The 'Niemba Ambush took place on November 8, 1960. Ireland had
deployed Irish Army troops as ONUC peacekeepers during the Congo Crisis.
On 8 November, an eleven-man Irish platoon was patrolling a nearby
bridge over the Luweyeye River, where they were ambushed by Baluba
tribesmen armed with bows and poison-tipped arrows, as well as some
The patrol was first hit with a wave of poison-tipped arrows. Some
soldiers were wounded and bludgeoned to death, while others were hit and
died minutes later. The Irish soldiers returned fire with Lee Enfield
rifles. The remaining Irish troops regrouped by a ridge but were
surrounded, and continued to fire. All but two of the soldiers were
killed, and the survivors escaped and were found by other UN troops the
The platoon commander, Lieutenant Kevin Gleeson from Carlow, was
killed in the action along with Sergeant Hugh Gaynor, Corporal Peter
Kelly, Corporal Liam Dougan, Private Matthew Farrell, Trooper Thomas
Fennell, Trooper Anthony Browne, Private Michael McGuinn, Private
Twenty-five Baluba tribesmen were also killed. For his conduct during
the ambush, 19 year old Tpr. Browne was posthumously awarded the
Military Medal for Gallantry, Ireland's highest military award. A stone
commemorating Lt. Gleeson can be found in Carlow town.
The Irish troops wore heavy "Bull's wool" uniforms, boots and
leggings, all unsuitable for the hot climate and conditions. Coupled
with this, their radio equipment did not work, so they used a short wave
radio owned by missionary priests to contact HQ in Dublin. Popular
stories which came back told of Baluba tribesmen who were seen wearing
the boots and jackets of the Irishmen who died. Despite this first
experience, the tradition of UN service is still strong in the Irish
The survivors were Trooper Thomas Kenny and Private Joe Fitzpatrick.
- 802900 Pte. Michael McGuinn age 21. 33rd Battalion 2nd
Field Engineer. Coy.
- He came from Staplestown Road, Carlow.
- Date & Place of Death: 08 November 1960, Niemba
You can also read more about Niemba Ambush on
Sent in by Terry Curran c2011
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