Tne Naval Association return visit to Belgium and France 1999
Following our visit to Messines for the Inauguration of the Island of Ireland Peace Park on the 11th November 1998, 48 members of our Association returned to Belgium and France during the week 5th to 11th September 1999. Perhaps one of the finest tributes to those who lost their lives in " The Great War" is how with loving care the Commonwealth War Graves Commission keep every known war grave in a beautiful condition. Tyne Cot, Theipval and the Ulster Tower next to Theipval are but a few of the fabulous Memorials to those who died. The Tower at the Island of Ireland Peace Park at Messines, is still a sight to behold and is as impressive in its own right as any of the others we visited. The young people from both sides of the Irish border still journey to Messines to clean and weed around the peace park. A museum in the Town Hall is dedicated to all the Irish who served during WW1 and it is well worth a visit after seeing the peace park.
The Naval Association President Mr. Ray Murphy and the former President Mr. Piaras O'Connor Lay a wreath at the Tower in the Island of Ireland Peace Park, at Messines, Belgium.
One other compliment that we would pay to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is the web pages that they have provided on the Internet. This web page enables you to trace the grave or memorial of a relative or friend who lost their lives in WW1 or WW2. Two of our members, brothers' Senior Chief Petty Officer Con Donovan and Ex Petty Officer Paddy Donovan lost their Father while they were still infants. Their Grandfather lost his life during WW1 and both Paddy and Con never knew where he was buried. Indeed none of their family had any idea where the grave was. However, recently through the web site of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission it was discovered that Sgt. Patrick Donovan lies in a cemetery at Levanti in France.
It was our intention to find this cemetery and it was an emotional occasion on Tuesday 7th September 1999 when Paddy and Con laid a wreath on their grandfather's grave after 82 years.
Back across the Belgium border our party arrived at the Island of Ireland Peace Park where the President of the Naval Association, Ray Murphy placed a wreath at the Tower. The Naval Association was honouring both the Nationalists and Loyalists from Ireland who lost their lives in WW1.
One of our party Gerard O'Halloran from Ennistymon Co. Clare in Ireland is Chairman of a committee, set up to erect a memorial in Ennistymon for the 110 Ennistymon men who died serving with the Connaught Rangers during WW1. One of the Ennistymon men was the Grand Uncle of Gerald's. We found his grave in Hazebruck cemetery in France. Gerard was delighted with the opportunity to lay a wreath on behalf of his family.
Pte.Gerard Halloran and his last farewell to his sister and Mother (in background) at Ennistymon Railway Station.
Our Chairman Lt. Matt Comiskey (SM) Retd.,for years tried to trace the whereabouts of his only Uncle his Fathers only brother. His search uncovered that his uncle was only 16 years of age when he joined up and died on his 17th birthday on 9th of September 1916. His uncle was one of the 4,500 Irishmen who died over that six days during the battle of Ginchy in September 1916. No prior plans had been made to visit Theipval on any particular day or week. It was a remarkable coincidence that on the day Matt and his wife Mary laid a wreath at Theipval memorial, Matts uncle would have been 100 years of age on that day if he had survived. My Uncle Patsy R.I.P by Lt. Matt Comiskey (SM) Retd.