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Last week saw the 50th anniversary of the Niemba Ambush in the Congo, when Baluba tribesmen set upon a group of Irish Soldiers. It was on 8th November 1960.
Many locals will recall the events of that time as the bodies of the nine men were flown in to Baldonnell. There they lay in state – Lt. Kevin Gleeson on a gun carriage and Sgt Hugh (Sonny) Gaynor, and the other seven on army trucks – the saddest of scenes.
Hundreds of locals paid their respects at Baldonnell, and later at the funeral through Dublin City to Glasnevin Cemetery. Many would have known Sonny Gaynor personally, as he was from neighbouring Leixlip, and left a wife and young family.
Sgt. Gaynor with some Congolese children, and below at work.
It was a far cry from the excitement of seeing the big Globemaster Planes fly low over Lucan as they carried the Irish troops to the Congo just four months earlier, on the first ever UN mission from Ireland.
(Photos courtesy of Pauline Condron)