During World War II (1939-1945) 156,000 British, US and Canadian forces invaded the coast of Normandy, in Northern France. The D – Day landings, codenamed Operation Overlord, began the invasion of Nazi occupied Europe. The fighting continued until the end of August the same year. It is accepted that the invasion, one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history, broke the control of Nazi Germany and brought an end to war.
Words: Gerry Cody
Photos: jbsphotos kilkenny
Poignantly, on June 6th, 2021 members of the ‘Kilkenny Great War Memorial Committee’, gathered at MacDonagh Railway Station to honour and remember the Kilkenny men and women who perished in World War II.
Although Covid restrictions limited numbers, nonetheless, the hour- long ceremony was informative and engaging. Above all, it was a dignified remembrance of those that lost their lives during the conflict.
Proceedings began at 16.00 hours with Master of Ceremonies, John Joe Cullen reciting lines from Orla Parkinson’s poem ‘Armistice Day’.
Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, and acting Bishop of Ossory, Denis Nulty joined the Right Rev Michael Burrows, Bishop of Cashel, who read the opening prayers and asked all present to “remember the fallen and their families.”
Both men took turns with readings and prayers that included Prayers of Intercession, a scripture reading from Ephesians-chapter 6, and The Lord’s Prayer, recited in Irish.
Bishop Nulty declared, “as a nation we will be forever in the debt of those brave soldiers who died at war”. He finished by quoting John Edmonds famous epitaph in the Kohima war cemetery:
“When you go home tell them of us, and say,
For your tomorrow – We gave our Today.”
PRAISE AND THANKS FROM COUNCIL CATHAOIRLEACH
Caithaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council, Andrew McGuinness praised the endeavours of The War Memorial Committee and said the city was proud of the World War II project, the WW I memorial at the Peace Park and the monument to Thomas Woodgate outside the Court House.
“These memorials acknowledge not only an important part of our history, they are also very important to the families of our war dead”, said Mr McGuinness. The Cathaoirleach concluded by thanking the organising committee for their work in researching and recording the war dead, thus ensuring their memory will last forever.
LEGION REPRESENTATIVE LAUDS GREATER UNDERSTANING
The Chairman of the Royal British Legion (Republic of Ireland Division), Mr Brian Duffy outlined the role of the British Legion including the extraordinary legacy of caring for survivors of World Wars and for their families. Mr Duffy recognised that in recent times, a richer understanding of the significant contributions of Irish men and women in both World Wars has grown within Ireland. Mr Duffy continued, “In some places, this has, understandably, led to the desire to memorialise those from their county, and none more so than in Kilkenny. Today, a special group of Kilkenny’s sons and daughters are resurrected from obscurity –citizen soldiers of the ‘Greatest Generation’ who risked everything and eventually gave all in the necessary struggle against Fascism.”
WE HONOUR KILKENNY MEN AND WOMEN
The Chairman of the Great War Committee, Donal Croghan paid a heartfelt thanks to all involved with the project. He had special words of praise for the dedicated committee members responsible for ensuring the project was successfully completed. Donal dedicated “this lasting tribute to the sixty- four Kilkenny people that, more than seventy- five years ago, made the ultimate sacrifice”.
In conclusion, Mr Croghan paid tribute to the men and women who served with the Allied Force. “We owe our deepest gratitude to the two hundred Kilkenny men and women, we honour here today.”
WREATHS LAID AS A MARK OF RESPECT
In a respectful ceremony, wreaths were placed on behalf of The Great War Memorial Committee, The Royal British Legion (Irish Division), Kilkenny County Council, the Australian Ambassador, the Canadian Army, Mr Paul Johnston, U.K Ambassador to Ireland and Her Excellency, Ms Deike Potzel, Ambassador for the Federal Republic of Germany.
The ceremony was embellished with the music of Piper Finbarr McCarthy (The Piper’s Lament) and by Charlie Parsons who sounded ‘The Last Post’ and ‘Reveille’.
Poems, on the day, were recited by Commandant Larry Scallan (retired), John Joe Cullen and Bernie Egan.
A wish for a military historical walking tour
The World War II memorial at MacDonagh Railway station in Kilkenny marks the final project by The Great War Memorial Committee (GWMC).
Since their inception the GWMC has also erected memorials to Kilkenny men and women involved in World War I at The Peace Park, and a monument to Thomas Woodgate at the Court House. In recent times, the committee remembered the three Kilkenny men who were killed in The Friary Street ambush in 1921.
Speaking at the ceremony, chairman of the committee Donal Croghan said they now will complete their data base and present it to the people of Kilkenny which can be used by future generations for research.
Chatting to The Kilkenny Observer, Mr Croghan said that for himself and his committee it was always a labour of love and they can look back with pride on their achievements.
Asked by The Observer if he had had any wishes for the future, Mr Croghan said he would love to see a Military History Walking Tour of Kilkenny City which would tell the individual stories for future generations to hear.
Due to Covid restrictions, many guests were unable to attend. However, messages of support were sent by The Hon Gary Gray, AO, Australian Ambassador to Ireland, Colonel Andrew Lussier, MSM, CD, Canadian army, and H.E. Paul Johnston , the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to Ireland.
Attending the unveiling of the WWII dedication at MacDonagh Railway station on June 6th was Wolfe Tone Street resident Tony Brennan.
Tony told the Kilkenny Observer newspaper that his uncle Patrick Walsh was a private in the Queens Royal Regiment, and he was attending to say a prayer for his uncle and those who died during the war.
Tony went on to explain that his uncle Patrick (although known locally as Sonny) took part in the Invasion of Italy but was shot during active service in Bari and moved to an army field hospital. Unfortunately, as a German Bomber pane was fleeing from Allied forces, he dumped his own bombs which landed beside the field hospital , killing many of the wounded including Patrick.
Originally from Callan, Patrick Walsh is buried in Bari Military cemetery in Italy.