A plaque commemorating the Irish commander of Irish UN peacekeeping troops who fought at the siege of Jadotville in the Congo was unveiled in Co Kerry today by former Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
The late Colonel Pat Quinlan from Caherdaniel, Co Kerry, was Commandant of ‘A’ Company of the 35th Infantry Battalion (approx 160 men), in September 1961 when he and his men came under attack from 3,500 mercenaries and rebels at Jadotville in the state of Katanga in the Congo.
The Congo peacekeeping operation was the first UN deployment for Irish peacekeepers and they were poorly equipped. The Company at Jadotville possessed only light weapons but was faced by a much larger force of French and Belgian mercenaries and soldiers of the breakaway province of Katanga. with both heavy weapons and air support. Jadotville was cut off and a UN relief force was unable to break through. Eventually the Company surrendered when their ammunition was exhausted. Although a number of troops were injured none were killed and the few survivors at the ceremony today expressed admiration for the way Commandant Quinlan organised the defence.
A Company personnel subsequently spent many weeks as prisoners of the Katangese.
The epic battle of Jadotville and the skill of Cmdt Quinlan was never properly acknowledged until a book about the events was turned into a film which was released last year.
Report here from RTE:
Image: Irish UN peacekeepers deployed near Elizabethville, Congo – early 1960s
pp Celtic League