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A very rare Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct awarded to Corporal Colm McDonagh, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. 

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A very rare Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct awarded to Corporal Colm McDonagh, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. 

The award was for a raid by the IRA on the depot of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Omagh on 17 October 1954.  McDonagh was the guard commander; he took on the IRA raiders and in the ensuing firefight he was shot in the leg.  

War Medal 1939-45 War Medal (Unnamed as issued), General Service Medal with clasp Cyprus (14451949 Sgt C. McDonagh R. Innisks), Long Service & Good Conduct Medal ERII with bar Regular Army (14451949 Cpl C. McDonagh Inniskillings) and Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct emblem.

Together with:

  1. Original photo of the recipient in uniform, the reverse inscribed in ink ‘From Colm to Betty with best wishes’;
  2. Copies of the recommendation and citation for McDonagh’s award and those of the other 2 soldiers who were decorated;
  3. Copy London Gazette entry;
  4. Postcard from Sennelager Training Centre, Germany the reverse inscribed in ink with a note that 1stBn, The Inniskilling Fusiliers were there during April and May 1965.
  5. 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers song book dated 1965.
  6. Northern Irish Brigade cap badge;
  7. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers button.

In the early hours of 17 October 1954 a group of armed IRA terrorists broke into the Depot of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Omagh, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland.   The terrorists were looking for weapons and ammunition.  Cpl McDonagh was the Guard Commander that night.  He and the barrack guard took on the IRA terrorists.  In the ensuing fight McDonagh was shot in the right leg, four of his men were injured and two of the IRA raiders were wounded.  The Police later arrested eight suspects.

Three members of the barrack guard were awarded Queen’s Commendations for Brave Conduct for this action in the London Gazette dated 4 February 1955 – ‘For brave conduct at Omagh, Northern Ireland on 17 October 1954.’

The Officer Commanding the Depot submitted a recommendation for a Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct in respect of all three Fusiliers on 22 October 1954.  The GOC Northern Ireland endorsed the recommendation ‘strongly recommended’ on 25 October 1954.

Citation for Cpl McDonagh:

‘On the night of 16/17 October 1954 Corporal McDONAGH was performing the duties of Guard Commander. At about 0330 a raiding party entered the Barracks by climbing the wall between the cookhouse and the boiler room. Shortly afterwards Corporal McDONAGH heard, ‘Guard Commander, ‘Guard Commander’ shouted from the direction of No. 2 Post situated across the Barrack Square from the Guard Room.  Corporal McDONAGH immediately alerted the Guard and ordered them to ‘Stand to Posts’.  He then went out to make a reconnaisance alone and was engaged by the raiders and wounded in the right thigh. 

It was his personal leadership and example at this stage which brought the Guard into action. Corporal McDONAGH’s determination and lack of regard for his own safetywere mainly responsible for the successful action then fought by the Guard which resulted in the defeat of the raiders. 

Finally, Corporal McDONAGH reorganised his Guard, checked the security of the Armouries and searched the area immediately inside the wall surrounding the Depot.  He refused to be evacuated until he was satisfied that no raiders were still in the Depot’.

Citation for Fusilier Heatley:

On the night of 16th/17thOctober 1954, Fusilier HEATLEY was a member of the Regimental Depot Guard.  At 0215 hours he was posted at No.2 post near Waterloo Block.  At about 0330 hours a raiding party entered the barracks by climbing a wall between the cookhouse and the boiler-room.  Shortly afterwards Fusilier HEATLEY heard a sound from the steps behind him.  As he turned to investigate he was rushed and attacked by two men.  He fought with these men at the same time repeatedly calling out the alarm.  All this time he was being beaten about the head.  Eventually all three fell to the ground.

Fusilier HEATLEY broke away from his assailants who ran off in the dark.  Although badly injured and only half conscious he picked up his rifle and fired two shots and wounded one of the raiding party.  In giving the alarm after being attacked, Fusilier HEATLEY displayed a complete disregard for his own personal safety.  His gallant and determined action gave warning to the guard, who were able to man their alarm posts and repel the attack.

Citation for Fusilier Boyle:

On the night of 16th/17thOctober 1954 Fusilier BOYLE was a member of the Regimental Depot Guard.  At about 0330 hours a raiding party entered the barracks by climbing a wall between the cookhouse and boiler-room.  Shortly afterwards Fusilier BOYLE was woken up by someone outside the guard room shouting ‘Guard Commander’ and he was posted at the entrance to the guard room and told to cover the main gate.  Suddenly he saw a man dash past him and try to open the main gate.  He fired twice, wounding this man with one of his shots. The raider dropped his weapon and ran back in the direction of the square.

Hearing a noise to his right Fusilier BOYLE turned and saw another man creeping towards him along the veranda.  Before he could fire again he was hit in the right arm and dropped his rifle.  The man who fired at him ran back into the shadows. Fusilier BOYLE went to the cells, released Fusilier O’SULLIVAN who was undergoing detention, handed him his rifle and instructed him to keep the main gate covered.  Fusilier BOYLE’s prompt action prevented other raiders, who were waiting outside, from getting into the Depot.

The raid on the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Depot was discussed in the House of Commons on 26 October 1954 (see HC Deb 26 October 1954 vol 531 cc247-8W247W§54):

Captain Orr asked the Secretary of State for War to make a statementabout the raid on the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers’ depot at Omagh on 17th October; and [asked] whether he is satisfied that the security arrangements are now such as to ensure that no similar raid in the future would have any chance of success.

The Secretary of State replied, “Yes. Early on the morning of 17th October an armed party of about 12 men raided this depot. Prompt and aggressive action was taken by the guard and the raiders fled, leaving some weapons behind. It is known that two of them were wounded. Nothing was taken from the depot and, although five of our men were hurt, I am glad to say that all are progressing satisfactorily. A subsequent search in conjunction with the police has led to the arrest of eight men.

One cannot guarantee that any future raid will fail but this incident is far from discouraging.”

London Gazette:

‘The War Office, 4 February 1955.  The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve the publication of the names of the under mentioned as having been commended for brave conduct at Omagh, Northern Ireland on 17th October 1954.’

The Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct

14451949 Corporal Colm McDONAGH, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

23040628 Fusilier Clifford Robert HEATLEY, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

23211334 Fusilier Kevin BOYLE, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

VF-GVF Mounted as originally worn.