The Battle of Jadotville, 13-17 September, 1961

On the morning of 13 September, at around 0730hrs, fighting broke out and 'A' Company came under attack. This occurred while the majority of 'A' Company were at Mass. Despite the timing, 'A' Company quickly returned to their positions and returned fire. Word went out by radio to 35th Infantry Battalion tactical HQ in Elisabethville of the ongoing situation. The estimated enemy strength at this time was 300. 'A' Company received response from HQ to ‘defend yourself with max. force’. Following the initial attack there was a lull in fighting which lasted a couple of hours. Comdt Quinlan gave the order to fill every container in the vicinity with water. A precaution well taken as later on that day the water was cut off. During this period 'A' Company observed large forces of Gendarmerie moving into position.
A second attack began around 1130hrs with heavy mortar and small arms fire. 'A' Company’s 60mm Mortars, Bren and Vickers machine guns and Gustaf submachine guns were engaged and fire returned. Firing continued throughout the day and into the night. The first day of fighting also saw 'A' Company’s first wounded soldier, who was shot in the stomach.






'ACC-2016-24-001: Brig Gen James Flynn Private Collection: Extracts from handwritten copy of messages by OC 'A' Company taken from unit journal log'

Force Kane I

Plans were made on 13 September for a relief force from the 35th Infantry Battalion to go to Jadotville to reinforce 'A' Company. Already thin on the ground and engaged in Operation Morthor, Lt Gen MacEoin ordered that a reinforced Irish company go to Jadotville to relieve 'A' Company. The relief force comprised of elements from 'B' Company, supported by a cavalry and medical element, and was led by Comdt John Kane. Force Kane left Elisabethville at 1615hrs that day and was expected to arrive at Jadotville on 14 September. When Force Kane reached the Lufira Bridge it was met with road obstacles and heavy Gendarmerie fire. 'A' Company could hear the fighting at the Lufira Bridge from Jadotville. After returning fire and attempting various ways of clearing the blockages and reaching the bridge throughout the night, the order was given for the relief force to withdraw and return to Elisabethville the next morning.

'PRCN-0073-01-01-04: Comdt Pearse Wheatley Private Collection: Some members of 'B' Company tasked with relieving 'A' Company in Jadotville. The letter box nailed to the tree received last letters before the move out order'

The Battle Continues

Comdt Quinlan decided to consolidate his company’s defensive positions and more trenches were dug throughout the night of 13 September. After receiving the disappointing news on 14 September that Force Kane I had to abandon their attempt to reinforce the men at Jadotville, 'A' Company was met with the unwelcome sight of a Katangese Air Force CM 170 Fouga Magister Jet. The Fouga Jet was armed with 7.5mm blow-back operated machine guns and could carry two 500lb bombs. The first time the jet carried out a fly-over it appeared to be for reconnaissance purposes. When the jet reappeared around 1500hrs on 14 September it dropped two bombs and carried out strafing runs. The jet reportedly first hit the Purfina garage, targeting the petrol pumps and fuel tanks. 'A' Company suffered two more wounded during the bombing. Flying high into the sun, the soldiers found it difficult to see the jet’s position but they could hear it. 'A' Company attempted to fire at the Fouga Jet and it appeared to have been hit at least once, resulting in the aircraft needing to fly higher. This significantly reduced the accuracy of the jet’s attacks. Comdt Quinlan and the chaplain, Fr Fagan, made their way around 'A' Company’s positions, checking on the men and offering encouragement and support. On the evening of 14 September, Comdt Quinlan assembled a conference with his officers to discuss the situation. Elsewhere on 14 September, the 1st Infantry Group was attacked at Kamina by a Gendarmerie company. Reinforced by two Swedish companies, the 1st Infantry Group had repelled the attack by the morning of 16 September.

