Tragic tale of three Cork brothers killed in WWII

Three Cork brothers were killed during the Second World War fighting for the Royal Canadian Air Force, according to never-before-seen records unearthed by a noted author and historian.

Damian Shiels, who was researching Irishmen and women who served in US and Canadian forces during the Second World War, “stumbled upon” the tragic tale of the Sheehan brothers from Fermoy, Co Cork.

He had been researching Irishmen who died while fighting for the Canadians when he came across a letter in archives written in 1946 by Thomas Sheehan, who had been serving with a Canadian regiment in post-war Germany.

Thomas had been trying to locate the grave of one of his brothers and Damian started to realise that three of his siblings had died in the war.

“Exploring further, a heartbreaking story began to reveal itself — a story of one Cork family’s unimaginable loss,” said Mr Sheils.

Their experience must surely represent one of the worst, if not the worst, loss of life suffered in a single southern Irish family due to Allied combat operations.

“As far as I am aware, no one in Ireland has previously identified them.”

Harry was the first to die. He was a wireless operator and gunner on a Lancaster bomber stationed in RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire.

A Luftwaffe nightfighter shot the aircraft down following a raid on Duisburg, Germany on May 13, 1943.

Harry was just 24 and is buried at Gendringen Roman Catholic Cemetery in Holland.

Frank was an air gunner on a Lancaster but out of RAF Binbrook, which is also in Lincolnshire.

He and his crew were bombing targets in Munich when they were shot down on October 2, 1943.

Frank, 26, was listed “missing, presumed dead”.

It wasn’t until 1948 that it was discovered that he was buried at Durnbach War Cemetery, Germany.

Bomb-aimer Edward Fanahan Sheehan was assigned to a squadron of Halifax bombers at RAF Snaith, in Yorkshire.

His bomber was piloted by another Irishman, Patrick Keenan of Frenchpark, in Co Roscommon.

The plane was targeting German-used railway yards at Montzen, Belgium, when it was shot down on April 28, 1944.

Shortly after he died, Edward’s wife Mary gave birth to their son, Michael.

Edward, 29, is buried at Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium.

Mr Shiels said: “The horrors that the Sheehan family experienced between May 1943 and April 1944 are unimaginable.”

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