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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of David Lord, RAF Officer & Victoria Cross Recipient

David Samuel Anthony Lord, VC, DFC, recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces, is killed at Arnhem, Netherlands, on September 19, 1944 during World War II. A transport pilot in the Royal Air Force, he receives the award posthumously for his actions during the Battle of Arnhem while flying resupply missions in support of British paratroopers.

Lord is born on October 18, 1913 in Cork, County Cork, one of three sons of Samuel (a warrant officer in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers) and Mary Lord (née Miller). One of his brothers dies in infancy.

After World War I the family is posted to British India and Lord attends Lucknow Convent School. On his father’s retirement from the Army the family moves to Wrexham and then he is a pupil at St. Mary’s College, Aberystwyth, and then the University of Wales. Later, he attends the English College, Valladolid, Spain, to study for the priesthood. Deciding that it was not the career for him, he returns to Wrexham, before moving to London in the mid-1930s to work as a freelance writer.

Lord enlists in the Royal Air Force on August 6, 1936. After reaching the rank of corporal in August 1938, he applies to undertake pilot training, which he begins in October 1938. Successfully gaining his pilot’s wings, he becomes a sergeant pilot in April 1939, and is posted to No. 31 Squadron RAF, based in Lahore, India. He later flies the Vickers Type 264 Valentia biplane transport. In 1941, No. 31 Squadron is the first unit to receive the Douglas DC-2 which is followed by both the Douglas DC-3 and Dakota C-47 Skytrain transports. That year he is promoted to flight sergeant and then warrant officer. He flies in North Africa, supporting troops in Libya and Egypt for four months, before being posted back to India. Commissioned as a pilot officer in May 1942, he flies supply missions over Burma, for which he is mentioned in despatches.

Lord is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in July 1943, receiving the award at Buckingham Palace, and is promoted to flight lieutenant shortly afterwards. By January 1944, he has joined No. 271 Squadron RAF, based at RAF Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, and begins training as part of preparations for the invasion of Europe. On D-Day, he carries paratroopers into France and his aircraft was hit by flak, returning to base without flaps.

The Battle of Arnhem is part of Operation Market Garden, an attempt to secure a string of bridges through the Netherlands. At Arnhem, the British 1st Airborne Division and Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade are tasked with securing bridges across the Lower Rhine, the final objectives of the operation. However, the airborne forces that drop on September 17 are not aware that the 9th SS and 10th SS Panzer divisions are also near Arnhem for rest and refit. Their presence adds a substantial number of Panzergrenadiers, tanks and self-propelled guns to the German defences and the Allies suffer heavily in the ensuing battle. Only a small force manages to hold one end of the Arnhem road bridge before being overrun on September 21. The rest of the division becomes trapped in a small pocket west of the bridge and has to be evacuated on September 25. The Allies fail to cross the Rhine, which remains under German control until Allied offensives in March 1945.

Lord is 30 years old, and a flight lieutenant serving with No. 271 Squadron, Royal Air Force during World War II when he is awarded the Victoria Cross. On September 19, 1944, during the Battle of Arnhem in the Netherlands, the British 1st Airborne Division is in desperate need of supplies. His Dakota III “KG374” encounters intense enemy anti-aircraft fire and is hit twice, with one engine burning. He manages to drop his supplies, but at the end of the run finds that there are two containers remaining. Although he knows that one of his wings might collapse at any moment, he nevertheless makes a second run to drop the last supplies, then orders his crew to bail out. A few seconds later, the Dakota crashes in flames with its pilot and six crew members.

Only the navigator, Flying Officer Harold King, survives, becoming a prisoner of war. It is only on his release in mid-1945, as well as the release of several paratroops from the 10th Parachute Battalion, that the story of Lord’s action becomes known. He is awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

After Arnhem is liberated in April 1945, Grave Registration Units of the British 2nd Army move into the area and began to locate the Allied dead. Lord is buried alongside his crew in the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery. There are many plaques in memory of him, including one at Wrexham Cathedral in Wales.

Several aircraft have carried tributes to Lord. Between 1993 and 1998, the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight‘s Dakota, serial “ZA947”, is painted in the colours of Lord’s aircraft during the Arnhem battle, and bears the same code letters: YS-DM. Between 1973 and 2005, the Dakota displayed at RAF Museum Cosford is similarly painted and coded to represent Lord’s aircraft. From 1966 until its disbandment in 2005, No. 10 Squadron RAF is equipped with Vickers VC-10s, each of which is named after a Royal Air Force or Royal Flying Corps VC recipient. Aircraft serial number ‘XR810’ is named David Lord VC.

