Airborne Engineers Association

Roll of Honour



Eulogies to Louis Gallagher BEM

Louis Gallagher

Mary Alice’s (Louis’ sister) Eulogy for Louis

The youngest son of Francis and Helen Gallagher, Louis Edward was born in Whifflet, Lanarkshire, Scotland on 17th December 1941 but spent most of his pre-army days in Bellshill. He attended Holy Family Primary School in Mossend, followed by his secondary education at Our Lady’s High School in Motherwell.

At the age of twelve he joined the local Army Cadets where he learned to ‘spit and shine’ his cadet uniform of which he was very proud. He desperately wanted to become a ‘boy soldier’ at the age of fifteen but our Mammy and Daddy weren’t too keen on this idea, advising him to wait until he was eighteen.

So after leaving high school, Louis went to Coatbridge Technical College to undertake a trade course in electrical engineering, at the end of which he began his initial working life as an apprentice ‘sparky’.

When he was old enough, he joined the Territorial Army in Hamilton. However, the call to full-time military life was still very strong in him and in 1960 Louis started his training as a sapper in the Royal Engineers. He now had a ‘second family’ who became as precious to him as his own family. And the rest is history!

During his twenty-two years of service, when he was on leave, he never failed to come home to visit his parents and family.

When he retired from the army after the Falklands War in 1982, have a guess where he got his first job in civilian life - back in the Falklands!

On his return to the UK he set up home in Taunton where he was employed for a number of years at the Somerset College of Arts and Technology.

In the early 1990’s Edith, whom he met as a young soldier, came back into his life and they were married in this very church in February 1992. At last the family thought, ‘‘Here is someone who might eventually tame him!’’ Sadly their happiness together was very short-lived; Edith passed away in July the following year. No words can describe how devastated he was.

Eventually the time came when he decided to pack up his tools and become a ‘gentleman of leisure’ in pursuit of a life full of further travel and excitement!

As most of you are aware, Louis was a world traveller. Whenever he heard the name of a certain overseas country or city or town, his cry was, ‘‘Been there, seen it, done it and got the T-shirt!’’ The only continent he never visited was Antarctica - but he did manage to get very close to it when he went to the Falklands!

Just over a year ago he visited me and my husband, Mark in the great land ‘Down Under’ for the fifth time; the first visit being in 1979 after he took part in Operation Raleigh in Papua New Guinea. Louis told me at the time that this operation was perhaps the highlight of his military career (even though on his return to the UK he discovered that he had malaria!). However, just a year later in 1980 he received the greatest accolade of his life – the British Empire Medal which he wore with great pride and honour as a member of 9 Para Squadron RE.   

Louis, intrepid traveller - camera always at the ready! (He could have opened his own camera shop with all the money he spent on developing films!!)

Louis’ journey through life was never dull - he made us laugh, he made us cry! And no doubt, when we think or talk about him, we will continue to laugh or cry at the precious memories he has left us.

Rest in peace, our loving brother, brother-in-law, uncle, great-uncle, cousin, godfather, best man, special friend and not forgetting drinking buddy.

There is nobody like OUR LOUIS!

Eulogy for Louis Edward Gallagher BEM, by his nephew Steven Quigley

Louis was so many things to so many people.  A beloved brother, a revered comrade, an esteemed colleague, a treasured friend...  And to me, my sister, my cousins, and to countless others, he was Uncle Lou.

He was an ever-present in our lives.  He would go to the ends of the earth to make it to your Christening, he'd move mountains to celebrate your Birthday, and you could guarantee he'd be there, camera-in-hand the day you got Married.  Lou always figured.  When I moved abroad with work, his was one of the last faces I saw at the airport.  And when I eventually returned, his was one of the first.  Along with my father, his permission was sought by my now brother-in-law for the hand-in-marriage of my sister Claire.  He even had his own bedroom in my parents' house and so too, in many others.  He was such an integral part of our existence.

