This story is dedicated to the memory of 
Rifleman McClatchey CJ 14424526


[ Joe ]

Joe McClatchey was my father he was the youngest boy of a family of seven. His father died when he was seven leaving his mother to raise them all alone. At the age of fourteen after seeing his older brother Billy join the Inniskilling Fusiliers and transfer to the Airborne he decided it was his turn. He had a brother called George with a disability so he took his birth certificate and went off to war. When his mother found out she got him chased up and sent him back home.
This came at a price of being court marshalled and being told by his Commanding Officer that he was a boy drawing a mans wages but would not have to pay the money back. When home he waited to till he was sixteen and walked twenty five miles to volunteer his services to 1st Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles. When they pulled into depot in a wagon he seen soldiers jumping out of a hot air balloon at 500 ft, he immediately volunteered thinking it would be a thrill. After his first jump he found out what he wanted to be a Paratrooper. So he set about doing all he had to do to earn his wings and a Red Beret that he was to cherish forever.

He then heard they were setting up a Glider Regiment and he wanted to be part of it. So again off he went and trained in their Dakota’s on how to crash land in a three ply wooden plane and catch the enemy with the element of surprise.

And this they did when on 6th of June 1944 Rifleman McClatchey CJ Army Number 14424526 was part of the 1st battalion Royal Ulster Rifles 6th Airborne division 21st Army Group that crash landed by glider at landing zone ‘N’ and took part in the fierce fighting in Normandy and crossed the famous Pegasus bridge. They were caught up in battle St Honorine were he lost a lot of very good friends and fought alongside his uncle Francie Brown who was serving with the 51st Highlanders after months of fighting at Normandy they were sent home on leave but were quickly called upon again to fight at the battle of the Bulge and Glide in again on the crossing of the Rhine.

After the war he settled down in his home town of Portadown , Co Armagh and went on to have a family of thirteen. Dad never spoke much about the war but never missed Remembrance Sunday were he went to pay his respects to his fallen comrades, and we very proudly picked him out wearing his Red Beret. But like very many old soldiers 56 years later I was talking to him about his medals when he let me in on his big secret. The medals he was wearing weren’t his he bought them in an antique shop in London after the war the M.O.D had overlooked him on discharge and he never received his own, now that he had confided his secret to me I had to do something about it and wrote off to the M.O.D who cross checked his records and sent out a set of Gleaming new medals but we couldn’t stop there so after contacting the fantastic Royal Ulster Museum they got him presented with them in the Lord Mayors Parlour by Colonel Robyn Charley on Old Soldiers Day. This was to be a fantastic end to a very well kept secret. And a day he was very proud of and we were very proud of him.


[ Joe & Colonel Robyn Charley ]



Sadly Dad passed away on 13th March 2004 and we lost the biggest influence on our lives. I went to Pegasus Bridge (Paradata) in April this year with my son to trace his footsteps and lay crosses on the graves of the comrades that he lost. 

Many thanks to MATT McCLATCHEY for sharing his family story with us ... to contact Matt via e-mail click here


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