The O'Morchoe CB CBE KLJ , Major General David Nial Creagh


David Nial Creagh O’Morchoe was born in Dublin on 17 May 1928. Generations of his family had farmed in Wexford until his father and uncles broke with this tradition as a result of ‘The Great War’. His father, Colonel Nial Creagh O’Morchoe, had been commissioned into the 5th Battalion The Leinster Regiment during the First World War before being granted a Regular Commission in the Indian Army in 1917; he later commanded the 4/15 Punjab from 1939-41. The young David spent his early childhood in Quetta until the severe earthquake that killed some 35,000 in the early hours of 31 May 1935.

Soon after, David and his brother Charles returned to live in Ireland with their grandmother. He was educated at St Columba’s College, Rathfarnham from 1941-46 and would spend his holidays with a Wexford family whose father had served in The Royal Irish Fusiliers (known as the Faughs). O’Morchoe then attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was commissioned into The Royal Irish Fusiliers (RIrF), becoming a 'Faugh' on 15 July 1948.

Second Lieutenant O'Morchoe's first posting in 1948/49 was as a rifle platoon commander in B Company of the 1st Battalion of the Faughs in the (Suez) Canal Zone (Moascar Camp). From there, B Company was detached to Akaba, Transjordan in June 1949 in response to border difficulties following the Armistice Agreements concluding the 1948 Arab-Israeli War between Israel, Egypt and Jordan. The Faugh's next move was to Gibraltar in December 1949 where 2Lt O’Morchoe commanded a platoon in C Company. The Battalion moved to Border Barracks, Göttingen (BAOR) as lorry-borne infantry in November 1950, where Lt O'Morchoe was the Mortar Platoon Commander. He proved to be a good shot, coming first as 'Best Officer LMG' and second best Sten Gun overall in the Battalion Rifle Meeting. He departed for parachute training followed by a secondment to the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA) in 1951. He was first attached to companies and then became the Adjutant during 2 PARA's garrison duties in the Canal Zone, Egypt. When Captain O'Morchoe returned to the Faughs in Kenya in 1955/56 during the Mau Mau Emergency, he was again appointed Adjutant. After the Battalion's move to Harding Barracks, Wuppertal (BAOR), he became the 2IC of B Company.

In 1957, he was selected for Army Staff College training, followed in 1959 by his first staff appointment as the Brigade Major of the North Irish Brigade. Re-joining the 1st Battalion in Tripoli, Libya in 1961, again he found himself sitting in an Adjutant's chair, albeit this time a temporary measure, before the Faughs moved to an APC-borne mechanised role in Trenchard Barracks, Celle (BAOR), where he was the Company Commander of B Company until 1963.

For his second staff appointment, he was attached in 1963 to 16 Parachute Brigade in Aldershot as the DAA & QMG in Brigade Headquarters. He arrived in post, just as the Brigade received very short notice to prepare for and then deploy in January 1964 on Operation HOGMANAY, a peacekeeping operation by the UK in support of the Joint Troop Force of British and Greek/Turkish national forces during the Cyprus Crisis of 1963/4. When it became a UN operation, the Brigade, forsaking the cherished ‘red’ beret, reluctantly donned the UN blue beret, albeit with a maroon flash worn behind the UN badge, to become HQ Nicosia Zone until returning to the UK in May 1964. He then, in May 1965, at short notice, took over as the Brigade Major (BM) and in effect for several months shouldered both the BM's and the DAA & QMG's work loads. He was successfully recommended for an award and received an MBE in the 1967 New Year's Honours List. The citation stated, 'The devotion to duty, ability and example, shown by Major O'Morchoe have at all times been beyond praise and an inspiration to others. ... Throughout the period, Major O'Morchoe has worked unsparingly for the benefit of the Brigade and its units. He has achieved far greater results than could justifiably be expected, even of its senior staff officer'.

After attending the Joint Services Staff College, Latimer, he assumed command in April 1967 of the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers in Gaza Barracks, Catterick. He was to be the last Commanding Officer (CO) of the Battalion before its merger with the other battalions of the North Irish Brigade, the 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 1st Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles, to form The Royal Irish Rangers on 1 July 1968. He therefore became the first and last CO of the short-lived 3rd Battalion The Royal Irish Rangers. Typically, during his time as CO, he played out-half for the Faugh’s rugby team, when all but six of its players were Fusiliers and NCOs. At that time he also instituted an inter-company hurling competition and played for HQ company. Sadly, it had to be abandoned as hurling was not an officialy approved Army sport and anyone injured during play would not be ‘covered’.

