Plaque for fire heroes of 1962 Navy vessel unveiled

If it wasn’t for the extreme bravery of some seamen, many lives could have been lost after a depth-charge exploded prematurely on a Naval Service vessel in 1962.

Simon Coveney with crew members Maurice Egan and William Mynes, and Minister Paul Kehoe, and Vice Admiral Mark Mellett. Pic: Larry Cummins

One of those who recalled the day was former stoker Bill Mynes, who was badly burnt as he successfully helped put out a fire which erupted in LÉ Cliona’s engine room.

If the fire had spread it could have resulted in the ship sinking.

Accompanied by members of his family, Mr Mynes, who lives in Dublin, attended the unveiling of a plaque at navy headquarters at Haulbowline, Co Cork, yesterday, which commemorates those who saved the ship.

Mr Mynes recalled May 29, 1962, when LÉ Cliona was conducting a routine anti-submarine exercise near Roches Point. Onboard were a number of dignitaries and journalists.

One depth charge went off prematurely. It lifted the stern of the ship out of the water, rupturing fuel pipes in the aft boiler room, resulting in a major fire.

After many years of campaigning, the Department of Defence recently presented four heroes with Scrolls of Commendation.

Among them were Mr Mynes; Lieutenant Pat O’Mahoney, who retired as a commander; and Maurice Egan from Midleton, who worked in the engine room. The fourth was presented posthumously to the family of chief stoker Gerry O’Callaghan, who lived in Ringaskiddy.

Yesterday a special plaque to honour their achievement was unveiled in the navy base. “It’s a brilliant day for us. It’s a nice finale to the whole thing,” said Mr Mynes.

Maurice Egan who was second engineer on the ship, modestly claims he didn’t do anything outstanding on the day: “I just stopped people getting hurt. It is a proud day, I suppose.”

John Doherty, a 19-year-old at the time, proudly displayed a picture of himself in the Cork Examiner taken that day.

Lé Cliona

“That’s me passing down buckets of water to put the fire out. I knew we could be in big trouble because of all the ammo and fuel onboard.” His son, Pat Doherty, carries on the naval tradition — the Lieutenant Commander captains LE Róisín.

Meanwhile, proud families watched six officer cadets receive their commissions at a parade at the base.

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