Browne, Anthony (1940–60), soldier, was born 28 May 1940in Dublin, son of John Browne. In December 1957 he joined the army and served as a trooper with the 2nd Motor Squadron. He signed for a further term of enlistment in 1960, on the condition that he was given a posting to the UN force in the Congo, and he was assigned to A Company of the 33rd Infantry Battalion, ONUC. His comrades later remembered him as an intelligent and lively young soldier. On 8 November 1960 he was one of an eleven-man patrol that was sent to examine a damaged bridge on the Luweyeye river, south of the UN post at Niemba. Having dismounted from their vehicles, the members of the patrol were attacked by a large number of Baluba tribesmen. They were totally unprepared for this, and in the confused fighting that followed, Browne showed great courage, throwing away a chance to escape by assisting a wounded comrade. The other Irish fatalities at Niemba were Lieut. Kevin Gleeson, Sgt Hugh Gaynor, Cpl Peter Kelly, Cpl Liam Dougan, Pte Matthew Farrell, Tpr Thomas Fennell, Pte Gerard Killeen, and Pte Michael McGuinn.
Ultimately there were only two survivors of the Niemba party: Tpr Thomas Kenny and Pte Thomas Fitzpatrick. Eight of the bodies were recovered and flown home for burial. The incident greatly shocked the Irish public, and large crowds lined the route of the funeral procession. The body of Tpr Browne was not found at the time and he was officially listed as being ‘missing, presumed dead’. In November 1961 he was posthumously awarded the Military Medal for Gallantry, the highest bravery award of the Irish Defence Forces. He was the first recipient of the medal. The medal was presented to his family. The citation read:
‘In recognition of his exceptional bravery involving risk to life and limb at Niemba, Republic of the Congo, on the 8 November 1960, in that he endeavoured to create an opportunity to allow an injured comrade to escape by firing his Gustav, thereby drawing attention to his own position which he must have been aware would endanger his own life. He had a reasonable opportunity of escaping because he was not wounded but chose to remain with an injured comrade.’
In November 1962, after further investigation by Irish officers in the Congo, his remains were found. It became clear that Browne did not die at Niemba but escaped into the bush. He died a few days later in a separate incident almost three miles from the scene of the ambush. Information about how he had died was received from Baluba survivors of the Niemba incident. In an interview shortly before his death in March 2004, Brigadier-General P. D. Hogan, who was in charge of the search party, gave an account of what appears to have happened: ‘some days later on he was lying outside a village and some young women came out collecting firewood. By signs, he offered them money for food. They went back to the village but instead of bringing out food they brought out young men who beat him to death’ (O'Donoghue, 48). Browne's remains were flown home and buried in the Congo plot in Glasnevin cemetery, alongside the other soldiers killed in the ambush. Some of the Baluba tribesmen involved in the ambush were later tried and convicted, but served only nominal sentences.
The Niemba incident forced the UN to review the conditions of their mandate in the Congo. The members of the patrol are commemorated on a memorial in the Church of the Sacred Heart, Arbour Hill, Dublin, and on a roadside cross at the scene of the ambush in Niemba. There is a further memorial in Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines, Dublin. Anthony Browne was not married. His family lived at Fatima Mansions, Rialto, Dublin.