Nationwide search for those who served in World War II in bid to have them officially remembered

Nationwide search for those who served in World War II in bid to have them officially remembered
Patrick Joseph 'The Gaffer' Murray during World War II. Credit: Donal Croghan.

A nationwide search for men and women who served in World War II in a bid to have them remembered officially is being inundated by their descendants.

A Kilkenny based group who want to honour the war's dead and its survivors had appealed last month for family members, distant relations, friends and acquaintances to come forward.

The Kilkenny Great War Memorial Committee is planning to unveil a memorial to the men and women who were born in the city and county.

The committee has now received 58 names of those who died and 127 names of survivors of the war.

It is estimated that there are at least 100 dead and 1,000 survivors from Kilkenny.

Donal Croghan from the Committee explained that the reason they are appealing to Irish people both at home and abroad is that they should never be forgotten.

"We are running the appeal to get to a wider audience on a nationwide and international level who have Kilkenny connections.

“While we’ve received hundreds of emails and phone calls from relatives of those who fought, there have to be hundreds more because the attrition rate in World War II was much lower than in World War I. So if we have 58 who died then there should be about 1,000 who served you'd imagine.”

The ages of the people whose names they have received range from a mere 17 to 61.

They served in various allied forces including the Australian Infantry, the Palestine Police Force, US Army, Canadian Air Force, British RAF, Royal Navy and Durham Light Infantry.

They have received the name of just two women so far who died during the war.

It is estimated that between 4,468 to 9,100 died from Ireland during the war. An estimated figure of 12,000 Irish veterans returned to Ireland after it ended in 1945.

One man who fought was Patrick Joseph 'The Gaffer' Murray who enlisted on December 21, 1943, in Belfast to the Motor Squadron of the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards.

His grandson Séan Michael Murray contacted the committee after hearing of the public appeal.

Mr Murray explained: “[My grandfather] was originally from Dublin but moved to Kilkenny in the 1930s.

Patrick Joseph Murray during World War II. Credit: Donal Croghan.
Patrick Joseph Murray during World War II. Credit: Donal Croghan.

“Originally he was a member of the Irish army, stationed in Kilkenny Castle, he may also have spent time at the barracks in Ballybough street, in Kilkenny.

“While there, he met my grandmother ‘Adelaide Ady’ Dowling, who is Kilkenny born and bred, they lived in Ballybough street. My Grandfather married Ady and they stayed in Ballybough street where they had three children, my father Cecil, my uncle Paul and my auntie Tossie.

"In 1943 he left Kilkenny and the Irish army to join the British Battalion Irish Guards; he wanted to fight the Nazi’s.

“The Gaffer was on the beaches on D-Day 1943 and took part in many of the major battles in Europe during WWII, including Operation Market Garden.

“He returned in 1946 I believe and moved to Watford in England, but returned to Kilkenny every year, with my nan Ady and later with myself.

"I still come back to Kilkenny most summers where I have a very large family.”

Committee member Mr Croghan said that then taoiseach Eamonn De Valera's policy of neutrality in Ireland during the war was not absolute and "he allowed Irishmen to freely join the Allied armies, which up to 40,000 did, along with 200,000 civilians who crossed over to Britain to work in the mines and factories".

Nationwide search for those who served in World War II in bid to have them officially remembered

"Many were also conscripted into the British Forces.

“Information on the exact number of people from Ireland who died in World War II varies from 4,468 others 9,100. Bernard Kelly who wrote, Returning Home: Irish Ex-Servicemen after the Second World War, estimates 12,000 Irish veterans returned to Ireland at the end of the war.

“They were treated very poorly after fighting Hitler’s armies and they were scorned and treated with hostility, seen by many as anti-national and almost traitorous.”

The cost of the planned memorial will be approximately €5,000.

Members of the public are asked to make contact by phoning (00353)863369080, by email to kilkennywarmemorial@gmail.com or by post to 48 John Street, Kilkenny.

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