And yet how he made the time for us all is beyond me.  He lived the fullest of lives, serving all around the World, running Marathons and even finding time to squeeze in the very occasional trip to the Pub.  Every time I spoke to Lou he was on the road, attending all manner of social events in his retirement.  Though I must admit I sometimes questioned the legitimacy of his invitations and started to believe that perhaps it was he who had inspired the film 'Wedding Crashers'.  His experiences were rivalled by none.  They say that everyone dies but not everyone truly lives.  I know which category he fell into.
Louis was a very humble man.  But he had every reason to be tremendously proud.  At the very least he made me unashamedly proud.  I remember learning to ski as a young child on a dry ski slope in Aldershot that he had helped to build.  I told all my friends.  Last year I accompanied him to the Army Navy game at Twickenham and aside from witnessing his utter celebrity, I was at one stage asked what it felt like to be related to a Legend.  And indeed, standing here right now and being associated with this great man is not only a real privilege but also something I shall remember with great pride for years to come.  And yet he himself shied from praise and never boasted about or revelled in the just desserts that came his way.  He never did tell us what it was that he had done to earn him one of his greatest honours - his BEM.

Louis was also one of life's true Gentlemen.  He was, for instance, a shining example of how to treat women.  He was well-mannered, he was courteous and he was caring.  He honored my Grandmother, tending to her on a near full-time basis in her final years.  He was the most loving husband in his cherished but sadly short marriage to his sweetheart Edith.  And he maintained a constant watchful eye over his younger sisters - Mary-Alice and my mother Eileen, from their childhood right the way through to his last days.  He was incredibly thoughtful and generous to just about everyone.  It might have been some loose change in your hand as a kid, a Beetles songbook for Christmas, or even a brand new Sony Walkman back in the 80s.  He always put your happiness first and expected nothing in return.  He really did give so much but take so little.
Now it's fair to say that Louis wasn't particularly fond of silence.  Over the years he told me many things, enough to fill an Encyclopedia.  There were times when it was hard to keep up with what was being said, but the simple and important messages stuck.  My knowledge of the 7 P's as a conventional Marketing Acronym was turned on its head when he instead taught me that Proper Planning and Preparation would Prevent Piss Poor Performance.  He reminded me when everything was "Under Control", told me to "Chill" and always emphasised the importance of having A Sense of Humour.

Lou always made us laugh.  And he gave us a great sense of warmth and security.  He made us happy.  There are so many memories of Louis which I'm sure we can draw upon in the future whenever we might want a smile.  Like the spectacle of him singing and dancing away to REM on Karaoke over Christmas.  Or the vision of him wandering around a cross-channel ferry in the middle of the night armed only with a pair of boxer shorts.  Or the thought of his fake-tan-gone-wrong after his recent trip to Portugal - I never witnessed it, but just hearing about it had me falling off my chair in laughter. And all the while he too had a smile on his face.

Louis' death has left a huge hole in our lives.  He is irreplaceable.  There will be an empty seat at my Wedding one day.

However, I am now certain that it is better to have loved and to have lost than to have never loved at all.  We love you.  And it hurts to lose you.  But our lives have been richer for your involvement and we'll never forget you.

So Uncle Lou now it's your turn.  Take a bow.  And then chill.  See you again some day, just not yet.

Louis Gallagher BEM RE by Lt Col (Ret'd) Gerry Taggart

Louis Gallagher served for most of his twenty-two year career in the Army in "The Squadron": one of the Army's longest serving airborne units. It has a proud history stretching through the Second World War and up to the present day. The culture and ethos of The Squadron has now been inherited by 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault), which has already distinguished itself in Afghanistan.

