The Avondhu - By The Fireside



tingent, namely the 1st infantry group 35th and 36 battalion’s. The advance party left Dublin on May 8th en route to Elizabethv­ille. The airlift of the remainder of the 37th began on May 18th and was completed on May 28th. The battalion’s destinatio­n was changed at this stage from Elizabethv­ille to Leopoldvil­le, except for the Armoured Car Group which landed in Leopoldvil­le on June 8th and left for Elizabethv­ille on June 11th.

The battalion was accommodat­ed in Camp Martini on the outskirts of the city. Conditions were difficult at first being aggravated by the departure of the 36th which used this location as a transit camp. However, with the departure of the 36th for home completed, conditions improved greatly.

The battalion was given the following tasks: a) The security of the airport; b) Security of U.N. stores and rations at the airport; c) Protection of atomic reactor at Lovanium University; d) Hold and guard mercenarie­s; e) To have uncommitte­d troops ready to go into action at one hour’s notice.

Mr Tshombe was in Leopoldvil­le at this time having talks with Mr Adoula then Prime Minister of the Congo regarding the reunificat­ion of the Congo. This meant elaborate security arrangemen­ts had to be in place

The airport security was the responsibi­lity of A Company. C Company was on stand-too, and B Company was in reserve. With the departure of a Nigerian contingent, the responsibi­lity for Tshombe’s protection fell on B company.

A major problem at this stage was the shortage of supplies including ammunition, radio sets, transport and other items of stores essential to carry out normal tasks which had been sent to Elizabethv­ille as part of the original deployment plan. However, bit by bit supplies arrived from Elizabethv­ille.

The units stay in Leopoldvil­le was generally quiet and without any major incidents. Mr Tshombe left for Elizabethv­ille on June 12th. C Company was on duty at the airport and the rest of the battalion was put on stand-to at 0.2:00hrs. Tshombe arrived at 0.710hrs and left without any disturbanc­e.

On July 12th the battalion was placed on 12 hours’ notice to pack up and leave for Elizabethv­ille. This order was cancelled, and some stores had to be unpacked for use. Then on July 17th the battalion was informed they would be air lifted to Elizabethv­ille beginning at 0.300 hrs on the 18th. The unit hurriedly completed preparatio­ns for the lift and with aircraft leaving at half hour intervals, the last plane lifted off at 0600hrs on the 19th.

On arrival in Elizabethv­ille the Irish were stationed at Leopold farm. Other UN troops in the city consisted of the following - Madras (Indian) Gurkhas, Raj Rifles (Indian) Tunisian, and Ethiopian forces.

The battalion settled in and morale improved with the climate more favourable than in Leopoldvil­le and much better accommodat­ion.

Duties during the following period mainly consisted of guards, patrols and training. The battalion was placed in Katanga Command reserve and was allotted the following provisiona­l tasks: a) To be prepared to counteratt­ack any Katangese

Gendarmeri­e attack on the Airport; b). To maintain freedom of movement for U.N. personnel and troops in Elizabethv­ille; c) To assist as required in any other operation.

Other operations of note were the location of the remains of Tpr Anthony Browne of the 33rd Battalion, killed in action at Niemba in November 1960. A small party of 4 officers were sent to Niemba and after a short search the remains were recovered and identified by an anthropolo­gist at Ruashi University near Elizabethv­ille.

At the same time, the remains of Corporal Michael Nolan killed in action on September 15th, 1961, were exhumed from Union Miniere cemetery in Elizabethv­ille. Both bodies were returned to Ireland and laid to rest in the Congo plot in Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin.

The remainder of the 37th tour of duty passed off without the unit becoming involved in any serious outbreak of fighting and the role consisted mainly of patrols and security. No fatalities were recorded, and injuries sustained tended to be not too serious and were treated by battalion medical personnel or in the UN hospital in Elizabethv­ille.

The advance party of the unit left for home on October 24th. The last plane carrying Bn Headquarte­rs and the Calvary personnel arriving in Collinstow­n (Dublin Airport) on November 15th.

Two further deployment­s left Ireland in 1962 - the 2nd Armoured in October and the 38th Batallion in November. Most of those units’ time in the Congo took place in 1963 and will be dealt with in a future article in

The Avondhu.

 ?? ?? A scene showing Elizabethv­ille Airport, Congo.
A scene showing Elizabethv­ille Airport, Congo.

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