“Irish Braveheart” Thomas Crowley posthumously awarded Croatian Medal of Honour

Thomas Crowley, Major of Croatian Army (1991 - 1995)

Thomas Crowley, Major of Croatian Army (1991 – 1995)

At the Medal of Honour awards ceremony 12 December 2012 at the Office of the President of Croatia, the late Major in Croatian Army, Thomas Crowley, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Petar Zrniski and Fran Krsto Frankopan with gold triple interlace for his exceptional contribution to the defence of Croatia during Croatia’s War of Independence. The Medal was accepted on behalf of Thomas Crowley’s family from Ireland by their solicitor Mr Miroslav Vrkljan.

Medal Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankopan with gold reeds

Medal Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankopan with gold triple interlace

Thomas Crowley, nicknamed “the Irish” by his Croatian army mates, came to Croatia in 1991 as volunteer, joining Croatian men in defending Croatian independence from Serb aggression.

Thomas Crowley, born Irish on 14 February 1949, came to Croatia and died as a Croatian on 10 June 1995.

I came to Croatia at the beginning of the war and I have a big wish to remain in Croatia until the last bit of its occupied territory is liberated, and then stay longer. I consider Croatia my homeland; I’m prepared to even give my life for Croatia. God willing, if I’m still alive when the war ends, I’ll stay and live in Croatia,” Crowley once said.  He did remain in Croatia – that is his remains are buried in the cemetery of Split.

Crowley became a living legend in Croatia. In 1991 he joined the Croatian Defense Forces’ (HOS) Ante Paradzik First Battalion. He was one of many foreigners who came to Croatia to help defend Croatian independence.
He was a commando at battlefield Novljani and Jasenovac. In December 1991 he transferred to the Ninth HOS Battalion in Split where he was the main instructor for HOS forces in Trogir and Cijevo army camps.

Her participated in battles at Livno (where, single-handed, captured an enemy [Serb] tank), he was in battles for Mostar, Dubrovnik, Popovo Polje, Operation Maslenica, liberation of Skabrnje (where horrendous massacres of Croatian civilians by Serb forces occurred only two days after Vukovar massacres in November 1991). Then in Zemunik he was wounded in battle. He was in Prkos to the end of April 1993 and then led the military operations near Biograd (Dalmatia). Then to Drnis battlefield, Svilaja, Donje selo and by 1994 he led the instruction camp for the 114th brigade. Some 2000 members of the 114th brigade passed through his camps.

On 10th June 1995, on the Southern battlefield – he was killed. He is buried in Split.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Crowley’s Irish natural determination for self-determination and freedom amply filled and comforted the spirits of his Croatian war veteran mates, in and around battles. They still remember him dearly and call him the “Irish Braveheart”. Lest we forget! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Comments

  1. I’m not sure how I first heard about Thomas Crowley, but I remember when I read about his contribution, I couldn’t help but feel very overcome with bittersweet emotions. I was upset that he, like many other heroes, lost his life. (As a sidenote, perhaps this is in its own sad way, a blessing – at least he didn’t live to see what a joke “respect” for our war veterans has become). Yet I couldn’t help but be happy to know that there are such good people out there, no matter how small the number. People like Mr. Crowley, who will put their own life at risk to help fellow human beings, when the rest of the world is ignoring their struggles and when the rest of the world may look at Mr. Crowley’s decisions and think it is foolish of him to risk his life and wellbeing for complete strangers, who he has no apparent link to.

    R.I.P. Thomas Crowley.

  2. john crowley says:

    Very proud of my father a son could not ask for a greater father than him R.I.P DAD

  3. total respect

  4. Old Days! The wild geese are flighting,
    Head to the storm as they faced it before!
    For where there are Irish there’s bound to be fighting,
    And when there’s no fighting, it’s Ireland no more!
    Ireland no more!

  5. Irish Nationalist says:

    Legend! This man is an inspiration. He will remembered as a hero in both countries forever. IRELAND-CROATIA brothers.

  6. patrick crowley says:

    love you dad, ,

  7. where ever there is wrong doing you will find the irish there to defend the right of the people

  8. Alicia Crowley says:

    Would have loved to meet my Father in law, I just know that he was and still is a great and inspiring man**

  9. Séamus Greene says:

    Did Major Thomas Crowley serve in the Irish Army Reserve or FCA as is was then called?

    “I measc na laochra go raibh sé anois”
    “May he rest among the warriors now”
    Séamus

    • Sorry Séamus Greene I have no details. Thank you on your visit.

    • Kat ,anybody who may view T Crowley`s actions and sacrifice as foolish regarding apparent linking to complete stranger`s are irrelevant. Their perceptions`s based on assumption reveal much about themselves.The Irish and Croatians have a similar character in terms of Religion,historical oppression and fighting in foreign military campaigns together, within Napoleon`s legions for example. They both fought alongside the Spanish and Austrian Army`s inc Spain`s civil war 1936. There were approx 5-7 % foreign volunteers within Croatian,Bosnian/Croat forces inc other Irishmen.
      A Thiarna dean throcaire ar nAmam a Thomais agus gach duine a fuair bais ag troid
      Za Slobadu

  10. You can always find a land that can use the aid of an honest, courageous fighter. The struggle against injustice has always been a global struggle. Crowley is a single best example of that spirit.

  11. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

    How nice for his descendants! Wonderful news. :)

  12. I just found out yesterday that Tom had died. It’s strange mourning a man I didn’t get the chance to know or understand. He may not have been there for me in my life but I’m left feeling proud that he served some greater purpose and had the guts to try and make a difference. Forever in my thoughts, Dad. x

  13. Mark Walsh says:

    Thomas was my Uncle. I have memories of him visiting my mum & dad when I was younger and remembering how he could talk the hind legs of a donkey! He was what you might call ” a loveable rogue !” I am glad he found happiness in his life in Croatia and proud he is seen as a hero in his adoptive land! May you rest in peace Uncle Thomas !

    • Thank you, Mark, on this visit – Thomas lives on in fond and proud memories back home but also in Croatia. Our debt to his bravery will always remain!God bless!

  14. John 'Olly' Scarrot says:

    I’m English and remember Tom as we joined the Croatian Defense Forces’ (HOS) Ante Paradzik First Battalion at the same time. We lived in Plesmo and fought together around Novljani and Jasenovac.
    Respect and best wishes to his family and my HOS comrades
    Olly

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