Louis went on all The Squadron's expeditions to Kenya and to Operation Raleigh in Papua New Guinea (1979), which he claimed was the highlight of his military career. He saw active service on five tours of duty in Northern Ireland. During these, he distinguished himself as a high-class electrician, as a problem solver and a good soldier. He was a fiercely loyal member of The Squadron. He was highly intelligent and loved by all. He touched everybody with whom he came into contact. Whatever he did, was done with his heart and soul. His influence continued for many years after he completed his Army service. No Squadron party or important occasion was complete without him and his camera.

The youngest son of Francis and Helen Gallagher, Louis Edward was born in Whifflet, Lanarkshire, Scotland on 17th December 1941. He attended Holy Family Primary School in Mossend, Our Lady's High School in Motherwell and Coatbridge Technical College to study electrical engineering and take up an apprenticeship.

He joined the Royal Engineers in 1960, having served in the Territorial Army in Hamilton. Louis' first posting was to 11th Independent Field Squadron in Malaysia. During this time he saw active service in Borneo and Malaysia. We have Fred Gray to thank for Louis' appearance in The Squadron. Fred noted his individuality, team spirit and fitness and suggested that he volunteered for 9 Squadron. Chris Davies recalls joining 9 Independent Parachute Squadron in 1972. Louis was a Corporal in his troop. When supporting 3 PARA in the Belfast in 1973 there was a problem with a security light at a base. Chris gathered Louis, as the Troop Electrician. They found that the light was on an elevated scaffold platform, exposed to snipers' aims. Louis was dodging about like a jack-in-the-box, dropping his pliers, cursing the Irish, the Infantry, his tools, the damage to the light and anything else he could think of. He seemed to be taking ages to fix what I thought was just a cut wire. When I look around he was lying almost prone, reaching up to the offending light with his fingertips. "Och" he said, "you see yon bullet hole in the scaffolding? Well they put that there when I was putting this thing up on the last tour!"

Happily the snipers were a bit slow off the mark that night. He didn't enjoy it, but he never shirked the job: it was the mark of the man.
Recognising Louis' skills and sharpness Chris tried to convince him to become a Clerk of Works (Electrical). Chris took him to a meeting of the Institute of Electrical Engineers. Two things happened; first, Louis recognised that he "didna' want tae finish up talkin' rubbish like some of them yins" The Squadron was his home and that's where he wanted to stay. Second, he met someone he knew. No matter where he went, somebody knew Louis. This network of contacts enabled him to 'fix' anything when the 'system' said it was 'impossible'.

When Chris returned to command the Squadron in 1982, Louis was the Resources Sergeant. He was still chuntering but he never failed to come up with the goods. When the Squadron sailed to the Falklands all of the kit went, with Louis, on a separate ship. It had been hastily loaded and the kit was all over the place. By the time his ship arrived in San Carlos, not only had Louis found everything but he had convinced the powers-that-be that our kit should have priority in the chaotic unloading. Histories always concentrate on the blood'n'guts, heroes. They overlook the real heroes: people like Louis who work their socks off to provide the resources. If one had to use only one word to describe Louis it would be "Dependable." Corporal Scott Wilson was buried at Teal Inlet but the war had finished before any of us had a chance to visit his grave. Chris Davies asked Louis to provide a cross to mark his grave. The party of friends arrived to see that the standard Army cross was on each of the other graves. But Louis appeared with a huge cross, varnished and with a brass plaque. He had had it made, he said, - "by an old friend" on one of the ships. We wept as we planted it and blessed Louis for his efforts. Louis would never let anybody down — even when audibly chuntering about those who gave him his task.

Louis loved The Squadron and all who served in it, with a passion. It was a love that was returned in some measure by his popularity. No reunion, wedding, christening or funeral was complete unless Louis was there. He had a knack for popping up anywhere in the World where there was a Squadron gathering.

Gerry Taggart remembers Louis earning his citation for the British Empire Medal on a busy tour in South Armagh. One of his tasks was to re-establish the electrical system in the infamous and much attacked, Crossmaglen base. He spent many hours with his ferreting down various nooks and crannies. He would not stop until he achieved what he wanted.

