Derry City’s Second World War hero dies
A former Derry City FC star captured by the Nazis during World War II has passed away.
Michael McGeown (91) died at the Ulster Hospital, on the outskirts of Belfast, earlier this month.
It was as a seventeen-year-old that Mick McGeown, from Omagh, played his first game for the Brandywell side against Portadown in 1938.
A year later, on the outbreak of the Second World War, he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) and, in September 1942, his plane was shot down over France.
Initially reported as missing, Mick had managed to parachute into France and, nursing a broken leg, was eventually captured by the Germans and was interned in various prisoner-of-war camps until the end of the war.
During his “stay” at the Stalag III-A (Luckenwalde) POW Camp, just south of Berlin, Mick had the opportunity to display his football skills.
Allied prisoners took it upon themselves to organise a series of football matches and, in November 1944, Mick played for Ireland against a much-fancied French squad.
The former Derry City player was given the job of marking a Belgian national who, before the war, had played professional football for a French team.
Ireland went on to beat the French squad by six goals to two with Mick scoring a hat-trick.
More than 200,000 prisoners passed through Stalag III-A and at its height in May 1944 there were a total of 48,600 POW registered there.
It is estimated that 4,000 to 5,000 prisoners died as a result of disease, starvation, cold, brutality and neglect while in the camp.
It was eventually liberated by the Red Army in April 1945.
At the end of the war, Mick, along with two of his colleagues, cycled across Germany into France where they were picked up by the British and conveyed back to England.
After the war, Mick played football for his home town club and, in 1946, joined the Northern Ireland Civil Service and retired, in 1983, as one of the top officials in the Department of Education.
He’d lived in Holywood, Co. Down, since 1948 and is survived by his wife, Phil (nee Kerr) - herself a native of Omagh - and three sons, Gerry, Paul and Martin. He was pre-deceased by two other sons, Stephen and Peter.
His funeral took place at St Colmcille’s Church, Holywood, on February 8 last.
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