Friday 15 December 2017

UN veteran Willie disappointed with lack of recognition for service along the border

Willie Berry of Corish Park during his time in the Irish Army in the 1960s.
Willie Berry of Corish Park during his time in the Irish Army in the 1960s.

Wexford family man and pensioner William (Willie) Berry is a former soldier who received a medal in recognition of his United Nations (UN) peace keeping duties in Cyprus, but to his disappointment he has never received any official recognition for his service with the Irish army along the border counties of Northern Ireland.

Now he is asking the government to publicly acknowledge the work done by him and his fellow soldiers to secure the border 45 years ago.

The 66-year-old, who was born on Common Quay Street and the eldest son of eight children, had to lie about his age to join the Irish Army when he was just 15.

'I decided to join the army on the day President John F. Kennedy was shot,' he said.

After training on the plains of Kildare at the Curragh Camp, William was sent to Cyprus in 1966.

'I left the army in 1967 and went labouring in London for a couple of years but I was called up again as reservist in 1969 for peacekeeping duties along the border counties in the North of Ireland,' he said.

'I am disappointed to have never received anything, not a certificate or even a letter of thanks, in recognition of the service we did there, because we were called up and it was a state of emergency ' he said,

In the early 1970s, William served a second term of three years in Cyprus as tensions exploded between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

'It was dangerous at times in Cyprus and in the Irish border counties, but not as bad as it was for the lads who were sent to The Congo, some of whom were killed,' he said.

William, an army-trained driver of 'Panhards' or armoured cars, as well as motorbikes, lorries, drove everything the army gave him.

In 1975, William left the army after meeting his wife Margaret, a nurse from Mayo. Together they had eight children and now they also have 11 grandchildren who are regular visitors to their home in Corish Park.

'I drove an ambulance in Wexford for years, but after open heart surgery 12 years ago, I was forced to retire,' he added.

'I can say now that I got a lot out of my time in the army because I went in as a young lad with no training or experience and I came out of it with a trade as a a technical driver,' he said

Wexford People

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