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Keith Osborne
Keith Osborne

The Siege Of Jadotville

In retaliation, Faulques receives orders to attack Jadotville. Katangese forces and mercenaries under Faulques' command attack and besiege the Irish. During a brief ceasefire, Faulques vainly demands Quinlan's surrender.

The Siege of Jadotville

After numerous extended attack waves, the Irish company is forced to surrender to Faulques's troops after running out of ammunition, food, and drinking water. They are held in a Katangese prison for about a month, then are freed in a prisoner exchange deal and allowed to go home. After arriving home, Quinlan is informed by General McEntee that "A" Company's surrender causes shame to the UN and the higher ups want to bury the truth of the siege for political reasons. Only in 2005 did a full review of the siege clear the soldiers' reputations.

In the siege of Jadotville [ʒ] in September 1961, a small contingent of the Irish Army's 35th Battalion, designated "A" Company, serving as part of the United Nations Operation in the Congo (Opération des Nations Unies au Congo, ONUC) were besieged in the mining town of Jadotville (modern-day Likasi) by Katangese forces loyal to the secessionist State of Katanga. The siege took place during the seven-day escalation of a stand-off between ONUC and Katangese forces during Operation Morthor. Although the contingent of 155 Irish soldiers repelled attacks by a 3,000-man Katangese force for five days while an undersized relief force of Irish, Indian and Swedish troops attempted to reach them, they were eventually forced to surrender having run out of ammunition and water. "A" Company was subsequently held as prisoners of war for approximately one month. The Irish forces inflicted approximately 1,300 casualties (including up to 300 killed) on the Congolese force, with no deaths amongst "A" Company.

The 500 Irish and Swedish UN troops based in Kamina, and Indian army Gurkhas (seemingly 3rd Battalion, 1 Gorkha Rifles) made several attempts to relieve the besieged Irish soldiers.[8] The supporting force of mercenaries, many of them French, German, Belgian and South African, of whom almost all were veterans of the Algerian War, beat back these efforts.[22] They had been brought in by Moïse Tshombe, Katanga's premier, whose secessionist government had been supported by Belgium.[23]

Attempting to reach the besieged A Company, the relief column was stymied in a series of battles at a pinch point called the Lufira Bridge. It carried the Jadotville-to-Elisabethville Highway across the Lufira River. The Katangese forces dug in here and brought heavy and sustained ground and air fire onto the relief column, killing three Indian UN troops, injuring a number of Irish UN troops and ultimately forcing the column off the bridge.[24]

A number of days later, the besieged Irish radioed to their headquarters: "We will hold out until our last bullet is spent. Could do with some whiskey".[12] The Katangese asked Quinlan for a cease-fire, as their own forces had been seriously diminished. By this time their effective strength may have been reduced to 2,000 men. Quinlan agreed. A Company, 35th Battalion, suffered five wounded in action during the siege.[n 1] The Katangese suffered up to 300 killed, including 30 mercenaries and an indeterminate number of wounded, with figures ranging from 300 to 1,000.[8][9]

The veterans of Jadotville were dissatisfied that the Defence Forces refused to acknowledge the battle and that there was an implied black mark on the reputation of their commander. A number of Irish soldiers, who had been involved in the siege, reputedly took their own lives in later years.[20][33] Quinlan, who died in 1997, had his public reputation restored nine years after his death.[34] John Gorman, a retired soldier who had been a 17-year-old private during the fight, campaigned to have the Battle of Jadotville recognised. In 2004 Irish Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea agreed to hold a full review of the battle. A Defence Forces inquiry cleared Quinlan and "A" Company of allegations of soldierly misconduct. A commemorative stone recognising the soldiers of "A" Company was erected on the grounds of Custume Barracks in Athlone in 2005. A commissioned portrait of Quinlan was installed in the Congo Room of the Irish Defence Forces' UN School.[35]

Declan Power's history, The Siege at Jadotville: The Irish Army's Forgotten Battle (2005),[37] was adapted as the film, The Siege of Jadotville (2016).[38] The cast includes Jamie Dornan and Mark Strong, and the movie had a "well received" premiere at the 2016 Galway Film Festival.[39] It had a limited cinematic release in September 2016,[40] and worldwide release on Netflix, on 7 October 2016.[41][42] A radio documentary on the siege was broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 in 2004.[43]

An Irish infantry company operating under the United Nations attempts to keep the peace following the outbreak of the Congolese Civil War, which threatened to escalate the Cold War. Sent to the mineral rich state of Katanga, which had seceded from the new republic, the Irish soldiers discover that their job is not to protect citizens but to bring the state back under the central government's control. They engage in armed conflict with Belgian mercenaries, Katangese, and Luba in a six-day siege of Jadotville and taken as prisoners of war.

Last Monday, some of the survivors of the siege attended the Irish première of a new movie that restages that epic engagement. Starring Irish actor Jamie Dornan, The Siege of Jadotville opened in cinemas this week. Two days before the movie première, at a ceremony in Athlone last weekend, the Minister for Defence Paul Keogh honoured more than 60 veterans of the siege for their bravery in the crisis. The families of the other men received citations.

A year later, as the Irish troops of the Jadotville siege languished in captivity, the Cold War would bring the planet to the brink of destruction as the Americans and Soviets played out the game of chicken that was the Cuban Missile Crisis.

As thousands of armed adversaries fired their way towards the Irish compound, one besieged Irishman radioed his superiors with a typically Irish light-heartedness: "We will hold out until our last bullet is spent. Could do with some whiskey".

In 1961, 155 Irish soldiers stood their ground on the battlefield against a 3,000-strong Kantangese army, backed by European mercenaries. Following the six-day siege and a month spent as prisoners-of-war, they suffered zero fatalities. If you have never heard of this extraordinary battle, you are not alone.

A gripping true story of incredible bravery against impossible odds, The Siege of Jadotville thrillingly depicts the 1961 siege of a 150-strong Irish UN battalion under Commander Patrick Quinlan (Jamie Dornan) by 3,000 Congolese troops led by French and Belgian mercenaries working for mining companies. Guillaume Canet plays a French commander who sought to defeat Quinlan and his men. 041b061a72


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