WWII HERO JACK CEL­E­BRATES 100TH BIRTH­DAY

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - NEWS -

AKERRYMAN who sur­vived the hor­rors of World War II, in­clud­ing the Blitz and land­ing in the Nor­mandy beaches to play his part in the Lib­er­a­tion of France, is this week re­flect­ing on his life as he cel­e­brates his 100th birth­day with his fam­ily in County Cork.

Jack Ma­hony, orig­i­nally from La­harn near Faha but res­i­dent for the past 40 years or so at Ballinto­tis near Mi­dle­ton in east Cork, was joined on Tues­day by his son, Ger­ald, and other fam­ily mem­bers as he cel­e­brated the spe­cial day.

“Dad has had an amaz­ing life – he was al­ways very sup­port­ive and we all love him very much. We are very proud of him and hope for the best for the fu­ture,” said Ger­ald as he pre­pared to cel­e­brate his fa­ther’s birth­day at Leam­lara Care Cen­tre in east Cork, where Mr Ma­hony is be­ing cared for.

Ac­cord­ing to Ger­ald, his fa­ther was de­lighted to re­ceive a let­ter from Pres­i­dent Michael D Hig­gins on Tues­day morn­ing, wish­ing him well on his birth­day along with the Cen­te­nar­ian’s Bounty which the pres­i­dent gives to ev­ery cit­i­zen who reaches 100.

Born on 3 April, 1918, Jack grew up on a small dairy farm at La­harn, but with seven chil­dren in the fam­ily, it was dif­fi­cult for all of them to make a liv­ing from farm­ing and, in early 1936, at the age of 17, he caught a train from Kil­lar­ney to Cork and on to Ross­lare to catch a ferry to Wales.

Like gen­er­a­tions of Ir­ish be­fore him, Jack made his way to Lon­don where he worked for a few years for a firm which did con­tract work at the Guin­ness Brew­ery at Park Royal, but in 1938, he joined the Lon­don Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice and was with the force when war broke out in Septem­ber 1939.

At the time, those serv­ing with the LMP were ex­empted from con­scrip­tion but that changed in 1942 – shortly after he and his wife, Mary, had their first child, Ger­ald - and Jack was given the op­tion of re­turn­ing to Ire­land with his fam­ily or stay­ing in the UK and be­ing con­scripted.

Jack sent Mary and Ger­ald back to Mary’s fam­ily in Gal­way after their home in Ley­ton was bombed dur­ing the Blitz but he de­cided to sign up as he felt that some­thing had to be done to stop the Nazis who had no com­punc­tion about bomb­ing and killing civil­ians in Lon­don.

‘I think there was a need to do what we could, be­cause they bombed my own bloody flat...They were hit­ting me in my own house... I was aware of the risks but thou­sands of oth­ers had done the same...it ap­peared the right thing to do...I had no bones about that.’

‘I could see the pic­ture of what was al­most cer­tain to hap­pen...it was some­thing that I had to do...lots of peo­ple, lots of my friends vol­un­teered...a lot of peo­ple went off to the Air Forces es­pe­cially...(the Blitz) turned more peo­ple against Hitler than ever,” he told TDC his­to­rian, Dr Joseph Quinn.

Jack trained in York­shire be­fore be­ing sent to the Royal Ar­moured Corps where he trained as a tank driver be­fore be­ing as­signed to an air­borne unit but when he saw the flim­si­ness of the glid­ers in which they would be sent, he asked for a trans­fer. He was sent to a hold­ing unit in the south of Eng­land to re­place those in­jured or killed in the D-Day land­ings and a few days after D-day he was sent over to Nor­mandy where he met a Scot­tish friend from the LMP on the beaches and was as­signed to serve with the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders.

Land­ing on Gold Beach on June 6th 1944, Jack fought with the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders as they lib­er­ated Caen and fought their way up into Bel­gium and Hol­land where just out­side the city of Venlo. He was cap­tured by the Ger­mans in late au­tumn 1944 and ended up in a POW camp.

Freed from Luck­en­wald POW Camp near Berlin when it was lib­er­ated by Soviet sol­diers in 1945, Jack, who had been twice wounded in Nor­mandy, es­caped with a num­ber of other in­mates and man­aged to make their way by bike to the Elbe where they met up with US troops.

“When we saw the Amer­i­can sol­diers (on the other side of the Elbe), we knew we were safe,” said Jack as he re­called how, after de­mo­bil­i­sa­tion back in the UK, he re­joined the LMP with whom he had a dis­tin­guished ca­reer as a de­tec­tive in the Fly­ing Squad un­til his re­tire­ment in the 1973.

Hon­oured in 2015 by France when First Coun­sel­lor from the French Em­bassy, Phillipe Ray pre­sented him with the Le­gion d’Hon­neur for his role in the Lib­er­a­tion of France, Jack sat proudly, flanked by his fam­ily, as Mr Ray praised him for his courage and brav­ery.

“Your story, Jack is a tes­ti­mony to the courage of all men and women who refuse to give up and who up­hold the prin­ci­ples they live by...in hon­our­ing you, we hon­our the brav­ery of all Ir­ish men and women who have stood for lib­erty, equal­ity and fra­ter­nity along­side France and con­tinue to do so.”

Ir­ish vet­eran John O’Ma­hony, who was named Che­va­lier de la Le­gion d’Hon­neur for ex­cel­lent civil merit or mil­i­tary con­duct has turned 100. John was im­pris­oned at sev­eral POW camps.

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