Lieutenant Colonel O’Morchoe was posted to the Army Staff College, Camberley in 1968 as a GSO 1 on the Directing Staff and became a Divisional Colonel with substantive promotion on 30 June 1971. While there, he inherited the position of Chief of the Name as The O’Morchoe, becoming the hereditary Chief and Prince of the Ó Murchadha (Murphy/Morrow) Sept, a cadet line of the ancient Irish dynasty the Uí Cheinnselaig, who were Kings of Leinster.

Promoted to Brigadier on 30 June 1973, he commanded 16 Parachute Brigade until 1975. He then served from July 1975 to January 1977 as the Assistant Chief of Staff Operations in BAOR. Major-General The O'Morchoe was selected to become the Commander of the Sultan of Oman’s Land Forces from 1977 to 1979 where he oversaw what was known as the ‘Omanisation’ of the officer corps of the Sultan’s Army, a process to reduce its reliance on contracted ex-British Army Officers and seconded Loan Service British Army Officers. As a member of the Sultan's Armed Forces Association, he attended many of the annual dinners in the Army and Navy Club, London until his late 80s, often after attending The Royal Irish Rangers Officers' Club lunch in the club on the same day.

Major General The O'Morchoe was appointed Deputy Colonel of The Royal Irish Rangers (27th (Inniskilling) 83rd and 87th) on 1 September 1976 and was The Colonel of The Regiment from 1977 to 1979. He was recognized in HM The Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June 1979 by the appointment as a Companion, Order of the Bath (CB). Although Major General The O’Morchoe CB MBE, aged 51, retired on 27 August 1979, he maintained close contact with and supported his old regiment’s successors, The Royal Irish Rangers and then The Royal Irish Regiment. He also served as a trustee for The Museum of The Royal Irish Fusiliers in Armagh and was President of the Royal Irish Fusiliers Association.

His 40 years in retirement began with returning to Ireland where he lived near Gorey, Wexford to lead a busy life engaged in many activities. He was a member of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland, an adviser to the International humanitarian charity Concern, a member and chairman of the Standing Council of Irish Chiefs and Chieftains, President of the Republic of Ireland Branch of the Royal British Legion, President of the reconstituted Leinster Regiment Association, President of the Tipperary Remembrance Trust, Vice-President of the Old Columban Society, a founder member of The Military Heritage of Ireland Trust and later, a member of its Board of Directors.

O'MorchoeHMTQIn 2007, General David was awarded the CBE for his services to UK-Irish Relations and the cause of British Veterans in Ireland, choosing the British Embassy in Dublin to receive the honour from HE The Ambassador, thus allowing many more family and friends to be present. He was also invested as a Knight in the Order of Saint Lazarus (KLJ) in September 2010.

Prominent amongst his many works was his role as Chairman of the Trustees of the Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Island Bridge and in 2011 he escorted HM Queen Elizabeth around the gardens during her state visit to Ireland (above left, HM The Queen accompanied by President Mary McAleese and the President of The Royal British Legion Republic of Ireland, Major General The O'Morchoe). He regularly attended the annual Irish National Day of Commemoration ceremonies at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham while quietly developing close relationships with the Irish Defence Forces’ veteran organizations and promoting reciprocal activities North and South. The outcome of his endeavours is best summed up in his own words;

It's been a big bridge-building effort for the two traditions. I was very pleased at what I have been able to achieve as an Irishman in Ireland for those who have served in the British forces. ...The climate has changed now, and relatives can lift up their heads and remember their loved ones at memorial ceremonies.

Major General The O’Morchoe CB CBE KLJ died, aged 91, at home on 22 November 2019. Such was the Irish state’s recognition of his achievements and contributions that amongst the many attending his funeral, from both North and South, were the aides-de-camp of both President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. At the funeral service, the Bishop of Ossary, the Rt Rev Michael Burrowes, said that General David had been ‘showing the way of remembrance to bring about peace ‘; his words described the essence of General David’s quiet diplomacy, reflecting how he had cleared the way for building those bridges during what had been a fragile period in the affairs of the Island of Ireland.

Faugh a Ballagh

The abbreviation DAA & QMG is for Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quarter Master General equating to today’s staff nomenclature of G1/G4 covering personnel and logistic matters.