How about a new Custume?
Updated: Aug 24
Correct me if I'm wrong but it's not CUSTUME to name a barracks after a Non-Commissioned Officer and when it comes to the heroes of Jadotvile, we need to forget customary and remember exceptionalism.
When the 150 brave soldiers left their homes, many in the Irish midlands, for some part of the map of Africa they had probably never heard of, they weren't asked to do something customary and I can't imagine they were equipped for the task ahead of them or that the Irish government was accustomed to taking part in such military tasks as Ireland was neutral during the two World Wars.
These men left Custume Barracks in Athlone which was named after Sargeant Custume, a hero from the Siege of Athlone of 1691.
It is the only army barracks in Ireland to be named after a Non-Commissioned Officer and if we can honour Sargeant Custume by naming a large army barracks once named after a queen that I believe we can honour these men.
Despite sustaining injuries, these brave soldiers all managed to miraculously return to Ireland and Custume Barracks with their lives.
They returned in disgrace because they surrendered and it seems that all my military heroes surrendered too. If you believe in heaven then I'm sure they ask to see your scars and not your medals when arriving at the Golden Gates and we are all tested at times and sometimes by unsurmountable odds. My ultimate military hero is Russian Admiral Vasili Arkhipov who I believe saved the world from Nuclear Annihilation by surrendering his Soviet submarine during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The Captain of the B59 submarine wanted to launch a nuclear torpedo against the Americans who they believed were attacking them and the disagreement between the Captain and Arkipov later inspired the fictional film Crimson Tide. He later died of radiation poisoning from his time on the K19 Widowmaker yet this poor man has never been immortalised in cinema himself.
Doing the right thing is never easy and what is worse is that real heroes never seem to get their medals and praise and promotions, and war is a messy business where soldiers often fight two wars, the second one alone.
Against impossible odds, these 150 plus Irish soldiers held off thousands of African attackers and an air attack thanks to their strategic thinking commander Pat Quinlan who managed to hold off approximately 3,000 mercenaries and inflicting substantial casualties while taken none in return.
They were forced to surrender when they ran out of water and ammunition and spent a month in prison as POWs. The second battle takes place at home and much like the US soldiers drafted into Vietnam never returned to their hometowns as heroes, many soldiers are left to drown their sorrows in an internal battle of what they have seen and done, and how it will be remembered.
Of the 150 soldiers who returned to Ireland, at least four of them are believed to have killed themselves and they deserve the utmost respect for what they had to do.
When you watch the film, it is easy to watch it like a Hollywood film but the facts speak for themselves and my brother educated me on what they did, long before the story was well known.
They did the impossible, they survived the impossible and yet I understand and respect that Ireland could not celebrate these men at the time after everything that went wrong with that UN operation.
What happened was wrong of course and the Irish soldiers got caught up in the situation as a reprisal.
We cannot celebrate that debacle but we can celebrate our heroes who fought so courageously against impossible odds.
For the men who left Custume Barracks in 1961 to survive The Siege of Jadotville, I believe they deserve the same fate as Sargent Custume did in the 1691 Siege of Athlone.
They deserve to have barracks and buildings named after them.
We don't have to forget custom to remember Custume.