New podcast shares 62-year-old voice messages from Irish troops in Jadotville
A remarkable piece of audio history was made public this week - a podcast which compiles voice messages that were sent home by Irish soldiers while they were in captivity in Jadotville 62 years ago.
The Voices of Jadotville podcast captures how the Irish soldiers from areas such as Athlone, Mullingar and Galway sought to assure their worried relatives back home that all was well.
A message from Private Simon Finlass, of St Anne's Terrace in Athlone, captured the general sentiment among the troops.
"Hi, 24 St Anne's. Everything here is alright. I hope everything at home is the same way," he said.
"I'm here along with Corporal Foster, Corporal McDonnell, and all the boys from around the town. They're in the best of spirits too."
The podcast was compiled by Leo Quinlan, an Athlone native who was 16 years of age when his father, Commandant Pat Quinlan, led the men of 'A' Company during the conflict in the Congo.
At the time, Leo tape-recorded voice messages from the soldiers' families in Athlone which were sent out to the Irish soldiers via the Red Cross.
After Commandant Quinlan played the families' messages to the soldiers he then recorded over the tape, with messages from the soldiers to be sent back to their families at home. It's these messages which form the basis of the podcast.
Some of the audio recordings are slightly distorted, but overall the quality is "not bad from 62-year-old tapes," as Leo Quinlan put it.
This week marked the 62nd anniversary - on September 13 - of the start of the Siege of Jadotville in which the 156 Irish peacekeeping troops came under attack from Katangese forces.
The Irish soldiers were in captivity between September 17 and October 25, and the recordings in the podcast were made in late September 1961.
The first of the historic messages featured was recorded not in the Congo, but in Athlone, and it's the voice of Col Joseph P. Emphy, OC Western Command, who recorded a message for Comdt Quinlan and his men from Comdt Quinlan's home.
"Hello Pat. This the command OC speaking. I'm speaking from your own sitting room, with Mrs Quinlan sitting beside me. I can also say that I've seen all your family and they're all in the pink, so to speak. You needn't worry," he said.
"You'd be surprised at the amount of publicity you and 'A' Company have been getting in the papers. You're a regular hero around these parts.
"I know I speak for every officer, NCO and man of the Western Command that we are all intensely proud of you and of every member of 'A' Company for the splendid show that you put up in Jadotville."
His message concluded: "From all of us in the Western Command, to 'A' Company of the 35th, well done! We are proud of you, and we wish God's blessing upon you all."
Commandant Quinlan is then heard, with a message designed to comfort the families at home.
"I want to take this opportunity to assure the wives and the children, the fathers, mothers, relatives and friends of all the men here that everyone is well. As a matter of fact, they couldn't be better, and the morale is as high as it ever was. These men are indomitable," he said.
"Don't worry about us, we're being well-treated here. Keep your heads and your chins high, and be proud of the brave men that are here.
"Ireland has brave and good men, but none better than your husbands and your sons who fought here in Jadotville.
"We're all very sorry for the terrible anxiety we must have caused you in the last couple of weeks. I'm sure that it was much worse for you than it was here for us.
"I'm sure you're all wondering what happened us in the end. Well, the full story will have to wait. All I wish to say here is, we won the battle but I'm afraid we lost the ceasefire."
Commandant Quinlan gave thanks to God for the fact that the Irish soldiers were all still alive.
"The fact that we are alive must be attributed to God and His Blessed Mother. Your men are brave and wonderful, but our safety was a miracle beyond any human capabilities."
The messages from the soldiers include many from Athlone and surrounding areas. At one stage, a voice quips, "I think half of 'A' Company are from Assumption Road!"
Among the Athlone soldiers whose messages can be heard are Corporal Peter O'Callaghan and Corporal Christy Roche of Assumption Road, and Corporal Thomas McDonnell from Sarsfield Square.
Sergeant John Monaghan from Assumption Road, during his message to his family, tells his son, Willie; "I'll bring you home that elephant I promised you!"
There are also many more messages from soldiers including Private Paul Malone and Private Michael Galvin of Mitchell's Terrace, Athlone; Private Joseph McGuinness from Horseleap; Private John Purtill of Assumption Road; and Private Jim Redmond of Abbey Road, Athlone, among others.
The Voices of Jadotville podcast was released through Moral Injury International, a group that was formed in recent years and arose from "an examination of the after-effects on Irish veterans and their families" following the Siege of Jadotville.
* You can listen to the Voices of Jadotville podcast on Spotify here.