IRISH D-Day veteran Thomas Kinsella joined the Royal Navy in 1941 when he was just 19-years-old. Mr. Kinsella was just one of thousands of young men who left the emerald isle to fight against the ever approaching Nazi Germany.
I met Thomas in Saint Mary’s nursing home in Waterford where he resided for the past 7 years. He looked fresh for someone in his nineties, but took a while to answer the door.
“Sorry, I had the television up loud watching last night’s Love Island,” he explained, inviting me in to take a seat with a nod, “my old ears aren’t the best since the war. All those cannons and gunfire have them ruined”.
Spittle escaped Thomas’s mouth on the pronunciation of “ruined” and landed on my forehead – I ignored it out of respect.
“Thomas, it must have been a very frightening time for you on the 6th of June, can you tell me about your experience?” I asked.
Kinsella was first-in-command of a landing craft tank that was bound for Omaha Beach on D-Day with a cargo of six Sherman tanks.
“I was fairly wasted to tell you the truth. We all were. We knew what we were getting ourselves in for, so myself and squadron Delta zero spent the previous night on the Jameson,” he recalled, “man, we were absolutely wankered; I landed that craft sideways on the beach with a hand-brake turn. Even the Jerry’s were impressed and stopped shooting for a bit, a few even clapped”.
Thomas mis-spat again, this time on the word “clapped”, and into a cup of tea I was holding. I left it down to ‘cool a bit’.
“As far as I can remember we eventually launched the tanks from the craft after spending some time reading the instruction leaflets. I had to close one eye to read it, I was that pissed, ended up passing out on the beach in a heap with the heat… cracker of a day it was now”.
“Woke up with a terrible hangover the morning by some Yank medic checking my pulse. All-in-all, it was a successful mission. The only shots I fired were the ones back in the barracks bar that night – shots of whiskey!” he said. “The English even gave me this medal for bravery! They lashed them things out like butter vouchers after the war”.
“What do you think would have changed if the allies lost the war?” I asked.
The veteran was taken aback by my uncomfortable question and began fixing his crotch in his chair, pinching the pants material between his legs, freeing his ballsack.
“Christ, I don’t really know, kid. I suppose there would be no such things as Geordie Shore or Love Island,” he answered, welling up at the thoughts of a world without reality TV, “when you see television programmes like that you realise it was all worth while, ya know?
“All those horrible things had to happen, otherwise we’d all be blonde with blue eyes watching the Bundesliga or listening to Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh reciting excerpts of Mein Kampf on the wireless. Donald Trump would probably be US president. Who knows what kinda nightmare we’d be in”.
“Have you any advice for young people today?” I asked finally, ignoring the urge to inform him who the current US leader is.
“Yeah, don’t join the fucking army and never ever eat yellow snow – no matter how much money someone offers you to do so,” he concluded.
I left Thomas where he sat, watching the remainder of his Love Island. Loud shouts of “Fuck sake, he’s playing a game, girl, don’t pick him, he’s only using you,” could be heard as I walked out his front door – a true hero of our time.