The Second World War in Northern Ireland

The Second World War in Northern Ireland

County Antrim Part. 3

Glenwherry Range

This is the old Glenwherry Range east of Ballymena. (Thanks to Ed Luke for the picture on the top left)

The pictures above show into the Butts where those who were marking targets would have been, The Target Shed which has a number of the old target frames still inside and looking along the butts towards the shed with the banking which was behind the targets.

This is a view from the furthers of the 2 Firing Lines and the picture on the right shows that painted on the side of the shed is "John Boyd. Range Warden 1941"

Ballygarvey Field Force Replacement Depot

At Ballygarvey Road between Ballymena and Broughshane is the remains of the United States Army "Field Force Replacement Depot 6, Casual Detachment 26 Antrim" to give it it's full name.

Headquarters of this Detachment was here from 19th November 1943 until 12th March 1944. There was also 307 Quartermaster Sterilization Battalion.

The top two pictures show a building inside which was a Vehicle Inspection Pit.

Here we have one of 2 water tank towers which stand beside one another and on the right a row of Narrow Gauge Railway lines which have been driven into the ground like a fence.

Difficult to make out but here a soldier has left his mark on a tree. It says "1944" then something which I cannot make out followed by "Age 23".

Cullybackey Munitions Factory

The Frazer & Haughton Factory, like many others, became involved in 'The War Effort' and in this case it was with the production of brass shells for various types of bullet.

Brass arrived at the local Railway Station in the shape of large bars which were then taken by lorry to the Factory.

Here they were cut into size and drilled out with an area created for the percussion cap to be inserted.

The Munitions were not completed here but the brass shells were sent to Belfast to be finished.

Craigs Church, Cullybackey


This is the headstone of Gunner John McIlroy Foster who was serving with 261 Battery, 94 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery.

He died on 10th January 1944.


Royal Navy Vitalities Depot, Cullybackey

This impressive building was a Royal Navy Vitalities Depot. Supplies were brought to and from the Store by railway.

The red bricked building shown below is an Air Raid Shelter and it is interesting to note that the door is set well back into the building as well as the small holes for ventilation which have angles to prevent anything being blown inside.

This has certainly been an impressive building. (Thanks very much to Janice Stewart for her help re this item)

Food Storage Depot at Cullybackey

The main Food Storage Depot was established at Cullybackey with smaller Sub-Depots at both Belfast and Carrickfergus.

U.S. Army Camp Broughshane

These are concrete bases of a United States Army Camp which was constructed north of Broughshane. 

Records show that between 15th March 1944 and 22nd April 1944 218th Replacement Company (67th Replacement Battalion) U.A. Army were based in Broughshane.

Colin Top Range, Cargan.

 These pictures show the Firing Range which was known by Troops as "Colin Top".

It lies East of the village of Cargan along the Dungonnell Road. 

Used by both British and American Troops as well as the Ulster Home Guard.

The 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion of the U.S. Army used the range in April 1944.

Rams Island

Rams Island is in Lough Neagh and lies off the eastern shore a short distance from Langford Lodge.

It had an interesting involvement during the Second World War because I believe there was a range on the northern end of the Island however I hope this was not in use when soldiers of the Belgian Army were based here! American personel who were based at Langford Lodge also used the island as a place for Rest & Recuperation and both nations have shown their approval by carving their details into trees on the island.

There were navigation buoys to both the north and south of the island to help guide aircraft into the nearby Sandy Bay Flying Boat Station and 4 Flying Boat moorings were on the sheltered eastern side of the island.

The tree in my first picture seems to have been rather popular with those who wished to leave their mark and I hope you can see "G.V. Hill 1944" at the top with "USN" slightly below (To the right of which is 1942).

"H. Hopkins" is in the centre of this picture whilst the Belgian Army are represented in the next one with "Belgium" being clearly visible with "1945" beside it.

There is another Belgian marking saying "7 Belgie" on a nearby tree while the biggest surprise was the one I have photographed below which says "Tom Williams Manchester R. Signals"

The final two photographs illustrate that both American and Belgian Personnel visited Rams Island (Thanks very much to Michael Savage for these pictures.)

Found in Lough Neagh

The spent cases shown here have all been dredged up from the bed of Lough Neagh.

The larger ones are .50 Calibre with the smaller ones being .303.

