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.
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)