VETERANS of the Siege of Jadotville will gather in Athlone this weekend to receive their medals from the Government.
The surviving soldiers from the 35th Infantry Battalion, as well as the relatives of soldiers who have passed away, will take part in a special ceremony at Custume Barracks tomorrow (Saturday).
The recognition comes 56 years after soldiers defended a United Nations outpost for five days in the face of an assault by up 5,000 rebels in the state of Katanga in the Congo.
The Irish company, comprising 158 soldiers, were part of a UN peacekeeping force in the country.
It suffered no fatalities and inflicted heavy losses on the attackers before being forced to surrender when supplies ran out.
The men were held as prisoners by Katangese rebels until their release was negotiated a month later.
Little was known about the siege until it got the Hollywood treatment last year in a big budget movie starring Irish actor Jamie Dornan.
The film breathed new life into a campaign to have those who fought in the battle officially honoured.
Several former soldiers from Donegal will make the journey to Athlone for the ceremony, among them Leo Boland.
Leo, who is originally from Killygordon, was 22 at the time of the siege and stood his ground alongside ten other Donegal men: James Gormley from Ballyshannon, William George Duffy, Harry Hegarty, James Harper, Michael McDermott from Lifford, Patrick Nicell from Burnfoot, Sean Kerr from Bundoran, Patrick Gildea and Seamus O’Kane, both from Castlefinn and Robert Bradley from Inishowen.
While a number of the men have since passed on or are now living overseas, it is expected that family representatives will represent them at Custume Barracks.
Leo Boland, who now lives in Leitrim, will attend accompanied by his wife and their two children.
“I am looking forward to it but it should have happened a long time ago because a lot of the men have now passed on,” Leo said this week.
“I saw the film in Mayo when it came out and I thought it was very good.
“It will be proud day but an emotional day at the same time on Saturday but I am looking forward to receiving the medal after all these years.”
Posted: 7:00 pm December 1, 2017