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Friday, 8 November 2013

 

8 November 1960:  The Niemba Ambush in the Congo on this day. An eleven-man Irish patrol under Lt Kevin Gleeson was ambushed by Baluba tribesmen at a river crossing near the village of Niemba, in the Congo. The patrol was surrounded by up to 100 African warriors who attacked them with primitive weapons and killed all but two of their number. Though well armed with 2 Bren guns, 4 Gustaf sub-machine guns and 4 rifles it seems the men were taken unawares and unable to organise any effective resistance before been overcome. One of the party, the Medical Officer, carried no weapon at all. Nor did they have any wireless equipment to which to signal their plight. Their opponents carried bows and arrows, spears, panga knives and clubs. The action had commenced at approximately 3 p.m. local time. The first search party left Albertville at 10.30 p.m., arrived at Niemba at 3.45 a.m. and was on the scene of the ambush about first light on 9 November. The remains of eight of the victims were found almost immediately but those of Trooper Anthony Browne could not be located. An intensive search for him proved fruitless and he was officially posted "missing - presumed dead". It was not until a year later almost to the date that Trooper Brown's body was found. Trooper Brown had survived the ambush and wandered in the jungle until he came upon some Baluba women who gave him up to a party of Baluba men, who murdered him.

Two of the Platoon survived to tell the story of the ambush. They were Troopers Thomas Kenny and Private Joe Fitzpatrick.
 
Fitzpatrick recalled that:
 
The air was suddenly black with a shower of arrows, and the Buluba let out blood-curdling yells that sounded like a war cry and rushed down the road like madmen, jumping in the air and waving their weapons.

The names of the men who were ambushed were:
 
KIA:

Lt Kevin Gleeson (Co)
Sgt Hugh Gaynor
Cpl. Liam Duggan
Pte.Matthew Farrell (Unarmed Medic)
Pte Gerard Kileen
Cpl. Peter Kelly, Driver
Tpr Thomas Fellell
 Pte. Michael McGuinn

Murdered on Capture:

Tpr Anthony Browne

Survived:
Pte Joseph Fitzpatrick
Pte Thomas Kenny


The death of nine Irish soldiers on the Irish Army’s first large scale overseas mission shocked the Nation when word of this terrible massacre reached home. Many recalled the hope and pride that had been felt by the Irish People when the soldiers had departed from Ireland just a few short months beforehand.

 The Memorial Cross (above) was erected by their comrades at the place of the ambush to commemorate their sacrifice in the service of the United Nations.