WEST KERRY: Local recalls U-35 landing 'perished' sailors in Ventry

Photos by Ted Creedon

Published 21/10/2009 | 09:23

ON October 4, 1939, 28 Greek seamen were landed in Ballymore, Ventry, from the German submarine U35. The sailors had been rescued off the coast of Cornwall on the previous day when their ship, Diamantis, was torpedoed by the U-boat.

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That extraordinary event in the first weeks of the war was recalled this week by the unveiling of a plaque in Ventry and also by Eileen Cleary from Ballymore who remembers the Greek seamen coming ashore and being brought into the kitchen of her family home.

"I was Eileen Brosnan in those days and I saw those sailors coming ashore after I had come home from school. I was a very young girl at the time. The sailors came up the cliffs at Ballymore and through the fields to our farmyard. They were perished with the cold and they were all wet and shaking. And as far as I know they had no shoes on them," she told

The Kerryman.

"My father said the men had come from the submarine. My neighbour, Eoin Cleary, came over to meet them and brought them back to his house through the fields. They had food ready below for them. I think they gave them soup and bread and there was a couple of them brought up to the Dingle Hospital because they were very weak and they were kept there for a few days," she added.

More than 200 people attended various celebratory events in Ventry on Saturday to mark the rescue and landing of the Greek seamen.

The occasion was organised by the newly formed Ventry Historical Society.

The main ceremony was held on the green in front of Quinn's Pub, where an inscribed commemorative stone has been erected.

Guests included the German Ambassador Dr. Busso von Alvensleben and the Mayor of the Oinousses Islands in the Aegean, Evangelos Elias Angelakos who unveiled the memorial stone.

Other guests included descendants of Panagos Pateras, the captain and owner of the ill-fated Diamantis, officers of the Southern Command, members of the Irish Coast Guard, the crew of the Valentia lifeboat and a troop of Sea Scouts from Tralee.

The secretary of the historical society, Dr Breandán Ó Ciobháin, delivered a welcoming address in Irish, English, Greek and German and invited the German ambassador to address the gathering.

"I'm deeply moved about this gererous gesture of erecting this memorial. In that terrible war, which we all remember very well, it was indeed an exceptional action that we are going to honour today. I'm more than happy that nowadays our three countries are united in the European Union and that we can be sure that anything like that will never occur again. The only thing that should survive is the sense of magnanimity and of courage that will serve as an example for all of us," he said.

Mayor Angelakos said it was a great honour to attend the Ventry ceremony 70 years after the incident.

"I would like to remind you of the magnanimous stance of Werner Lott, the commander of the U-35,

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