80th Anniversary – 38 (Irish) Brigade – Papal Audience & Beating the Retreat

Posted on: June 12, 2024

On 12 June, 2024 the Bugles, Pipes and Drums of the Royal Irish Regiment played its Regimental March ‘Killaloe’ for His Holiness Pope Francis, during the General Assembly in Piazza San Pietro.


This marked, to the day, the 80th Anniversary when  a representative body of the 38 (Irish) Brigade, together with tis Drums and Pipes, a Brigade drawn from men of every county of the island of Ireland, had a special audience with Pope Pius XII in Saint Peter’s Basilica, and thereafter beat retreat in the same location in the Vatican City.

On 11 June 1944, it was announced that 150 members of the 38 (Irish) Brigade, plus its Pipe Band, were invited to join the first private audience for the Allies with Pope Pius XII.  The special audience was arranged by Dr Kiernan, the Irish Ambassador to the Holy See, the Brigade Major and Father Dan Kelleher.

Personnel of the 38 (Irish) Brigade were the first Allied troops to enter the Vatican after the Liberation of Rome.   On 12 June 1944, representatives from each Battalion went on parade to the Vatican City for a special audience with Pope Pius XII.  Their respective Pipe Bands were brigaded and played The Wearing of the Green and The Minstrel Boy during the special audience.

CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan 2 LIR:  “At 9am, His Holiness Pope Pius XII walked in and addressed us in perfect English with but a trace of accent & declared: ‘Gentlemen of Ireland…’ My head was in a whirl.  I was thrilled to be there.

Brigadier T.P.D. Scott:  “Pope Pius said goodbye and I called for three cheers followed by a ‘Faugh a Ballagh’ one. With a smile and a wave of the hand, he left the room & the appalling yells & shrieks produced by the Faugh a Ballagh cheer.”

CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan 2 LIR:  By arrangement, the retreat was beat on the steps of St Peter’s on the large flat surface half way to the entrance. Crowds of clergy stood around clapping &, beyond the square, a vast crowd had gathered.”

Afterwards Piper Albert Jeffrey 2 LIR remarked:  “It transpired that the Pope had expressed a wish to hear the pipes so the priest was sent to fetch us. The ‘Wearing of the Green’ seemed to be suitable for the occasion, so we played that. His Holiness seemed to enjoy it.  We did the usual trick of counter-marching on arrival at any church, so as to be facing the following marchers who then wheeled & marched into the church. There were no refreshments to be seen, so we stood about smoking.”

Videos – 12 June 2024:



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