The Irish Brigade web site has been recently contacted by the family of Sergeant Frederick Gilligan, who served in Italy with the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and was awarded a Military Medal (MM) for his actions during the final battles in Northern Italy.
Tragically, Frederick was killed whilst taking part in peacekeeping duties in Austria during October 1945, and before he received confirmation of the award of his MM.
His great nephew Stephen Gilligan told us in his note:
“Frederick, (known to us as Fred), was one of four orphaned children. Two brothers, Fred and my late grandfather, George William, went to the Royal Hibernian Military School (RHMS) in Dublin as boys in 1918. Fred entered the Royal Irish Fusiliers and George went into the Royal Tank Regiment.
Fred left the army in 1938 and went to work at the GWR locomotive works at Swindon, and then re-enlisted in August 1939, serving (with the Royal Innskilling Fusiliers) in France (BEF), Madagascar, India, Iraq, North Africa, Italy and Austria.”
Frederick’s MM citation states:
“On the morning of 17 April, when forming up for an attack in a group of houses, Sgt Gilligan’s platoon was subjected to a heavy enemy barrage but Sgt Gilligan wandered around his platoon, not bothering about any cover for himself. In this area, each house was a strong point and the area was swept by enemy small arms fire but Sgt Gilligan moved about the battlefield oblivious of bullets. Several times he cleared enemy from positions on his own. Later in the day, a strong point was attacked by this platoon. The platoon consisted of three machine guns and one SP gun. The post was in the open and covered from both flanks by enemy fire. The platoon got within 50 yards of the house but owing to enemy defensive fire casualties were heavy and the final assault was impossible. The platoon was ordered to withdraw but Gilligan refused to leave his wounded until the stretcher bearers had evacuated all his men.”
In his note to us, Stephen went on to say:
“My grandfather, George, served constantly from 1918 and throughout the second war, leaving the army in 1949 as a Warrant Officer. He had been mentioned in despatches for an action in Normandy. It was obviously a huge shock for George to lose his brother after both of them had served through the entire war. I have a copy of a newspaper cutting from the Swindon Gazette in November 1945 which is about Fred’s award of the Military Medal: however he was already dead by the time it was published.
I heard different stories about Fred, one that a German killed him, another that he was shot by a guard after answering him in German!
It would be wonderful if you could find any information on what actually happened to Fred.”