60th Anniversary of Niemba Ambush
Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Niemba Ambush; in which nine Irish peacekeepers serving in the Congo were killed.
Photographs: Defence Forces Press Office
On 27 July 1960, Ireland deployed the 32nd Infantry Battalion to support peacekeeping operations with the United Nations Operation in the Congo (Opération des Nations Unies au Congo, ONUC). The 33rd Infantry Battalion soon followed boarding U.S. Air Force Globemasters in Casement Aerodrome on 18 August.
Niemba is a small town in Katanga, a province in south-east Congo. Following secession its local population of Luba, or Baluba people, did not support the secessionists. In October the area was attacked by Katangese gendarmes and European mercenaries who mascaraed many of the local Baluba people. Irish troops were sent to secure and stablise the area. Many of the villages were deserted. A search of the area identified a damaged bridge over the Luweyeye River. On 8 November an eleven man patrol from the 33rd Infantry Battalion ONUC, under Lt Kevin Gleason, was sent to secure the bridge. The patrol was stopped by a road. Dismounting they were approached by some 100 Lubas. Lt Gleason and Sgt Hugh Gaynor attempted to talk to the group peacefully, but were attacked. The patrol was forced to take cover. However, due to sheer numbers the Irish peacekeepers were overrun.
The fallen peacekeepers:
Lt Kevin Gleeson (30)
Sgt Hugh Gaynor (29)
Cpl Peter Kelly (25)
Cpl Liam Dougan (34)
Pte Matthew Farrell (22)
Tpr Thomas Fennell (18)
Tpr Anthony Browne MMG (20)
Pte Michael McGuinn (21)
Pte Gerard Killeen (27)
The Defence Forces, along with veterans, paid their respects to the their fallen comrades at a commemoration yesterday at the memorial garden in Cathal Brugha Barracks, Rathmines.
Wreaths were laid by:
CQMS (Retd) Michael Colton (President Post 1, IUNVA), a member of the 33rd Infantry Battalion and part of the escort party who brought their fallen comrades home to Ireland.
Brig Gen (Retd) Colm Campbell (Chairman of the Board of Directors, ONE)
General Officer Commanding 2nd Brigade, Brig Gen Tony Cudmore
To mark the anniversary the Irish Defence Forces Military Archives have created an online exhibition here.