Lord’s Victoria Cross is presented to his parents at Buckingham Palace in December 1945. In 1997, his Victoria Cross, along with his other decorations and medals, are sold at auction by Spinks to Lord Ashcroft. As of 2014, the medal group is on display at the Imperial War Museum.


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Donal Billings Convicted of Possession of Explosives

Donal Billings of St. Bridget’s Court in Drumlish, County Longford, a 66-year-old man who put a bomb on a bus during Britain’s Queen Elizabeth‘s visit to Ireland in May 2011, is convicted on December 15, 2016 at the Special Criminal Court of possessing explosives and is sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison.

Justice Tony Hunt describes it as an outrageous, dangerous and highly irresponsible act, which recklessly exposed the 31 people on the bus, as well as the emergency services, to the very significant risk of injury or death. He says it was no thanks to Billings that this did not occur.

Billings is also found guilty of four counts of making bomb threats, including one claiming there were two mortars in Dublin Castle during the State banquet for the queen.

The court hears that on May 16, 2011, following a phone call to Longford Garda station, gardaí stopped a bus travelling from Ballina to Dublin at Maynooth. They find a well-made bomb in a bag in the luggage hold with gunpowder, petrol, a timing power unit, battery and a fuse, which if it had exploded could have caused seriously injured or killed the passengers and driver. Threats were also made that there were bombs on another bus and at the Sinn Féin headquarters in Dublin but none were found.

Billings is identified as the caller though phone records, notes, a SIM card and a mobile phone. Two days later he makes another call saying that two mortars have been left in Dublin Castle set for 8:00 PM, during the State banquet for the queen. “I am a member of the Republican Brotherhood Squad A”, he says. “This is for the Queen of Blood, War in Iraq.” Because of the first bomb, the threat is taken very seriously, but no more explosive devices are found.

Two days later a third call threatens there are two more bombs in the toilets in Cork Airport, but again nothing is found.

Billings is identified as a suspect that day and put under surveillance before being arrested at a supermarket car park in Longford. He tells gardaí he had found the SIM card in the car park.

Following the trial, during which interpreters are used to translate proceedings into Irish, Billings is convicted of making bomb threats and possessing explosives. He has previous convictions for possessing explosives in Northern Ireland in 1973 and is sentenced to eight years in prison. He also spent four years in Libya.

(From: “Man sentenced over bomb on bus during Queen Elizabeth’s visit,” RTÉ.ie, the website of Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Thursday, December 15, 2016)


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Assassination of Lord Louis Mountbatten

assassination-of-lord-mountbattenLord Louis Mountbatten is killed on August 27, 1979 when Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) terrorists detonate a 50-pound bomb hidden on his fishing vessel, Shadow V. Mountbatten, a war hero, elder statesman, and second cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, is spending the day with his family in Donegal Bay off Ireland’s northwest coast when the bomb explodes. Three others are killed in the attack, including Mountbatten’s 14-year-old grandson, Nicholas. Later that day, an IRA bombing attack on land kills 18 British paratroopers in County Down, Northern Ireland in what becomes known as the Warrenpoint ambush.

The assassination of Mountbatten is the first blow struck against the British royal family by the IRA during its long terrorist campaign to drive the British out of Northern Ireland and unite it with the Republic of Ireland to the south. The attack hardens the hearts of many British against the IRA and convinces Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government to take a hardline stance against the terrorist organization.

Mountbatten, the son of Prince Louis of Battenberg and a great-grandson of Queen Victoria I, enters the Royal Navy in 1913, when he is in his early teens. He sees service during World War I and at the outbreak of World War II is commander of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla. His destroyer, the HMS Kelly, is sunk during the Battle of Crete early in the war. In 1941, he commands an aircraft carrier, and in 1942 he is named Chief of Combined Operations Headquarters. From this position, he is appointed Supreme Allied Commander for South East Asia Command in 1943 and successfully conducts the campaign against Japan that leads to the recapture of Burma.

