Sergeant Christopher O ‘Dowd
Irish Guards / Special Air Service
This brave Irishman was a member of an elite S. A. S. Unit.
Christopher O ‘Dowd was born one of eight children of a family of twelve to Sarah (Sullivan – died 1972) and James O ‘Dowd (died 1960) on 6th September 1920 at Cahernabrack in Shrule.
Raised on a 13 – acre farm O’ Down attended the local national school prior to working as a teenager in Mc Tigue’s Ironmongery & Hardware shop at Main Street Ballinrobe. According to his nephew Galway Author Gearoid O ‘Dowd ‘Christy was not made out for the hardware trade! A natural free spirit, he was restless to see what the world had to offer’ from his book on O’ Dowd’s career and life. (see below.) Aged just eighteen years he sold his prized possession to emigrate then joined the Irish Guards. (Averil Staunton) [i]
O ‘Dowd’s first Campaign with the Irish Guards was the Norwegian one during 1940. He volunteered for the newly formed Commando Unit. He served also in the Middle East alongside Randolph Churchill, Evelyn Waugh, and David Stirling. He was recruited as one of the original members of the S. A. S. formed by Stirling & Blain Maine. (Averil Staunton) [ii]
He was promoted to Lance – Sergeant to command his own unit. (from Gearóid O’Dowd’s Book, 2011)
He participated in several of their early Missions for which he was awarded a Military Medal. He also fought in Battle of Crete plus Sicily & Italy. (Averil Staunton) [iii]
His death occurred with eighteen of his comrades when they were hit by a shell at Termoli in Italy on 6th October 1943. (Averil Staunton) [iv]
Citation for Military Medal
Unit: Irish Guards (attached to 1st Special Air Service Regiment)
Regt. No; 2719054
Rank & Name: Corporal Christopher O ‘Dowd
Action for which commended: Corporal O ‘Dowd has taken part in five successful operations; he has shown consistent bravery & steadiness.
A FUKA aerodrome on the 8th May 1942 he assisted to destroy thirty enemy aircraft.
While engaged on a raid on Benghasi on 14th September 1942 he was in the last vehicle to leave covering the withdrawal by accurate & sustained machine gun fire which drew the defenders fire from the main withdrawing line.
On 23rd October he was the senior N. C. O. of the raiding Party which attacked an enemy convoy driving from Siwa to Mersa Matruh, assisting in destroying four Lancias.
On 26th October 1942, he assisted in blowing up the railway line west of Mersa Matruh,
On 1st November 1942, he was the senior N. C. O. in a party of six which strafed traffic at Sidi Barrandi, then attacked a railway siding capturing eighteen prisoners, four machine guns, blowing up the railway line & destroying wireless equipment. [v]
Sergeant O ‘Dowd was presented with Award Medals (shown on this link) during the Second World War. [vi]
Christopher O ‘Dowd is the subject of a book written by his nephew Galway Author Gearoid O ‘Dowd 2011 Pen & Sword Military South Yorkshire in ‘He Who Dared and Died: The Life and Death of an SAS Original Sergeant Chris O’Dowd, MM.’ It includes several photograph, along with hard copies: it may be read on Kindle at this site: https://www.amazon.com/He-Who-Dared-Died-Original/dp/1848845413
Averil Staunton Ballinrobe Heritage (29 / 07/ 2012) has penned an article of Sergeant O ‘Down at this site: http://www.historicalballinrobe.com/page_id__264.aspx?path=0p3p
Christopher O ‘Dowd is remembered among the fallen heroes at the Mayo Peace Park in Castlebar one may read about the memorial tributes at this link: https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/castlebar/visitors-guide/mayo-peace-park.html or at http://www.irishwarmemorials.ie/Place-Detail?siteId=333
He is mentioned on this site: http://www.irishwarmemorials.ie/Place-Detail?siteId=333
A downloaded version of Shrule Parish History is available on this site: http://www.shruleglencorribparish.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Shrule-Parish-History.pdf
[i] Sargeant O ‘ Dowd ( http://www.historicalballinrobe.com/category/people ) [assessed 23th Aug 2019]
[vi] Record details for C. O’Dowd (https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/ british-army-irish-guards/ )
[assessed 20th Aug 2019]