July 15 – The Sash blessed by the Pope


From the annals of 38 (Irish) Brigade in Italy 1944 – Sion Mills Sgt Major had his Sash when he met the Pope

Brigadier Pat Scott in Rome, July 1944: “While we were near Rome, most of the people who had been unable to attend the Pope’s special audience for the brigade went on their own to audiences.

“A most amusing incident was how an Orange sash came to be blessed by His Holiness. This sash must be unique in the history of Orange Lodges.

“That fine old warrior Sgt Major Hamilton MM, at other times a leading Orange light of Sion Mills, decided that his visit to Rome would not be complete without seeing the Pope, so naturally the Orange sash went too.

“Whether this experience had anything to do with breaking the custom of years, I don’t know, but he told me lately that he had forgotten to wear his sash on the 12th of July….”

2 London Irish at Tivoli, 9th July 1944: 0715 Bttn Parade of all RCs and a number of CEs for visit to the Pope and the Vatican City.

CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan in Rome, July 1944 recalled the audience with the Pope, “There was a parade for all Catholics in the 78th Division in Saint Peter’s Square. We paraded outside to go into Mass and once more I was to be master of ceremonies.

“The RSM told me to go to the Franciscan convent & help prepare dinner for the men. Four of us sat down with the nuns, peeling potatoes. My distress at not serving at St. Peter’s & missing Mass on a Sunday in Rome was allayed by the charming company of these young Irish nuns…

“When the men returned from Mass, about 300 sat down to the finest meal they had had in years: fluffy boiled potatoes, corned beef & hunks of bread washed down with lashings of tea. The leftovers would feed the nuns for weeks. The dinner became a party with songs and solos.”


2 Comments on “July 15 – The Sash blessed by the Pope

  1. Former CSM Jim Hamilton’s home in Sion Mills was damaged badly by an IRA bomb aimed at the nearby Sion Mills RUC Station. As a result Jim was out of his home for some time and was living in the Fir Trees Hotel in Strabane when he contacted me about my proposed book on 38 (Irish) Brigade. We arranged to meet and, as Jim was about to move back into his house, decided that I should visit him there. During a lengthy discussion he showed me his medals which had been rescued from the rubble by the contractors working on the houses.
    Aware since childhood of the story of the LIR warrant officer who had worn his Orange sash in the Vatican, I asked Jim if he could verify the story and perhaps name the WO. His wry reply was that I was ‘looking at the man’. I couldn’t resist asking to see the Sash but, sadly, that had not survived the bombing – or perhaps it had, but had been ‘liberated’ by someone else. That was a pity as it would have made a fine museum exhibit.


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