The markings on the .50 Calibre show they were manufactured in 1942 by the Remmington Arms Company and 1943 by the St Louis Ordnance Plant.

I was unable to make out the lettering on the .303 cases.

All of these would have been expended in target practice.

Ardaveigh

This is the site of Ardaveigh Camp in Antrim.

This was where 3992 Quartermaster Truck Company, which was a unit of coloured soldiers, of the United States Army was based.

On looking around it is obvious that there have been a number of other buildings which have been removed.

The picture on the left above shows 2 buildings and if you go into the single door on the reverse side of the furthest away building then you will see the 2 showers as shown here. I believe these were Officers Sleeping Quarters and Mess facilities.

British Regiment who were based here included the Berkshire Yeomanry, South Wales Borderers and Highland Light Infantry.

War Dead on Rathlin Island

The Graveyard of St Thomas's Church is the final resting place for three men who lost their lives during WW2.

SAMUEL PATRICK McCURDY was a Royal Navy Seaman, Service Number LT/JX 181806 who was serving with the Royal Naval Patrol Service and was based at H.M.S. Europa in Lowestoft. He died at Hopefield Hospital on 12th April 1943.


ROY ALAN ASHMORE was a Sergeant Observer with the Royal Air Force, Service Number 657674.

On 29th November 1942 the body of an Airman wearing R.A.F. blue battledress was found to have washed ashore on the Northwest coast Rathlin Island.

It appeared to have been in the water for a few months and was taken initially to the Church Bay Lifeboat Station.

The local Royal Ulster Constabulary Sergeant, Sergeant Smith, had arranged to have a coffin prepared and on 1st December Flight Lieutenant Roden and an R.U.C. Constable arrived on Rathlin to examine the body for wounds or anything which would assist with identification of the deceased.

Due to difficult weather conditions and strong sea currents the decision was made for the body to be buried on the island.

The uniform had Sergeant's chevrons and an Observers Brevet and a metal Black Cat mascot was underneath a lapel. 

Interestingly one boot was marked "657674" whilst the shirt had Laundry marks "MS 7674" and a laundry ticket was marked 'Lossiemouth' An Arrival Chit was inside a metal cigarette case which was taken from the left trouser pocket and this was marked "No 19 OTU" - Nothing else was found.

Sergeant Ashmore had been a Crew Member aboard Armstrong Whitworth Whitley V aircraft AD707 on a Training Exercise with 19 Operational Training Unit when the aircraft was lost with all aboard on the night of 7th / 8th July 1942.


GIUSEPPE CAPELLA was an Italian Civilian who had been a Waiter in the Savoy Hotel in London before being Interned for the duration of the war.

He had been one of 1200 German and Italian Prisoners along with 200 Soldier Guards who were on board the Liner Arandora Star which departed on 2nd July 1940 to sail to Canada where the Prisoners were to be interned.

The Arandora Star was torpedoed by a U-Boat off Malin Head and although many were rescued around 800 lives were lost of which 446 were Italians.

The body of Giuseppe Capella was found near the West Light on 10th August 1940 and he was buried on 12th August 1940.


My sincere thanks goes to Nicky Sebastian who has provided me with these photographs of the Headstones of these three men.

The U.S. Army in Ballycastle

U.S. Army troops were billeted at a few locations around the Ballycastle area.

Some were in Houses at Quay Road as well as the Playing Fields, at 45 North Road and 3 Rathlin Road.

Soldiers were also in the grounds of Derganagh House and at Corrymeela.

When socialising the Yanks could be found dancing in the Dalriada Hall and Barney Wilson’s Dance Hall.

Casual Detachment 24" of the United States Army had their Field Force Replacement Depot 6 in Ballycastle. and were accompanied by Company I of 3 Battalion, 118 Infantry Regiment.

Shown here are "The Boys From Company L, The Four Musketeers" as it says on the back. They are Steve 'Ede' Wilcosky (Stephen John Wilcosky from Fayette, PA)Harold 'Junior' Seaholm (Harold Philip Seaholm from Westmoreland, PA) William 'Bill' Weaver (William H Weaver from Washington, PA.) and Israel 'Izzy' Maklin (Whose first name may have been David)

(My sincere thanks to Nevin, Peter Molloy and John Holbrook for their considerable help with this item)

The Belgian Army in Ballycastle

The Belgian Army retained Bren Carriers and Heavy Weapons at Ballycastle.

