Currently, the Military Heritage of Ireland Trust is endeavouring to make contact with surviving military personnel who served in the Second World War. The purpose is to support a commendable initiative by the renowned artist James Hanley RHA to paint portraits of those Irish veterans who are willing to participate in the project.
Accordingly, the Trust encourages those veterans, or their immediate families, to make contact with the Trust with the view of introducing them to Mr Hanley.
Likewise, the Trust invites veterans associations to support the project, such as the Royal British Legion, the Irish Guards Association, the RAF Association, the Royal Irish Regiment Association and the Veterans Association.
Subject to the approval of the veterans, the concept envisages Mr Hanley visiting them at a convenient time and place, initially taking photographs of the individuals, and using these photographs to paint the associated portrait. The process may include a very limited number of sittings.
James Hanley is an established portrait artist. He is a full member of the Royal Hibernian Academy, was elected to Aosdána in 2008, and was recently elected to the Board of Governors of the National Gallery of Ireland. His commissions have included official formal portraits required by the State, Corporations and Institutions. They include the inauguration of President Mary McAleese, the State Portrait of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD, and the Defence Forces Portraits of former Irish Chiefs of Staff, Lieutenant-General Dave Stapleton DSM and Lieutenant-General Colm Mangan DSM. His works include special commissions for An Post, and the triptych “Vukovar, Sarajevo, Mostar” commissioned by the Defence Forces to commemorate Ireland’s Presidency of the European Community Monitoring Mission (ECMM) in the former Yugoslavia.
Mr Hanley’s website www.Jameshanley.net will introduce his works to those veterans and their families interested in the project.
In contacting the Trust, Mr Hanley said:
“I would be grateful for your assistance in making contact with surviving Second World War Irish Veterans. I realized at a recent Cenotaph memorial in London that the veterans are not getting any younger and that I had an idea to do some painted portraits of those willing to sit and to be part of my project.
It is extraordinary the service that Irish men and women made and I would love to document the remaining veterans that live in Ireland.
I want ideally this to be a series, exhibit the work as an exhibition and find a permanent house for the completed work. It would also be great to have a publication where stories can also be logged.
As time is of the essence I am anxious to get the ball rolling as soon as is convenient. I do really want to honour these veterans and know that it has to be done for posterity. I feel genuinely and passionately about this”.
It is understood in some quarters that 150,000 Irish soldiers from Northern Ireland and Ireland served in the Second World War, with somewhere in the order of 10,000 died in the war.
In recent months, H.E. Jean-Pierre Thébault, the French Ambassador to Ireland, presented veterans involved in the Liberation of France with France’s highest honour, the Légion d’Honneur. Examples include Commandant Pat Gillen (Retd) RIP, former Sergeant in the Irish Guards, Francis Denvir, living in Union Hall, County Cork, Sub-Lieutenant Michael D’Alton (Retd), residing in Dublin, and Sir John (Jack) Norman Ide Leslie, 4th Baronet, residing in Glaslough, County Monaghan who was bestowed with the Légion d’Honneur as recently as 9 November.
“WW2VETSPROJECT” is a website presenting a body of memory from World War 2 Veterans born or living in Ireland: ww2vetsproject.com. The project has almost reached completion. However, the site developer, Damian Drohan is always interested to hear from any interested parties about proposals for bringing the work forward.