Monday 14 October 2019

Wreaths tribute to Congo war casualty

Honouring soldier killed over 50 years ago

Maria Pepper

A young Wexford solider killed in the Congo over 50 years ago was remembered at a wreath-laying ceremony in Barntown.

Private Andy Wickham was a member of the Irish Army serving on a UN peace-keeping mission in the Congo when he died in December 1961.

A soldier in A Company 36th Batallion, he was killed along with his commanding officer Lieutenant Paddy O' Riordan in a gun battle with Katangan forces in Elizabethville.

He was 25 years old and had only re-joined the army a short time earlier.

He left behind a widow and five young children, one of whom, also Andy, is now with the Irish Air Corps.

Private Wickham is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin and is commemmorated locally with an inscribed stone monument erected in Barntown cemetery 21 years ago.

This year's Mass and wreath-laying ceremony was attended by members of Private Wickham's family and by the Deputy Mayor of Wexford, Cllr. Philomena Roche, John Browne T.D. and local councillors.

Also in attendance were UN Veterans from Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny and members of the ex-service organisation ONE.

Wreaths were laid by Major General Vincent Savino representing UN Veterans' headquarters and by the Deputy Mayor on behalf of the people of Wexford. Private Wickham's widow Eleanor Gray laid a wreath on behalf of her family while his sister Patricia O' Reilly laid a wreath on behalf of his siblings.

His brother Richard who served two terms in the Congo, laid a wreath on behalf of the organising committee.

A wreath was also laid by Jim Clarke, a surviving member of Andy's battalion while other visiting survivors looked on.

Richard returned home from the Congo to discover that his brother had re-enlisted for service there. Andy died 10 days after his arrival in the Congo.

The annual commemmoration ceremony is very important to the Wickham family, according to Richard, as it ensures that the ultimate sacrifice made by his brother is not forgotten.

A special presentation was made to Edward Doyle who has retired after 21 years as chairman of the committee.

The new chairman is Michael Brazzill whose brother Keith is secretary.

Wexford People

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