Simon Geoghegan at the grave inTinnahinch of his grandfather, Pte. Martin Geoghegan who died in World War I which he finished renovating on the day of the 100th anniversary of the end of the war
A Kilkennyman has honoured the memory of his grandfather who was killed in World War I by placing a poppy wreath at the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres, Belgium.
Simon Geoghegan’s grandfather Martin was shot during the Battle of Messines in June 1917. Martin died of his injuries at home in Graignamanagh a few weeks later, leaving behind a wife and six small children. He was aged just 31.
Last week, Simon visited the site of the battle, in Belgium, and was invited to be among a select few to take part in the memorial ceremony.
He described it as a profoundly moving and amazing experience. Simon was touched by the respect shown to the war dead, and their visiting families, by local people.
Every single day the people of Ypres stop traffic passing the Menin Gate memorial and hold a remembrance ceremony for the thousands killed in the world wars.
Usually poppy wreaths are placed on the memorial by military figures or special dignitaries.
However, Simon got in touch with the organisers and told them his grandfather’s story, and was invited to take part.
The grand marshal of the ceremony took time to listen to the story of Simon’s grandfather.
Simon also placed a poppy wreath at the Island of Ireland Peace Park, at Messines. There he also left a handful of pebbles from his grandfather’s grave in Tinnahinch, which he learned is a veteran’s tradition.
While the Geoghegan family are very lucky that Martin came home to Graignamanagh, when many thousands lie buried in Belgian cemeteries, Simon spent many years trying to correct his grandfather’s military record. The original gravestone in Tinnahinch cemetery said Martin was 24 when he died.
Eventually the documents to prove his actual birth date were found by the family and provided to the War Graves Commission.
In a fitting coincidence, the new gravestone in Tinnahinch was being installed while Simon was in Ypres. He hopes that later this summer a special ceremony will be held at Martin’s grave to bless the new gravestone, with a priest, bugler and representatives of his grandfather’s regimental association.
Meanwhile, a retired Irish army man living in Graignamanagh always stops and salutes Martin’s grave, when he passes. Every year it is cleaned by the War Graves Commission.
The respect being shown is wonderful, Simon said.
Private Martin Geoghegan has the only war grave in Tinnahinch. One cemetery Simon visited in Belgium had 12,000 burials ‘in a little field’.
The Battle of Messines saw what is thought to be the biggest non-nuclear war explosion when one million pounds of explosive was ignited, underground. Up to 10,000 German soldiers died that day and the explosion was heard as far away as London. The massive crater left behind has been preserved.
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