When Kennedy visited Ireland in June of 1963, he laid a wreath at Arbour Hill, the memorial dedicated to the executed 1916 leaders. As part of the ceremony, the 36th Cadet Class under Lt Frank Colclough performed the Queen Anne Drill, or the Funeral Drill, intended to honour the dead.
|The cadets from the 'Kennedy class', Dublin Airport|
27 November 1963
Kennedy seemed spellbound while the drill was going one, and later commentated on their performance. Later, when back in the US and reminiscing about the trip, he said his highlight was the ceremony at Arbour Hill and that “those cadets were terrific”. He asked for a film of the drill be made, so that it could be performed by the US ceremonial guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Kennedy’s assassination a couple of months later brought the cadets into focus again much sooner than anyone had expected. During the preparations for his funeral, Jackie rang De Valera to request that the cadets perform the drill once more. De Valera immediately swung into action to mobilise the troop, who were actually on leave at the time. They were brought out of dancehalls and back from the cinema but within 48 hours, 26 of the cadets were on their way to Washington, their Lee Enfield rifles under their seat on the airplane.
|De Valera greeting the cadets at Dublin Airport before they flew to Washington|
24 November 2011
On their arrival, the cadets were shocked to discover that they would be placed right beside the coffin for the performance of the drill. You will see in the remastered video footage below just how much space was dedicated to the cadets, and the respect they were given while performing their drill.
The cadets, many of whom were still teenagers, performed the drill perfectly, despite knowing that the eyes of the world were upon them. It was the first, and only time, a foreign army has performed at a US president’s funeral, and it was perhaps the best send-off Ireland could give to her American son.