Siege of Jadotville A Company soldiers should be honoured with Medals for Distinguished Service and Gallantry
59 years on from the Siege of Jadotville, Labour Defence spokesperson Mark Wall has backed the campaign for the award of distinguished service medals or military medals for gallantry to the men of A Company 35th Infantry Battalion that engaged and survived the 1961 Siege of Jadotville in the Congo.
Senator Mark Wall said:
“It is never too late to do the right thing. I support the campaign of those seeking the award of Distinguished Service Medals (DSM) or Military Medals for Gallantry (MMG) for the men of A Company, 35th Infantry Battalion. 33 Irish troops were recommended for the DSMs or MMGs, our highest award for valour, by their Commandant Pat Quinlan after the siege. They held out for five days against all the odds at their post in Jadotville during the 1961 siege.
“There is a long running campaign for this to happen, and I hope the Minister for Defence will give it due recognition. I am disappointed that he is hiding behind requests for further information, saying in response to a question tabled by the Labour Party ‘With regard to enquiries about any additional medals, it has been previously indicated that any additional documentation, information or evidence to support the request to award such medals will be considered. At this juncture, no new information has come to light.’
“It is now nearly 60 years on since the siege, and while various honours and recognitions have been bestowed on the men, the award for gallantry has never been followed through on. I do want to acknowledge that a special medal was awarded in 2017, and on the 55th Anniversary there was a Unit citation. However the reason put forward for not following through on the recommendations of Commandant Quinlan is the time bound nature of the awards but I would ask the Minister to reconsider.
“These men are heroes and it is essential that we remember and honour their contribution.”
Question to the Minister for Defence, 22nd September 2020.
To ask the Minister for Defence if he will reconsider the awarding of distinguished service medals for gallantry to the men of A Company 35th Infantry Battalion that engaged and survived the 1961 Siege of Jadotville in the Congolese province of Katanga; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The siege of Jadotville was a prominent event that occurred during Ireland’s peacekeeping mission in the Congo in September 1961. “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion took responsibility for the UN post at Jadotville on 3rd September 1961. On the 9th September, a large force of Katangese Gendarmerie surrounded them and early on the morning of the 13th September “A” Company came under attack. From the 13th to the 17th September they endured almost continuous attack. They were taken into captivity on the 17th September and remained in captivity until finally released on the 25th October 1961.
The issue of the award of medals to the men of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion was addressed in 1962 and 1965. A properly constituted Medals Board considered the various cases presented. The board did not award any medals whose citations mention Jadotville. The Chief of Staff of the day considered the decision of the Board and was satisfied with the findings. Subsequently at that time, the question was raised again in a letter to a newly appointed Chief of Staff. He forwarded the letter to the original Medals Board and asked that they reconvene and review their decision. The Board indicated that the issues raised had received due consideration and that they were not prepared to alter their findings.
A review was conducted in 2004 by military officers for the purpose of a broader examination of the Jadotville case. This Board recommended that the events of Jadotville and the contribution of the 35th Battalion be given recognition. In this context, a number of measures have taken place to honour and to commemorate the events at Jadotville and the very significant contribution of “A” Company and of the 35th Battalion, as a whole, to the UN Peace Support Mission in the Congo.
Recognition of their contribution over the years include:
- A presentation of scrolls to “A” Company in 2006.
- Portraits of Lt Col McNamee (35th Battalion Commander) and Comdt Quinlan (Company Commander “A” Company) were commissioned in 2006.
- In July of 2010 the 50th anniversary of the first deployment to the Congo was commemorated in a highly publicised and well attended event in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.
- A nominal roll of “A” Company, printed in copper, was affixed to the monument in Custume Barracks and was unveiled as part of the 50th Anniversary of the Jadotville affair in September 2011.
- On the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the Siege of Jadotville, a Unit Citation to honour the collective actions and bravery of the men of “A” Company was issued. This was the first time a Unit Citation was awarded within the Defence Forces.
Furthermore, on 13th June 2017, the Government decided, as an exceptional step, to award a medal known as “An Bonn Jadotville” or “The Jadotville Medal” to each member of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion and to the family representatives of deceased members to give full and due recognition in honour of their courageous actions at the Siege of Jadotville. This medal presentation ceremony took place on 2nd December 2017 in Custume Barracks, Athlone. This location is considered the spiritual home of “A” Company and it is from here that “A” company assembled in advance of their fateful deployment to the Congo.
Over the past number of years various representations have been received in my Department outlining the courage and bravery of “A” Company. All representations have been considered and responded to acknowledging their valiant actions while under siege in Jadotville.
With regard to enquiries about any additional medals, it has been previously indicated that any additional documentation, information or evidence to support the request to award such medals will be considered. At this juncture, no new information has come to light.