Navy veterans were honoured yesterday for saving more than 80 lives on a burning ship in 1962. The ceremony took place aboard the L.É Niamh which was docked in the capital on Sir John Rogerson Quay.
Congrats to former crew members of LÉCliona, who received scrolls of commendation from Minister of State today. pic.twitter.com/E3bVsCPMFh
— DF Chief of Staff (@DF_COS) September 1, 2016
The L.É Cliona was formerly the HMS Bellwort, a Royal Navy ship that was handed over to the Irish Naval Service on the 3rd of February 1947 after wartime service. She was commissioned by the Irish Naval Service in 1947 and served for 23 years.
On 29th May 1962 the L.É Cliona was engaged in an annual munitions exercise off Cork. During the exercise one of the depth charges prematurely exploded. The explosion lifted the ship several feet out of the water and ruptured the oil feed pipes in the boiling room and the oil leak caused a serious fire that spread rapidly out of control.
Lieutenant Pat O Mathuna and Stoker William Mynes bravely fought the boiler room blaze saving over 80 lives including that of RTE film crew and reporters for the Irish Examiner and Irish Independent that were on board at the time.
In the ceremony Scrolls of Commendation were awarded to these brave men by Paul Kehoe the junior defence minister. Two more scrolls were awarded one to Maurice Egan, the chief engine room artificer on the ship, and another posthumously to the family of Chief Stoker Gerry O’Callaghan.
At the time, over 50 years ago, none of the sailors were recommended by senior officers for medals despite their bravery in saving over 80 lives. The scrolls were awarded after a campaign was launched to give these brave men the recognition they deserved.
Another ceremony will be held later this month to unveil a plaque at the naval headquarters in Haulbowline, Co. Cork.