Posts Tagged ‘Irish Air Corps’

Yesterday, 27th July 2018, I was a speaker representing the Irish Air Corps at the unveiling of a stone plaque memorial at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin to commemorate an Irish pilot of the Royal Air Force Major Edward ‘Mick’ Mannock, who perished during the Great War. I was asked to write and deliver a poem and some historical context to that period of history and the connections of Irish military aviation to it and afterwards.  This was an event forming part of the RAF100 anniversary and I am extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity to contribute to the remembering of Ireland’s role during the conflict and beyond, but especially the commemorating of the Irish who were part of those sizemic events. The poem was included in the Glasnevin Trust’s event programme (shown in images), for which I am also grateful to the manager, historians and staff.


‘WHEN WE FLEW; Death of an Irish Airman in the Great War’ by Michael J. Whelan – published in THE Glasnevin Cemetery event programme for commemoration of Irish WWI pilot Major Mick Mannock VC  – 27TH July 2018




 (Death of an Irish Airman during the Great War)



O how I witnessed worlds amongst the clouds,

that peace, the freedom, those futures and the past,

to patrol a morning’s sun to its final spark,

spilling out a day’s horizons.


Remember, I alone, chose this path,

to roam the skies above the autumnal Earth,

short lived but truly spent.


And, when that moment came

to fall from heaven’s breaths,

only the fields of France embraced me.

Yes, I am of Ireland, do not blame the enemy,

for as brothers, in that same ground, we rest.


But think of us,

in all the years to come,

when you contemplate our war,

that when we flew

we were part of the few

who gave for you our all.


Written and recited by Corporal Michael J. Whelan at the RAF commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetery on 27th July 2018


‘WHEN WE FLEW; Death of an Irish Airman in the Great War’ by Michael J. Whelan


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Engine of AVRO XIX – Michael J. Whelan



(Baldonnel – home of Irish aviation)


Every year in the museum where I work,

the place where old aeroplanes long to fly,

blackbirds build nests

in the wheel wells of a Vampire Jet,

the engines of an Avro Anson.

It’s very difficult to prevent

but once they get in

my mission is to protect the chicks.

Sometimes we photograph them

from a safe distance – zoom lenses.

Sometimes they sing outside my office door,

their yellow bills and fine dark plumage gliding down

to perch upon the framed pictures of vintage aircraft

standing on top of tall display cases

full of plastic models.

Now and then I’m allowed to get close,

as if they appreciate my words of gratitude.

One morning a fledgling collided with my window,

got my heart racing, a tragedy for the parents,

new feathers blowing everywhere.

Now and then a sparrow hawk

flies into the hangar to prey

and I watch it in the rafters

where it has the best views of a historic collection

alive in my imagination,

no flesh, no blood, no vibration in their wings

but once they roamed the skies majestic.


Michael J. Whelan


Vintage Aircraft (Irish Air Corps Museum collection) – Michael J. Whelan



Published in The Galway Review on 27 June 2017, see https://thegalwayreview.com/2017/06/28/michael-j-whelan-now-and-then/

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I will be taking part in this event to celebrate the 50th issue of A New Ulster (Ed. Amos Grieg)
With David Rigsbee 
and Peter O’ Neill, where I will also read and discuss poems from the Peacekeeper collection (Doire Press), which were first published in ANU. Please come along to what promises to be a fantastic event in Books Upstairs on D’Olier Street, Dublin City at 6.30pm next Tuesday evening 15th November 2016.

Hope to see you there

See details below

Michael J. Whelan - poet, Lebanon 1994

Michael J. Whelan – poet, Lebanon 1994




Celebrating the 50th issue of A New Ulster
With David Rigsbee,
Michael J. Whelan and Peter O’ Neill

A New Ulster magazine was established in 2012 and is celebrating its 50th issue this month. To mark this milestone, some of the magazine’s most prolific contributors will come together to read and discuss their poetry and translations. On the night we’ll have guest of honour, American poet and translator of Joseph Brodsky, David Rigsbee, as well as poets Peter O’Neill and Michael J. Whelan. A New Ulster magazine promotes contemporary literature across all 32 counties, publishing poetry, fictional prose, translations and transversions, reviews, interviews and art works from writers and artists not only from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland but from the USA, UK, and the EU making it a truly international literary journal which, in its four intensely packed years, has made it truly a force to be reckoned with.

David Rigsbee is the author of School of the Americas and Not Alone in My Dancing:  Essays and Reviews, as well as the forthcoming Dream Baby (Lapwing) and This Much I Can Tell You (Black Lawrence Press). He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in Literature and awards from The National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Academy of American Poets. He is the author of critical studies of Carolyn Kizer and Joseph Brodsky and has coedited Invited Guest:  An Anthology of Twentieth Century Southern Poetry.  He lives in New York.

Michael J. Whelan is a historian and award-winning poet. A serving member of the Irish Air Corps, he is currently curator and keeper of the Irish Air Corps Military Aviation Museum & Collection at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel. He is the author of two history books and his poetry has been published in Ireland, Mexico, Paris, the UK and included in The Hundred Years’ War –Anthology of Modern War Poems (Bloodaxe UK). His debut collection ‘Peacekeeper’ (Doire Press, 2016) is the first of its kind to reference the role of Irish citizens on international peace support missions.

