Rickard Charlie Donovan (1898-1952) of Ballymore near Ferns Co. Wexford was instrumental in the planning of Operation Overlord aka the D-Day Landings of 1944.
Born in Dublin, he came from a Wexford ascendancy family whose Ballymore estate broke up under the Land Reform Acts. At the time of the 1901 Census, the family was residing at Rivoli House, Ballingaddy West, near Ennistymon, Co Clare, but had returned to Ballymore House by the time of the 191 Census.
Age 13, young Rikard went to England to attend the Royal Naval Colleges to pursue a career in the Navy. He quickly gained a reputation as able and intelligent. At the outbreak of WWI in 1914, he was promoted to Midshipman and was assigned to the battleship HMS Ocean (which was sunk by a mine in the Dardanelles in 1915). As the family story goes, he was the last man off the ship having been sent back to the sinking vessel by his Captain to recover the ship’s log. Rickard was reassigned to other ships and between 1915 and 1917 saw several naval battles and was promoted to Sub-Lieutenant.
At the outbreak of WWII Rickard rejoined the Armed Forces and was assigned to Combined Operations (a nucleus of many of the Services’ top planners and experts). Following the aftermath of Dunkirk in 1940, Combined Operations reorganized to plan and prepare for the British (and later, Allied forces) re-invasion of Europe. During those years, Rickard Donovan was rapidly promoted and by 1944 he was made Senior Deputy Director.
Rickard was one of the small numbers of people responsible for working out the detailed plans necessary for Operation Overlord (D-Day), and for directing its course. His immediate commanding officer, Captain Robert Ellis, Assistant Chief of Combined Operations, wrote
‘It is my opinion that the successful expansion of our naval amphibious resources owes much more to his [Rickard Donovan’s] brilliant work than to any other single factor. I have been particularly struck by his loyalty and patience in difficult and disappointing circumstances when these have arisen.’
Throughout his entire time in Combined Operations, Rickard was often gravely ill with TB (which he had contracted as a teenager aboard submarines). His health deteriorated to the extent that in January 1944 he was vomiting blood and had to be hospitalized. Despite serious illness, Rickard’s active participation was seen as critical at this juncture, and Rikard ‘did not allow his bad-health to interfere with his war-time commitments.’
Following the success of D-Day, Rickard continued in his role in Combined Operations, applying his skills to south-east Asia. He was Chairman of the Eastern Landing Craft Base Committee in 1945.
In 1945, in recognition of distinguished service to the Allied cause during the war, Rikard Donovan received a CBE by the British, and the U.S. Legion of Merit (Degree of Officer). He retired in May 1946 for medical reasons.
Commander Rickard Charlie Donovan, RN, CBE died in London in 1952, at the age of 54. His body was brought home to Ireland and he was buried on a hillside overlooking the sea, at the family farm in Ballymore, Co. Wexford.
|Date of Birth||28th Apr 1898||VIEW SOURCE|
|Date of Death||1952|
|Associated Building (s)||Ballymore House|
|Mother (First Name/s and Maiden)||Constance Sillington|
|Father (First Name/s and Surname)||Richard Donovan of Ballymore|
|Townland born||99 lower Mount Street, Dublin||VIEW SOURCE|