Navy veterans honoured for saving over 80 lives on burning ship in 1962

Navy veterans have been honoured more than 50 years on for their bravery in firefighting and lifesaving on a crippled ship.

Picture credit: Chief ERA Maurice Egan, Stoker, William Mynes, Lieutenant Pat Ó Mathúna, and Kieran O’Callaghan, on behalf of his late father Chief Stoker, Gerry O’Callaghan, after they were honoured for their bravery in firefighting and lifesaving on the LÉ Cliona. Pic: PA

Lieutenant Pat Ó Mathúna, 86, and Stoker William Mynes, 73, fought a boiler room blaze on the LÉ Cliona on May 29, 1962, after a depth charge exploded prematurely during a training exercise off Cork.

They received Scrolls of Commendation alongside Maurice Egan, chief engine room artificer, while a posthumously award was made to the family of Chief Stoker Gerry O’Callaghan.

A campaign was launched as the sailors were not recommended for medals in the 1960s despite more than 80 lives being saved.

Mr Mynes admitted to a few nerves at the ceremony on the LÉ Niamh at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin, but said the day was about recognition. “I’m just getting used to the idea of it now.”

A plaque will be unveiled at the Naval Service headquarters in Haulbowline to remember the crewmen’s endeavours later this month.

LÉ Cliona

Paul Kehoe, junior defence minister, awarded the scrolls which officials said were for their brave and decisive actions in bringing the fire under control.

“Each one of these four men fearlessly faced difficulty, danger, and pain while successfully extinguishing the fire that had taken hold on board the LÉ Cliona.

“The swift and selfless endeavours of each one of these four men ensured that tragedy was avoided and not a single life was lost,” he said.

“Even with the passage of time, their endeavours are not forgotten.”

The force of the blast blew the corvette ship several feet out of the water and ruptured oil lines sparking the lethal fire below deck.

The LÉ Cliona, a former Royal Navy ship, was 20km from shore, off Daunt Rock, near Roches Point, when the blaze took hold. A large group of media, including an RTÉ film crew and Irish Examiner reporters were on board the vessel at the time.

Mr Mynes, 19 at the time, ordered two younger stokers to evacuate while he went into the confined room to cut off oil supplies, suffering burns on his arms, hands, and face. The ship’s second-in-command, Mr Ó Mathúna, joined him and fought the fire for 40 minutes.

Below are the original ‘Examiner’ reports from 1962

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