On Thursday 28th February 2019, at a ceremony at the Irish Embassy in London, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett DSM, Chief of Staff Defence Forces presented the UN Peacekeepers Medal and the Jadotville Medal to Sean Tiernan, a London based Irish Veteran. Sean served as a seventeen and a half year old Corporal in the Congo in 1961.
The ceremony was attended by Sean’s wife Margaret, His Excellence Adrian O’Neill, the Irish Ambassador to the U.K. Ruaidhri Dowling First Secretary at the Embassy. Sally Mulready and Margaret Geiger from the Irish Elderly Advice Network. Three representatives from Irish United Nations Veterans Association, Sean’s neighbours and friends from the Irish Centre in Camden London.
Sean was from Killrooskey Co. Roscommon, he cycled to Renmore Barracks Galway to enlist in 1st Infantry Battalion. He deployed to the Congo in 1961 with A Company 36 Infantry Battalion. His Company Commander was the Late Commandant Pat Quinlan and his Platoon Commander was Lieutenant Tom Quinlan. A Company with two armoured cars from the armoured car group distinguished themselves in fighting off attacks from a much larger, heavily armed force from 13th to 18th December 1961 at the siege of Jadotville. The attacking Katangese forces were supported from the air by a Fouga Magister jet fighter. Only five Irish soldiers were wounded during the fighting. A Company was 120 kilometres away from the rest of their Battalion stationed in Elizabethville and 200 kilometres from the other Irish unit 1 Infantry Group at Kamina air base. As they were completely surrounded in a very isolated vulnerable position and the route to Elizabethville was in Katangese hands at Lufria Bridge, attempts to reinforce or extract the Company were unsuccessful, eventually a ceasefire was agreed. The Jadotville garrison were then held prisoner until 24th October 1961, when they were released in a prisoner exchange.
The Chief of Staff stated that Sean was a man or courage, a soldier who was dedicated to the service of his country and he was delighted to present the medals on behalf of Paul Keogh TD Minister of State with responsibility for Defence. He paid tribute to the heroism and fortitude of those who fought at Jadotville under the most hazardous conditions.
Sean made a heartfelt address and he started by dedicating the medals to his Company Commander the late Colonel Pat Quinlan “I owe my life him, he saved all our lives at Jadotville”. He visited Colonel Quinlan in Athlone 2 years before he passed away in 1997. Sean spoke with immense pride about his comrades in Jadotville, the outstanding leadership of the officers and non commissioned officers and how so many have now passed away. He concluded by thanking the Chief of Staff , the Ambassador and his staff, the Personal support Services, Irish United Nations Veterans Association and all involved in arranging the ceremony.
Over a cup of tea Sean recalled the great sadness of all personnel in the Battalion at the death of their comrades Trooper Eddie Gaffney, Trooper Pat Mullins and Corporal Michael Nolan who were killed in two separate ambushes in Elizabethville. He said he still thinks of the anguish of the Mullins family as the remains of the young soldier were never found. He said he will cherish the medals and he will hold the memories of his comrades in his heart forever.
In September 2017 United Nations Veterans Association organised a ceremony in Claremorris Co. Mayo when personalised commemorative plaques were presented to the survivors and next of kin for their heroism and action at Jadotville. Sean travelled from UK to receive his. He has been in contact with us through the Irish Elderly Advice Network in the UK.