Army Explosion 1941

Centre monument naming the men who died in the explosion of 1941
Karen Allison © 2020
Monument erected in 1986 to commemorate the army explosion of 1941 showing 8 of the 16 stones.
Karen Allison © 2020
Soldier with bowed head and rifle turned towards him
Karen Allison © 2020

In 1941 there was a tragic accident on the army range in the Glen of Imaal.  Sixteen soldiers lost their lives on the dreadful day when a training mine exploded.

It all went terribly wrong.

On 16th September, 1941 a demonstration of the working of an anti-tank mine was held.  A lieutenant from the Corps of Engineers inserted a charge primer into a mine and it was then covered over with grass or dirt and when a tank drove over the charger it would explode on impact.  This exercise was always undertaken using dummy mines, but on this occasion it all went terribly wrong and sixteen men lost their lives.  Three men were blinded and several other were badly injured.  To this day it is the biggest single tragedy in the Irish Army.

A mark of respect at army funerals

In 1958 a triple panel stained glass window was installed in the church of the Most Holy Rosary at McKee barracks, Dublin.  It is situated in the entrance of the church and the centre panel depicts Our Lady looking down on the Glen and the two outer panes show soldiers with their heads down and their rifles turned towards themselves. Reverse arms is holding your weapon in a backward facing position and is used as a mark of respect at army funerals and other military occasions of mourning.  When in this position the soldier will have his eyes lowered.

To commemorate each person involved

In 1986 a monument was erected at Seskin in the Glen of Imaal naming all those involved.  The centre stone shows the names of all who lost their lives and a flagpole is situated behind the stone. Sixteen stones were erected in a semi-circle with eight stone off each side of the main stone to commemorate each person involved.

In 2016 for the 75th Anniversary, Oglaigh na hEireann produced a booklet which tells the story of the expolsion and those involved(1).

  1. Oglaith na hEireann 75th Anniversary of the accidental Explosion in the Glen of Imaal 16th September 1941.

Comments about this page

  • I am a brother of Patricia Ward mentioned above and son of Edward Ward. Ned was one of the three men who were blind in the Imaal. Another one of the three who lost their sight was Michael Delaney. Ned Ward later married Mick Delaney’s sister and they had three children .

    By Joseph WArd (20/03/2023)
  • That was such a tragic loss of life of those 16 soldiers in the Glen of Imaal in 1941 and life changing for those injured also. There were also three children tragically killed there in 1979 and others that were with them were injured. They were part of a youth club that were orienteering in the area and they came upon an unexploded missile. It is sad that their names were not included when the Monument was put up in 1986. God rest the souls of all those who lost their lives in accidental explosions in the Glen.

    By Anne Conmey (09/01/2023)
  • My father Edward Ward (Ned) was one of the three men who lost their sight in The Glen Imaal tragedy. Unfortunately he lost his life in a car accident in late 1952. A life taken way too soon.

    By Patricia Ward (07/01/2023)
  • My dad, John Moylan was in the Medical Corp (he is now 100 years old and very well indeed). He had only joined the army in June of that year but was selected to attend the site after the explosion because he had First Aid training before he joined the army. He was only 19 years of age at the time and remembers the details to this day. 3 months earlier he was working on the family farm and then suddenly he was in the middle of this tragedy. He is a very devout man and prays for the souls of those who perished. He has never forgotten them.

    By Marie Moylan (15/11/2022)
  • I live in the US but my dad, Captain James Fitzsimons, was there that day. I would be very interested in reading more on the incident but cannot find much online. If anyone can point me in the right direction I would be interested to find out more.

    By Derval Fitzsimons (05/03/2022)
  • My great uncle died in that in 1941 such a tragedy for all that lost there lives that day.

    By Selina (22/02/2022)
  • Growing up in the area I was aware that a tragedy had occurred but I never heard the full story. Thank you Karen.

    By Pauline Flynn (16/09/2021)
  • Dear Vinnie. sorry for the late reply, but thank you so much for your comment on the article. We are new to this and are developing all the time with the hope of building up a full story of the area. Keep in touch

    By Karen Allison (04/02/2021)
  • Excellent piece Karen

    By Vinnie Delany (26/10/2020)

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