Operation Overlord: Northern Ireland Connection

Operation Overlord: Northern Ireland Connection by Nigel Henderson

From reviewing the information held on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the British Army Roll of Honour (1939-1945) sources, five men associated with Northern Ireland lost their lives on 6th June 1944 during, or as a result, of operations associated with the D-Day Landing at Normandy. One of the fatalities was from Belfast, but the other four were all from the west of Northern Ireland. The fathers of two of the fatalities had died in the Great War whilst serving in the army.

Lance Corporal Joseph Thompson Larkin (Service Number PLY/X 104620) was serving with 48 Royal Marine Commando when he died on Active Service in France on 6th June 1944, aged 22, and is buried in the Southampton (Hollybrook) Cemetery in Hampshire. Joseph Thompson Larkin was born on 21st December 1921 to Joseph Larkin, a holder-up, and Matilda Larkin (nee Mullan). Matilda Larkin of Lisavon Street died on 11st August 1932, aged 33, and Joseph Larken senior married Maud Winters on 24th July 1937. Joseph and Maud Larkin were living at Sandbrook Park in 1944.

Private Michael John McGee DCM (Army Number 14216814) was serving with 7th Battalion Parachute Regiment (Army Air Corps) when he died of wounds on 6th June 1944, aged 21, and is buried in Benouville Churchyard. The London Gazette (Supplement: 36994) dated 20th March 1945 reported that Private McGee had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. As the DCM award was for the same act of gallantry for which Private McGee had been Mentioned in Despatches (London Gazette, 2nd January 1945), the MID award was cancelled. The DCM citation read,

“The above-named soldier was one of the parachutists who landed behind the enemy lines on 6th June 1944. His Coy. was in continual action of 21 hours during most of which time it was cut off from the bn. and attacked by superior numbers of inf. and tanks and S.P. guns. On one occasion Pte McGee by engaging a Panther tank at point blank range with his Bren gun fired from the hip, caused it to stop at a point when his comrades put it out of action with a hand bomb. This soldier’s complete disregard for his personal safety was largely responsible for the successful and gallant action fought by his Coy.”

Michael McGee was born on 30th October 1922 at Davagh in County Monaghan to Michael McGee and Bridget McGee (nee McCluskey) but the family was living at Aughnacloy in County Tyrone.

Sergeant Edward Eli Reynolds (Army Number 3907378) was serving with 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers when he was killed in action at the age of 33 and is buried in Bayeux War Cemetery. Edward Eli Reynolds was born in Monmouthshire on 1st October 1911 to Edward Eli Reynolds and Elizabeth Ann Reynolds. His mother died in 1912 and his father married Anne Jane Peebles in late 1914. His father was killed in action at Gallipoli on 9th August 1915 whilst serving with 4th Battalion South Wales Borderers. Edward married Elizabeth Ross on 30th October 1937 at Ebrington Presbyterian Church. Edward enlisted in his father’s regiment and Army Order 247 of 1939 reported that Private Reynolds had been awarded the General Service Medal with “Palestine” clasp. Elizabeth Reynolds was living at Waterside in Londonderry when her husband died.

Private William John Rowe (Army Number 7011445) was serving with 5/7th Battalion Gordon Highlanders when he was reported as “Missing” on 6th June 1944. The War Office Casualty List No. 1543 (5th September 1944) reported that he had been Killed in Action on that date. Private Rowe was 29 years old when he died and is buried in Bayeux War Cemetery. William Rowe was born on 21st March 1915 at Lisnaskea to Thomas Rowe and Isabella Rowe (nee Thompson), his second forename being registered as JOSEPH. His father had accidentally drowned at Clarendon Dock in Belfast on 18th January 1915, aged 40, whilst serving with 11th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Regimental Number 17258). Thomas Rowe is buried in the Roll of Honour Ground in Belfast City Cemetery and commemorated on the Screen Wall.

Sergeant James Young (Army Number 6977467) was serving with 9th Battalion Parachute Regiment (Army Air Corps) when he was reported as “Missing” on 6th June 1944. In September 1944, the War Office confirmed that he had been Killed in Action on that date. He was 28 years old and is buried in Ranville War Cemetery. James Young was a son of John Joseph Young and Mary Elizabeth Young of Omagh and he had enlisted with Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

All gravestones images are from www.findagrave.com