Some 4,000 Irish men and women served with the British Armed Forces during World War Two with many hundreds if not thousands also enlisting with the Canadian, US, Australian and New Zealand forces. Many would pay for their bravery with their lives and would never see Ireland again.
The Clare Herald takes a look at some of those from County Clare who were killed during the largest seaborne invasion in history, the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, on June 6th, 1944. Ultimately, Operation Overlord began the invasion of German-occupied western Europe, which led to the restoration of the French Republic and contributed to an Allied victory in the war.
Ennistymon Ranger one of the first allied soldiers to be killed
Joseph Flanagan, whose mother Kathleen McNamara (daughter of Michael MCNAMARA and Bridget Delia RYAN) came from Clouna near Ennistymon, was killed in Normandy in the hours leading up to the D-Day landings. He was among the first US Rangers to be killed at Normandy, most likely near Omaha Beach, on the night of June 5 or morning of June 6 1944. Joseph was part of the pre-invasion forces, whose job it was to knock out the German coastal defense guns. An auditorium at the Southern Junior High School, Summer Street, Somerville, Massachusetts,USA, was named after him. It has since been torn down. Joseph’s brother Daniel, served in the Merchant Marine during World War 2.
Miltown Malbay Royal Marine dies of wounds
Miltown Malbay native John Egan died on the day after D-Day, Wednesday 7 June. He was the son of John and Norah Egan and nephew of Margaret Shanahan. The 24-year-old served in the 41 (Royal Marine) Commando unit of the Royal Marines and died of wounds he received on the battlefield. He landed at Sword Beach on D-Day. He is buried at Hermanville War Cemetery, located at Hermanville-sur-Mer which lies 13 kilometres north of Caen on the road to Lion-sur-Mer.
OTHER CLARE CASUALTIES IN WEEKS FOLLOWING D-DAY
In the weeks and months following D-Day as the Allied Army pushed its way inland across France, more Clare men would lose their lives or be injured in battle.
Ennis Corporal killed in Belgium
Ironically, a second man with Clare connections and also named Joseph Flanagan from Ennis died during a battle with German forces in the village of Ten Aard (Geel), near Antwerp in Belgium on 15 September 1944, just two days before the beginning of Operation Marketgarden. Flanagan died on what is regarded as the opening day of the Allied advance from Paris to the Rhine. Corporal Joseph Flanagan was the son of Martin and Mary Flanagan of Ennis and served in the 8th Ballation of the Royal Scots. He was 28 when he died.
Spanish Point native killed while liberating Normandy village
Spanish Point man Michael Joseph Quinn was killed on Thursday, 03 August 1944 during the liberation of the village of St. Charles de Percy, roughly 44 kilometres south-west of Caen on the Normandy coast. Quinn was a guardsman in the Irish Guards 3rd Batallion. The 22-year old was the son of Michael and Anne Quinn.
Kilrush man killed while serving on board the HMS Orchis
32-year-old Simon Moran from Kilrush, son of William and Annie, was killed off the coast of Normandy on 21 August 1944 when the ship he was serving on struck a mine. The 205-ft H.M.S. Orchis, a flower-class corvette built by Harland & Wolff Ltd., struck the mine destroying the bow back to the 4-inch gun. The damaged ship was beached on Juno Beach and declared a total loss. Moran, a Stoker 1st Class in the Royal Navy, was buried in Plymouth Naval Memorial. On 15 August 1944, just 6 days before Moran’s death. his ship sank the German U-boat U-741 using depth charges in the English Channel, north-west of Le Havre.
From O’Briensbridge to the fields of Holland
On 30 October, 1944, 19-year-old Michael McGrath was killed at Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. Private McGrath was a member of the British Army’s 2nd Ballation, Gordon Highlanders. He was the son of Sarah McGrath; grandson of Mrs. M. McGrath, of O’Briensbridge, and is buried at Mierlo War Cemetery. McGrath had particpated in the battle of Tilburg just two days before his death (location unknown).