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66th Anniversary of D-Day

Irish veterans commemorate the 66th anniversary of D-Day

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66th Anniversary of D-Day

Irish veterans of World War II created a replica battlefield with authentic vehicles and military re-enactments at Leopardstown Park Hospital.

The hospital was set up in 1917 to treat disabled and injured soldiers. It is now a fulltime home to 85-year-old veteran Johnny Wetherall and many others. There are around 20 former services personnel currently receive treatment at Leopardstown.

The memories of D-Day are crystal clear in Wetherall’s mind and he feels it is hugely important for the younger generation to learn what happened during the war.

“It's about knowing what their forbears did, and also knowing it was not much fun," Wetherall said.

“War isn't a game. All these things sit very, very fresh in your memory and they're traumatic in the extreme.”

He added “It's all history now. It all seems so impossible when you look back on it, you think those things didn't happen, but they did.”

Ita Corrigan, of Kells, County Meath signed up to be a field nurse in 1939. She wanted a chance to travel.

Her role in the Queen Alexandra Military Nursing service took her to Algeria.

“People said why did you join the British Army - it was to see the world on someone else's expense,” said the 89-year-old nurse.

“It was great experience and you certainly saw men at their weakest.

“It was hard work, too - nursing is nursing whatever form it takes.”

John Crisp joined the North Irish Horse regiment in 1941. He was still a student in Trinity College when he signed up.

He spoke about how good it was to share stories with the other Irish veterans at the event.

“For years you tended to keep your war service under wraps, but now things are much more open…It's much easier to talk to people that have been there and done that than it is to explain it to people who haven't been.”

Now 86, he spent five years as a tank driver in North Africa and Europe and he is proud of his small role in the war effort.
“I think we did the right thing. I'm very proud of the small part that I played."

Wetherall signed up with the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was just 17-years-old.

At the battle at Arnhem in Holland, Wetherall was hit by a bullet in the cheek and lost his eye. He was then captured by the Germans and remained a prisoner-of-war camp. He escaped nine months later.

“The alternative to joining the forces for people like me was to be subjected to what was happening in Europe at that time," said Wetherall.
 

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