'ACC-2017-001: Capt Noel Carey Private Collection: Fouga Magister Jet at Elisabethville Airport Oct 1961'
'PC-271-009: Comdt Ollie Barbour Private Collection: Purfina Garage. Set of Photographs from 'A' Company, Jadotville'

With ONUC forces now engaged in fighting at Jadotville, Elisabethville and Kamina, UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld decided to attempt to negotiate a resolution with President Tshombe. By the morning of 15 September, Comdt Quinlan was urgently seeking relief from Elisabethville. In a message to Lt Col NcNamee, Comdt Quinlan urged him to ‘send reinforcements immediately’. Attacks from the Katangese forces and the Fouga Jet continued and food and water supplies had become a major issue. Plans were made for a second relief force, Force Kane II, to go to Jadotville.
At 0927hrs on 16 September a helicopter flown by Lt Bjhrne (Norway) and Warrant Officer Eric Thors (Sweden) landed in 'A' Company’s position at Jadotville carrying water and ammunition. Gendarmerie forces instantly launched an attack and 'A' Company had to unload the helicopter under heavy fire. At approximately 1400hrs Comdt Quinlan received a phone call asking for a ceasefire. Later that afternoon Comdt Quinlan, accompanied by Fr Fagan and interpreter Lt Lars Fröberg (Swedish liaison officer), negotiated a ceasefire with the Mayor of Jadotville. Comdt Quinlan radioed Elisabethville to inform them of this development. He did not know at this stage that Force Kane II had withdrawn.

'ACC-2017-001: Capt Noel Carey Private Collection: Lt Noel Carey & No 3 Platoon with UN helicopter which landed on their positions during the Battle of Jadotville'

Force Kane II

Force Kane II left Elisabethville early on the morning of 16 September. The plan was to withdraw 'A' Company from Jadotville with a combined Irish and Gurkha force who would first have to attack the defending Gendarmerie company at the Lufira Bridge. The relief force was attacked by the Fouga Jet twice before reaching the Lufira Bridge. The bridge and its surrounding area had been heavily reinforced since the initial attempt to reach 'A' Company. A number of Gurkhas attempted to outflank the Katangese forces by crossing the railway bridge downstream. Their response was to blow up the railway bridge. After heavy fighting, Force Kane II was forced to withdraw. The Gurkhas suffered five fatalities and twelve wounded. Four Irish troops were also wounded.

'Cpl Seamus McDermott discusses his involvement in Force Kane II, the second patrol which attempted to reach Jadotville'




“OS-ONUC-35INFBN-07-009: Press Cuttings: Article 17 Sep 1961 regarding Force Kane II”

17 September,1961

The day after the ceasefire was negotiated, on the morning of 17 September, Comdt Quinlan observed Gendarmerie once again surrounding 'A' Company’s position. The Fouga Jet was also flying. Comdt Quinlan continued negotiations throughout the day. At this stage the men of 'A' Company were utterly exhausted. Water had completely run out and food was minimal. Comdt Quinlan insisted on going into Jadotville town to see if he could get water restored and acquire a feel for the climate. He went into a bar where he was greeted with cheers by the Gendarmerie who saluted him and showed their wounds.

The situation worsened throughout the day. The UN jets that were promised never came and the relief force had returned to Elisabethville. Comdt Quinlan informed HQ 35th Infantry Battalion of the situation and advised that the ceasefire was on the verge of collapse. At this point, Minister for External affairs Frank Aiken TD had arrived at Leopoldville to meet with Dag Hammarskjöld. There seemed to be a serious lack of understanding between the 35th Infantry Battalion and 'A' Company about how perilous their situation now was. Comdt Quinlan’s focus was now on saving his men. With no reinforcements or water, and limited ammunition and food, 'A' Company were not in a position to sustain another attack.

During this time Interior Minister Godefroid Munongo had travelled from Elisabethville to Jadotville and requested a meeting with Comdt Quinlan. The two met at Munongo’s hotel. Comdt Quinlan was accompanied by Capt Liam Donnelly, Lt Fröberg and Fr Fagan, at the meeting, where Munongo called for 'A' Company’s immediate surrender. Comdt Quinlan was able to return to his position where he held a conference to discuss 'A' Company’s options. Strong arguments were made to continue fighting. However, taking into account that they now had five wounded soldiers, the lack of food, water and ammunition and the welfare of his troops, Comdt Quinlan returned and signed the terms of surrender. Comdt Quinlan felt that there was no other option. Munongo guaranteed 'A' Company’s safety.

'PC-304: Col P Quinlan Private Collection: Surrender documents signed by Comdt Quinlan and Munongo, 17 Sep 1961'
'OS-ONUC-35INFBN-07-008: Press Cuttings: Comdt Quinlan explains surrender'


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