The Irish Army in the Congo 1960–64

The Far Battalions

The Irish Army in the Congo, 1960–64: the far battalions

David O’Donoghue

(Irish Academic Press, 2005

ISBN 0716528185/0716533197

Used good condition. 220 pages approx,soft back.


This revealing book is based on the personal reminiscences of Irish Army veterans who served with the UN peacekeeping forces in the Congo from 1960 to 1964.  In addition to tracking down foot soldiers, retired battalion commanders and journalists who covered the Congo, the author has also spoken to Belgians who were part of the pre-independence administration in the huge African colony, Swedish soldiers who played key roles as interpreters for Irish Army units, a Congolese clergyman and a Congolese journalist from Kinshasa.

The UN operation in the former Belgian Congo was a confused and sometimes chaotic affair. Some saw its role as keeping communism out of Africa, others as ending Belgian influence. The force’s mandate was to help restore law and order but it could not, in theory, intervene in the state’s internal affairs. Military command was vested not in the force commander but in the secretary-general (Dag Hammarskjöld) and, through him, his special representative. Troops were deployed in penny-packets without adequate military resources or logistical support, a policy that resulted in the death of nine members of an Irish patrol at Niemba and the surrender of an Irish company at Jadotville. The UN Security Council (in February 1961) authorised the ‘use of force’ but failed to ensure provision of the necessary resources. And while Taoiseach Seán Lemass declared that this country would not become involved in any internal Congolese dispute, Irish personnel would kill and be killed in efforts to end the secession of Katanga province.

Dr O’Donoghue’s compilation of essays and interviews does not seek to address major issues; it is simply, in his words, ‘a living testimony of people who lived through the 1960–64 time’. Nevertheless, the accounts of Irish troops’ first experience of peacekeeping should cause many readers to examine in more detail the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ of still-controversial events. The book provides considerable material for debate on views expressed and accounts of events found in the literature on ‘the Congo’; in particular, contributions from General P. D. Hogan and Belgian and Congolese sources challenge certain ‘accepted truths’ concerning the background to the crisis and the attitudes and motives of major players in the drama.

Table of Contents

Editor’s Foreward ~ Dr David O’Donoghue

Preface ~ Colonel Ned Doyle, retd. 

  1. The Journalist’s Tale ~ Mr. Cathal O’Shannon
  2. The Dream of an Independent Congo Died with Lumumba ~ Rev. Dr. Daniel did-Mbwangi Diafwila
  3. To the Congo on a Wing and a Prayer ~ Lt. Col Mortimer Buckley, retd. 
  4. Reminiscences of a Colonial Administrator ~ Mr. Emmanuel de Beer de Laer
  5. The UN Special Representative’s View ~ Dr Conor Cruise O’Brien
  6. A Better Future Beckons Beyond Shadows of the Past ~ Mr. J. J. Arthur Malu-Malu
  7. A Belgian Prosecutor Remembers ~ Mr. Jacques de Jaer
  8. Reporting the Congo Under Fire ~ Mr. Alan Bestic
  9. The Scars of Niemba ~ Brig.-Gen. P.D. Hogan, retd. 
  10. Reliving the Nightmare ~ Mr. Thomas Kenny
  11. A Niemba Survivor Remembers ~ Mr. Joseph Fitzpatrick
  12. A Swedish Interpreter’s Viewpoint ~ Mr. Stig von Bayer
  13. Plus ca Change … ~ Lt Col Eoghan O’Neill, retd. 
  14. Through Belgian Eyes: The Decade of Transition ~ Mme. Henriette Cardon-Sips
  15. Fighting for Our Lives With ‘Jadotville Jack’ ~ Mr. Pat Dunleavy
  16. Remembering Jadotville ~ Mr Lars Froberg
  17. A Retired Chief of Staff Reflects on the Congo ~ Lt-General Louis Hogan, retd. 
  18. The Army Doctor’s Story ~ Dr Joseph Laffan
  19. An Army Chaplain Remembers ~ Fr. Ronald Neville
  20. To the Congo with Some Rosary Beads ~ Fr Colum Swan
  21. The View From Léopoldville HQ ~ Major-General Vincent Savino, retd. 
  22. Memories of an Irish UN Liaison Officer ~ Captain Pádraig O Siochrú, retd. 
  23. The Foot Soliders’ Stories


  • Key Dates
  • Record of Irish Army’s Unit Service with ONUC, 1960-1964
  • Baluba Report on Niemba Battle, 8 Nov 1960
  • Original French Text
  • Extracts from 33rd Battalion’s Unit History on the Discovery of the Remains of Tpr Browne in 1962
  • Report –  Recovery of Remains of Tpr Browne in the Niemba Area (Nov 1962)

About the Author

David O’Donoghue is the author of Hitler’s Irish Voices: The Story of German Radio’s Wartime Irish Service, which is considered the standard historical work on Nazi broadcast propaganda to neutral Ireland in the 1939-45 period. Dr. O’Donoghue holds a PhD from Dublin City University and is a regular contributor on historical matters to the Sunday Business Post (Dublin). He works as a reporter in the Irish Parliament (Oireachtas Eireann).