Fr P Duffy HCF, the attendance included President Éamon de Valera, An Taoiseach was represented by his ADC Comdt Jack O’Brien, Gerald Bartley Minister for Defence, Kevin Boland Minister for Social Welfare, Lt Gen Sean MacEoin COS, Maj Gen Sean Collins-Powell AG, Col P Curran QMG, Col PJ McNally OC E Comd, Lt Col Hugh McNamee who had been OC 35 Inf Bn and Lt Col D Ó Broin who had been OC 37 Inf Bn.
The chief mourners for Cpl Nolan were his brothers William, Edward and Anthony, his sisters Angela and Philomena, for Tpr Browne, his parents Mr and Mrs John Browne, his brothers Samuel, John and Paschal, his sisters Annie and Angela.
I measc na naomh go raibh said.