In 1947, Mountbatten is appointed the last Viceroy of India, and he conducts the negotiations that lead to independence for India and Pakistan later that year. He holds various high naval posts in the 1950s and serves as chief of the United Kingdom Defense Staff and chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Meanwhile, he is made Viscount Mountbatten of Burma and a first earl. He is the uncle of Philip Mountbatten and introduces Philip to the future Queen Elizabeth. He later encourages the marriage of the two distant cousins and becomes godfather and mentor to their first born, Charles, Prince of Wales.

Made Governor and then Lord-Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight in his retirement, Mountbatten is a respected and beloved member of the royal family. His assassination is perhaps the most shocking of all horrors inflicted by the IRA against the United Kingdom. In addition to his grandson Nicholas, 15-year-old boat hand Paul Maxwell and the Dowager Lady Brabourne, Nicholas’ grandmother, are also killed. Mountbatten’s grandson Timothy, Nicholas’ twin brother, is injured as is his daughter, Lady Brabourne, and the twins’ father, Lord Brabourne.

The IRA immediately claims responsibility for the attack, saying it detonated the bomb by remote control from the coast. It also takes responsibility for the same-day bombing attack against British troops in County Down, which claims eighteen lives.

IRA member Thomas McMahon is later arrested and convicted of preparing and planting the bomb that destroyed Mountbatten’s boat. A near-legend in the IRA, he is a leader of the IRA’s notorious South Armagh Brigade, which kills more than 100 British soldiers. He is one of the first IRA members to be sent to Libya to train with detonators and timing devices and is an expert in explosives. Authorities believe the Mountbatten assassination is the work of many people, but McMahon is the only individual convicted. Sentenced to life in prison, he is released in 1998 along with other IRA and Unionist terrorists under a controversial provision of the Good Friday Agreement.

(From: This Day In History: Mountbatten killed by IRA, by the editors of History.com, July 21, 2010, http://www.history.com)


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Death of Lieutenant Presley Neville O’Bannon

presley-neville-obannonPresley Neville O’Bannon, first lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps and descendant of Brien Boru O’Bannon (1683) who is apparently the first notable O’Bannon to enter the American colonies, dies on September 12, 1850.

O’Bannon is born in 1776 in Fauquier County, Virginia, to William O’Bannon, a captain of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War, and Anne Neville, a sister of General John Neville, commander of Fort Pitt in western Pennsylvania during the Revolution. He is probably named after Neville’s son, Presley, who is aide-de-camp to the Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette.

O’Bannon enters the Marine Corps on January 18, 1801. As a first lieutenant assigned to the USS Argus, he commands a detachment of seven Marines and two Navy midshipmen in diplomatic Consul General William Eaton‘s small army during the Tripoli campaign of the First Barbary War. In the combined operations with the United States Navy, he leads the successful attack at the Battle of Derna, a coastal town in eastern modern Libya on April 27, 1805, giving the Marines’ Hymn its line “to the shores of Tripoli.”

Lieutenant O’Bannon becomes the first man to raise a United States flag over foreign soil in time of war. O’Bannon’s superior, William Eaton, a former Army officer, had raised the American flag several months earlier while traveling on the Nile River from Alexandria to Cairo, but it had not been in a time of war. According to Marine Corps legend, Prince Hamet Karamanli is so impressed with O’Bannon’s bravery during the attempt to restore him to his throne as the Bey of Tripoli that he gives O’Bannon a sword as a gesture of respect. This sword becomes the model for the Mameluke sword, adopted in 1825 for Marine Corps officers, which is part of the formal uniform today.

O’Bannon resigns from the Marine Corps on March 6, 1807. He moves to Logan County, Kentucky, making his home in Russellville. He serves in the Kentucky Legislature in 1812, 1817, and 1820–21, and in the Kentucky State Senate from 1824 to 1826.

Some time before 1826, O’Bannon marries Matilda Heard, daughter of Major James Heard and Nancy Morgan, a daughter of American Revolutionary War general Daniel Morgan, commander at the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina in 1781.

Presley O’Bannon dies at age 74 on September 12, 1850 in Pleasureville, Kentucky, where his daughter and nephew live. In 1919, his remains are moved to the Frankfort Cemetery on East Main Street in the state capital of Frankfort, Kentucky.

(Pictured: Oil painting of Lieutenant Presley Neville O’Bannon, USMC, by Colonel Donald L. Dickson, USMCR, from the Official Photograph Album Collection (COLL/2246) at the Archives Branch, Marine Corps History Division)