Today is the 69th anniversary of the D-Day Landings, one of the largest and most complex military operations of the modern age. Thousands of soldiers were involved in the operation. Whether they fell on the beaches or survived to tell their tales, each of them are heroes to be remembered.
Amongst the force stood soldiers from Ireland who recognised a cause to be fought and played a pivotal role in the landings. Like The Wild Geese these were soldiers who took flight and fought a cause far from home.
One of the soldiers was Sean Deegan, who was a part the amphibious landing.
‘I was a soldier of fortune, not a political soldier. When we got to Germany, we found out it was a worthwhile cause’
He joined the British RAF, but was trained in the use of a Harley Davidson on the battlefield, which he rode into battle on June 6th 1944.
‘Believe it or not, I had thought that all my dreams had come true when they trained me on a Harley Davidson. Then I find myself on one of these little landing crafts waiting to go in, and I’m thinking to myself “what have I done?”
‘It was horrendous, there’s no other way of describing it’
Deegan’s story is even more touching when he goes on to describe the bonds he made before the combat.
‘When there’s danger around you, you become very pally with people. It’s a different sort of friendship that you experience. I’ve never really experience that sort of friendship in civilian life’
We imagine this is the type of camaraderie original The Wild Geese shared in 1691, shoulder to shoulder.
Sean Deegan survived the war, although many of his friends did not, including two who travelled from Ireland Tim O’Neill and John O’Reilly. He became a Franciscan friar and chose the name Bother Columbanus. You can read more of his story here.
It’s important to remember their courage today. We raise a glass to them.