During a major fortification project there, he was the only person to figure out how to operate a special self-erecting crane, which was essential for achieving progress. Louis was indispensable on site. The colder and muddier; the happier he was.

Louis wanted his BEM to be presented by one of the most famous Para Generals, Sir Anthony Farrar Hockley, who was GOC in Aldershot. And, of course, the General knew Louis too. They greeted each other like old friends.

Louis was never hesitant to give advice. Most Friday evenings in Aldershot, he would be present in The Squadron bar having a few bevvies and a curry. If the OC was present, Louis would normally approach with his usual introduction, "Man to man. OK?" This gave him the all clear to hold court, with anyone of any rank who was present. There followed a well-considered argument about how The Squadron should be run in the future. It didn't matter whether it would work or not; he had thought it through and wanted to share his opinion.

John Moss was posted to Germany "for career development". He found that things in his squadron were not good. But, on his second day, there was a knock on the office door and a familiar voice burst through the gloom shouting "Hello Sir, Sergeant Gallagher reporting for duty". The gloom lifted, the sun shone, life was looking up; Louis had arrived! The Royal Engineers' higher echelons had decided that Louis too should broaden his experience by serving in Germany. He disliked this form of soldiering and couldn't wait to get back to his beloved Squadron. However, John Moss reports that Louis, as always, put his full weight into the job. He improved the fitness and sporting ability of his Squadron and led them to success in Regimental and garrison competitions.

When he retired from the army, after the Falklands War in 1982, he got his first job in civilian life - back in the Falklands.
On his return, he set up home in Taunton where he worked at Somerset College of Arts and Technology. Edith, whom he met as a young soldier, came back into his life and they were married in Taunton in 1992. The family thought that Edith might eventually tame him. Sadly their happiness together was very short-lived. He was devastated when Edith died after only a year of marriage.
He tended to his mother virtually full-time in her final years there. He was well known in the town and many local people attended his funeral, as well as his military comrades.

Louis shied from praise and never boasted about the plaudits, which he received. He was always well mannered, courteous, amusing, dependable and caring. A "Squadron" man to his bones: that was Louis Gallagher. He would go to the ends of the earth to make it to a christening, a birthday, and he'd be there, camera-in-hand at all marriages.

He is missed by all who knew him.

The Gathering for Louis

It is a tribute to the `wee' man that former colleagues, friends and families travelled great distances to be in attendance for his final farewell, many of whom we've not seen for many years. Attempting to capture just some of those that ventured down to Taunton, Somerset for the occasion; the following will give the readers an insight to just how popular this man was and how much he meant to those who had the pleasure of sharing his acquaintance.

The casual dress photos were taken the night prior to the funeral!

Colin Campbell (Scotland) Syd Hoyle (Holland) & Dave Grimbley
Alex (Froth) Beer & Colin (Blackie) Brian
Brig Ian McGill, Paul Scoble & Phil Poulton
Rod Towney, Charlie McColgan & Jim Doubtfire
Pete Sudnick & Joe MacIntosh
Just a few of the 'Little Old Wine Drinkers'

Mick & Issy Leather, Ian & Wendy Strettle
(Mick flew over from Russia to be in attendance)

John Moss & George Dunn
John (Speedy) Spinks, Dave Rutter, Tony (Toots) Ridgeway &
Chris Lunn
(Toots travelled over from Spain)
Mick (Porky) Willis, Jim Harrower, Michael Willis & Jeff Langford
Terry Airnes, Ian McLellan & Ian Rogalski
(All three travelled down from Scotland)
Bert Tate, Nick Dennett, Dave Rutter, Willie Lawrence,
Colin Birkenshaw & Tony Hogan
(Willie flew over from Afghanistan)
Bill (Tommo) Thompson & Alex Cockburn
Baz Henderson, Nat Hague & Sean McCargo
The 'Choir' assemble for a traditional Sqn sing song



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