Three Cork brothers who died fighting for Canadians in WWII to be commemorated today

Three Cork brothers who died fighting for Canadians in WWII to be commemorated today
Heverlee War Cemetery in Leuven, Belgium. Picture: Wikipedia.

Three Irish brothers who died fighting for the Canadians in World War Two are to be commemorated in a special ceremony in Belgium today and plans are being drawn up to build a monument to them in their birthplace in Co Cork.

The Brussels-based Irish in Europe Association, an organisation which helps Irish diaspora and promotes Ireland abroad, is to honour the memory of the Sheehan brothers who came from Fermoy.

The association's president, Denis Buckley, contacted the Irish Examiner about the event because this newspaper was the first to publish the extraordinary story which was uncovered by renowned historian and archaeologist Damien Shiels.

He had been researching war records of the Irish who fought for Canada when he noted similarities in a number of the documents that suggested some of the men may be related.

Eventually he pieced together the facts, which showed that three were brothers and were born at Queen's Square (now Pearse Square), Fermoy. They emigrated to Canada and joined the military.

The first to die was Harry, 24. He was a wireless operator on a Lancaster bomber which was on a raid over Duisburg, Germany when shot down by a Luftwaffe nightfighter on May 13, 1943. He is buried in Holland.

Frank, 26, an air-gunner also on a Lancaster bomber, died on Oct 2, 1943 while on a sortie over Munich. He was listed as missing, presumed dead and it was only in 1948 that his grave was found in a German cemetery.

Bomb-aimer Edward, 29, was assigned to a squadron of Halifax bombers based in Yorkshire. His bomber was shot down while attacking a German-used railway yard at Montzen, Belgium on April 28, 1944. Shortly after he died, his wife, Mary, gave birth to their first son, Michael.

Mr Buckley said some Canadian newspapers were covering the commemoration which will be held at the Heverlee War Cemetery in Leuven, Belgium and were to publish articles on Mr Shiels' research. This is the cemetery in which Edward Sheehan is buried.

"With this wreath-laying ceremony, we will particularly recognise the three brothers who were killed during the Second World War fighting for the Royal Canadian Air Force, " Mr Buckley said.

There will then be speeches and wartime poetry readings from Irish and Canadian poets at the graveside.

Mr Buckley said his organisation also want to build a monument in Fermoy to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice made by the brothers.

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