Tuesday 27 September 2016

Tommy, heroic Irish veteran of D-Day landings, dies aged 93

Published 19/11/2015 | 02:30

Tommy Meehan with his wife Mary Meehan at the National Day of Commemoration in Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin, in 2008
Tommy Meehan with his wife Mary Meehan at the National Day of Commemoration in Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin, in 2008

Nothing in Tommy Meehan's life would ever match the sheer terror of swooping in on a glider ahead of the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy.

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Known universally as 'Tucker', Tommy, from Beaumont in Dublin - thought to have been the oldest surviving Irish World War II veteran - passed away peacefully last Monday at the age of 93, following a long illness.

He had served with the Royal Ulster Rifles, and, on the Normandy beaches, was tasked with the harrowing job of preparing the bodies of dead Allied troops for burial, and removing their dog tags to ensure they could be identified for their families.

That horror was supplanted by another one when the war ended - as Tommy was sent to clear out concentration camps. His friend, Michael Claxton, recalled how the inmates wanted to take his gun in order to deal with the German prison guards - "but Tommy wouldn't allow that".

After that, he served with the British army in Palestine before attempting to settle down in London.

But he couldn't adapt to life there and moved home to his native Dublin and found work at the Guinness brewery, where he remained for 36 years.

He met his wife, May, and the couple reared three children - Paul, Susan and Colette.

When the film 'Saving Private Ryan' premiered in 1998, Guinness dispatched a limousine to take Tommy to the movie.

He was invited to dinner by Guinness each year to mark the anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Tommy was a proud Irishman and one of the most loyal supporters of the Boys in Green - and friends remarked on how fitting it was that he passed away the same night the Irish team delivered a stellar performance.

His funeral takes place today at 11am in the Church of the Nativity in Beaumont, followed by burial at Dardistown cemetery.

Irish Independent

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