Peter O’ Neill is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently Divertimento The Muse is a Dominatrix(mgv2>publishing, France) and Sker (Lapwing). He edited And Agamemnon Dead, An Anthology of Early Twenty First Centurywith Walter Ruhlmann (mgv2>publishing). He is the founder of Donkey Shots, an avant garde poetry festival which takes place in the spring in his home-town of Skerries, north county Dublin, where he also hosts The Gladstone Readings.


Tickets are  €5.92 and available at the Eventbrite link below



Tue 15 November 2016

18:30 – 19:30 GMT



Books Upstairs,

17 D’Olier Street

2 Dublin



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The Commonwealth and Ireland Service to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign, The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Helles Memorial 24 April 2015

The Gallipoli Six L - R Sgt Joe Meade, Airman Michael J. Whelan, Petty Officer Kevin Heade, Petrty Officer Cormac De Barra, Sergeant Tracy Walsh, Coy Sergeant Jim Aherne. Cape Helles Memorial - 24th April 2015 (Photo by SgtTracy Wash).

The Gallipoli Six L – R Sgt Joe Meade, Airman Michael J. Whelan, Petty Officer Kevin Heade, Petty Officer Cormac De Barra, Sergeant Tracy Walsh, Coy Sergeant Jim Aherne. Cape Helles Memorial – 24th April 2015 (Photo by Sgt Tracy Walsh).

L – R Sgt Joe Meade, Airman Michael J. Whelan, Petty Officer Kevin Heade, Petty Officer Cormac De Barra, Sergeant Tracy Walsh, Coy Sergeant Jim Aherne. Cape Helles Memorial – 24th April 2015 (Photo by Sgt Tracy Walsh).


Recently I had the honour of representing Ireland and the Irish Defence Forces at the Commonwealth and Ireland commemorations of the April 1915 landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula during the Great War. Many Irish soldiers serving in the British and ANZAC forces perished or were badly injured during the almost 9 months campaign and the Irish state has now officially recognised their part in the battles that took place in the Dardanelles one hundred years ago. I was selected by the General Officer Commanding the Irish Air Corps to be part of a team of six Irish Defence Forces personnel (two from each of the three services – Army, Navy & Air Corps with one of the army members being a piper and an Air Corps member being female) to take part in the commemorations on April 24th at the Cape Helles Memorial.

The six Irish Defence Forces personnel were Company Sergeant Jim Aherne (7th Infantry Battalion), Sergeant Joe Meade (piper – 7th Infantry Battalion), Petty Officer Cormac De Barra (Irish Naval Service), Petty Officer Kevin Heade (Irish Naval Service), Sergeant Tracey Walsh (Number 3 Operations Wing, Irish Air Corps) and myself Airman Michael J. Whelan (Irish Air Corps Museum, No. 4 Support Wing, Irish Air Corps). A few long hard days were had by the six representatives in the preparations, travelling to Cape Helles and the many rehearsals with British naval and army forces. All six of the Irish Defence Forces representatives accompanied An Tuachtaran Na hEireann Michael D. Higgins – President of Ireland and Lt. General Conor O’ Boyle – Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces on the flight to Istanbul on April 22nd and later we were all present at the Commonwealth and Ireland ceremony in Gallipoli on the 24th.

It was a very high profile event both in Turkey and around the world with over twenty one Commonwealth heads of states and or their representatives and entourages in attendance, including

HRH Prince Charles of Wales,

HRH Prince Harry of Wales,

His Excellency the President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan,

His Excellency the Presidents of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins,

His Excellency Mamnoon Hussain, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,

The Right Honourable John Key MP, Prime Minister of New Zealand,

The Right Honourable Tony Abbott MP, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia,

His Excellency Jea-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence, the French Republic,

The Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular), Canada,

His Excellency Markus Grubel, Parliamentary State Secretary for Defence, the Federal Republic of Germany,

His Excellency Md. Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh,

His Excelleny General V.K. Singh (Ret), Minister of State for External Affairs, the Republic of India among them.


Company Sergeant Jim Aherne (7th Infantry Battalion, Irish Defence Forces) read an excerpt from a letter written on the 13th of August 1915 to his father by Captain Paddy Tobin ‘D’ Company 7th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Captain Tobin was killed at Suvla Bay three days later aged 21 years. Sergeant Joe Meade (Piper – 7th Infantry Battalion, Irish Defence Forces) played with the Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland and the Prince of Wales Division’s Band throughout the ceremony. Petty Officer Cormac De Barra (Irish Naval Service) delivered the wreath from the Irish People to the President of Ireland to be placed at the memorial Sergeant Tracey Walsh (Irish Air Corps) delivered the wreath to the representative from the Federal Republic of Germany to be placed at the memorial before returning to their positions in front of the monument and opposite the fifty-seven member Royal Navy Guard of Honour, where the military representatives of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France and the Republic of Ireland lined the route.

As a historian I have a keen interest in the First World War and the Irish soldier’s roles in it. I had visited the peninsula a few years prior and so it was real privilege and a humbling experience for me to be back near the beach cemetery again (V Beach) for this remembrance ceremony and to be part of the small delegation representing my country at this history making event, where almost to the exact moment 100 years ago Irish born soldiers serving in the British and ANZAC forces came ashore into decimating machine-gun fire. The thing I remember most about Gallipoli or what resonates with me the most I think is the fact that so many men on both sides died in such a short period in such a small area and most of them have no graves. The Gallipoli peninsula is their resting place and though it is a beautiful landscape the dead are still there in the energy of the place.

Michael J. Whelan

29 April 2015

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