Irish second World War veteran dies in Cork aged 102

Francis Denvir awarded Legion d’Honneur in recognition of role in liberation of France

Francis Denvir on his 100th Birthday in 2015. Photograph: Denis Boyle

One of the last surviving Irish participants in the second World War has died at his home in west Cork at the age of 102.

Francis Denvir, who was born in Glasgow after his grandfather emigrated there from Lurgan, Co Armagh, was a sergeant in a tank troop with the Irish Guards.

He was among the second wave of British forces to land at Sword beach in Normandy as part of Operation Overlord on D-Day in June 1944.

Mr Denvir joined the Irish Guards in 1939 and spent the early years of the war training tank drivers before participating in the Normandy landings and fighting his way across Europe.


He was awarded the Legion d'Honneur by the French ambassador to Ireland, Jean-Pierre Thébault on his 100th birthday on October 22nd, 2015 in recognition of his role in the liberation of France.

Speaking on that occasion, Mr Denvir's daughter, Adela Nugent told of her father's great pride in being honoured by the French government for his part in the defeat of the Nazis in Europe.

“He was delighted, absolutely thrilled when he heard. He was the type of man, like a lot of veterans of the war, who would say: ‘Look, it happened, you got on with it, don’t talk about it,’” she said, adding that he was never a man looking for accolades.

“The Irish Guards was the only regiment that had a Catholic priest assigned to it and he is a devout Catholic. He would be very proud of the fact that he was in the Irish Guards.”

Shrapnel wound

After landing at Sword Beach, Mr Denvir led a tank troop through northern France as the Allies liberated France and then Belgium before taking part in the Battle of Arnhem in the Netherlands. He was wounded during the battle there with German Panzers, suffering serious shrapnel wound to the head when his tank was hit and he was taken back to Britain for treatment.

Despite the limited rehab available at the time, Mr Denvir learned how to walk and talk again and went on to have eight children with his wife, Mary. The couple married in Glasgow in 1942 and they later recalled how they had to break wartime ration orders to get enough dried fruit to secretly bake a wedding cake.

The couple moved to Union Hall in 1989 after holidaying in the area for many years. Last year Mr Denvir was asked, as the oldest person in the parish, to officially re-open Leap Post Office.

A year earlier when receiving the Legion d’Honneur, he spoke briefly to reporters about what receiving the award from the French government meant to him.

“It is only fitting that we remember all the Irish Guards and all those who fought during World War II and the many who did not return home,” he said. “But I feel happy that my services in the army are being recognised.”

Mr Denvir died at his home in Union Hall on December 3rd. He is survived by his wife Mary and children Rosemary, Francis, Brian, Eileen, Cecelia, Clare, Terence and Adela and his many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

His remains lie in repose at his home at Shearwater, Keelbeg in Union Hall on Wednesday before removal on Thursday to St Bridget’s Church, Union Hall for funeral mass on Friday at 11am.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times