Niemba Ambush, 8 November 1960


ONUC – Peacekeeping Mission in the Congo

1960 saw the beginning of the Irish Defence Force’s four-year commitment to service in the Congo. Between 1960 and 1964, over 6,000 Irishmen served there. During this period of service 26 Irish soldiers lost their lives, 9 of which were killed during the Niemba Ambush 8 November 1960. The United Nations Operation in the Congo (Opération des Nations Unies au Congo) known as ONUC was established by Security Council resolution 143 on 14 July 1960. This was a result of the Congolese government requesting military assistance from the UN to maintain territorial integrity. ONUC was originally established to ensure the withdrawal of Belgian forces, to assist the Government in maintaining law and order, and to provide technical assistance. This was subsequently modified to include maintaining the territorial integrity and political independence of the Congo, preventing the occurrence of Civil War, and securing the removal of all foreign military, paramilitary and advisory personnel not under UN command, as well as all mercenaries.

“OS-ONUC-33INFBN-01-04: Agreement to enlist for service outside the state. In pursuance of the Defence (amendment) Act 1960, a man of the Permanent Defence Forces enlisted on or after 26 July 1960 will be liable for service outside the State with a United Nations Emergency Force”
“P-157-011: Lt. Kevin Gleeson’s platoon, taken prior to their departure to the Congo”

Deployment of the 33rd Infantry Battalion 


The 33rd Battalion was the second Irish contingent to serve overseas following the United Nations’ request for Ireland to provide troops to the proposed peacekeeping mission. They served in the Congo between August 1960 and January 1961. The codename given to the airlift of 33rd Battalion personnel was Operation Sarsfield.

“OS-ONUC-33INFBN-01-04: Operation Sarsfield”

Below we can see eight members of the Niemba patrol in No.2 Platoon, A Company assigned to chalk No. 7. Chalks 5 to 10 were scheduled to move to Republic of the Congo on 18 August 1960. Of the three men not listed here, Tpr. Browne and Pte. Killeen were under HQ Company (A Company) and Pte. Farrell was with No.1 Platoon (A Company).

“OS-ONUC-33INFBN-01-04: Allotment of personnel to aircraft”

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