BY HELEN RIDDELL
LOCALS in MacCarthy’s Bar, Castletownbere thought they were seeing things when an RAF officer in full military uniform strode into the bar last week carrying a ceremonial Japanese Samurai sword.
The sword, which had belonged to Dr Aidan MacCarthy, a decorated war hero and former Japanese POW was being returned to his family home by Wing Commander Kurt Von Bussmann, chief medical officer at RAF Honington in Suffolk, England.
Last July, a new £10m medical facility at the RAF base was named after Dr MacCarthy, and officially opened by Prince Harry at a ceremony attended by Dr MacCarthy’s daughters Nicola and Adrienne, who had travelled from Castletownbere for the occasion.
Aidan MacCarthy, a doctor with the RAF, was evacuated from Dunkirk, witnessed the atomic bomb drop at Hiroshima, survived after a Japanese prison ship he was on was torpedoed by the US, and endured four years in a prisoner of war camp.
When the camp was liberated, the Japanese Camp Commandant presented his family sword to Dr MacCarthy as a mark of gratitude for saving his life.
However, it was an event in 1941 at RAF Honington, which saw him awarded the George Cross, for rescuing the crew of an RAF bomber, which had crash-landed in flames at the base in 1941.
A permanent exhibition on Dr MacCarthy’s life is now in place at the medical centre. The sword was brought to the RAF base by Dr MacCarthy’s daughters and at the request of Wing Commander Von Bussmann and they agreed to loan it to the exhibition for a number of months.
Speaking to The Southern Star, Wing Commander Von Bussmann, said he was privileged to have the sword on display at RAF Honington.
‘Dr MacCarthy was an extraordinary man, who went through an extraordinary experience. By having the sword at the base, I felt it gave all of us a deeper sense of meaning to the history behind the job we do in the RAF.’
Due to the personal value of the sword to the doctor’s family, he felt that the only way to return it was in person.
‘The value to the family is priceless, I wouldn’t be happy to just put it on a plane, which is why I wanted to bring it back in person,’ he explained.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, he had limited time in the area, but thoroughly enjoyed his visit to Castletownbere and hoped to return to see more of the area where Dr MacCarthy grew up.
A book on Dr MacCarthy’s life, entitled A Doctor’s Sword, was released last year by biographer Bob Jackson, who also made a film of the same name.