Naval Mine at Ballycastle

Ulster Home Guard, Ballymoney

These men are from the Ulster Home Guard, Ballymoney.

The picture on the right shows Home Guard Member John Brewster in a photograph dated 1942.

(Many Thanks to Old Photos of Ballymoney)

Dunadry

148 Indipendent Brigade Group of the Royal Regiment of Wales were based at Loughanmore Camp, Dunadry from 24th February 1941 and then in March of the following year 43rd Light Infantry were also based here.

On visiting the site all that I can find which remains is this building which has been modified for use by farm animals.

Lisburn Air Raid Shelter

This is quite a large Air Raid shelter which can be seen at Cromwells Highway in Lisburn. On looking at it there appears to be 2 entrances on the same side which are protected by two walls and these are on the reverse side from the row of houses whose occupants I believe would have been the likely users of the structure.

While this shelter is on the County Down side of the River Lagan there is also a renoveted Air raid Shelter which has been put to good use at Castle Street Gardens on the County Antrim side.

Corby Bridge Gibraltarian Evacuee Camp

Camp Number 12 for the Gibraltarian Evacuees was at Corby Bridge. 

The house shown in the picture above has been constructed on part of the site and it is very pleasing to know that the owners keep in contact with one of the Gibraltarians who was evacuated to this camp during the War.

Moorfield Gibraltarian Evacuee Camp

Moorfield Camp is located on Speerstown Road, Ballymena and the picture shown here on the left is the old Pumphouse which is beside a stream. The next picture shows a building which I was told by a local resident, who remembers the evacuees when they were here, used to have a large water tank on the roof. This is a regular feature in these camps.

The last picture shows that this Camp is actually split into two by the old railway line and the occupant of the Station House remembers trains passing through late at night with large consignments of ammunition and various other war materials.

He also said that the camp had initially been constructed for Military use before being switched to house the Gibraltarians. The field where the Water tank building is situated remains stepped where a large number of buildings once stood.

Castlegore Gibraltarian Evacuee Camp

Here we have the sign showing the site of Castlegore Camp which is located on Craigstown Road near Kells.

The middle picture shows one of the old Camp buildings which is currently under renovation while the last picture is of a Meat Cold Store which appears to be a regular feature of all of these Camps.

Tawnybrack Gibraltarian Evacuee Camp


Sadly there is nothing ramaining of what had been Tawnybrack Camp other that this small plaque at the side of the road where it once stood.

This was Camp 5 and was located on Kilgad Road in the Kells Area.

Stranocum Aircraft Crash

On 24th November 1944 during a Navigation Exercise to Rathlin Island Wellington Bomber VIII JA308 of the Empire Air Navigation School at Shawbury, England developed engine trouble losing power in icing conditions. Both the Altimeter and Airspeed Indicator had become inoperative.

The Pilot attempted a forced landing by moonlight however the aircraft lost altitude over an Orchard at Stranocum House, sheared off several tree tops and crashed at the corner of the walled orchard.

All 5 Crew survived thanks to staff from the House pulling them from the wreckage.

A letter of thanks was later received by the occupants of the House.

Here is a Notice displayed at Stranocum House as well as the repaired wall where the aircraft crashed.

U.S. Navy Headquarters "Ben Neagh" Crumlin

This building was used as a Canteen by personel from the United States Navy PB2Y2 Coronado Flying Boat Service which operated from Sandy Bay on Lough Neagh.

During the war it stood in the grounds of the nearby large House known as "Ben Neagh" and is now private property.


With the PB2Y-2 Coronado being one of the less known Flying Boats I have included this photograph for identification purposes.

Library of Congress Photograph.

(This photograph is from  http://www.loc.gov/item/oem2002006776/PP/ which is the Library of Congress and is available to EVERYONE.)

Crash Site of Halifax Bomber at Poplar Road, Crumlin

On 23rd October 1944 Handley Page Halifax bomber JB963 belonging to Number 1674 Heavy Conversion Unit was being flown by a crew from Number 12 Course under the instruction of Flight Lieutenant D Evans.

Following Take-off Flight Sergeant Keith Proverbs was on the ground at Aldergrove and noted that the aircraft, which was fully laden with Depth Charges as well as fuel, appeared to have difficulty in gaining height before the Pilot turned and attempted to return to Aldergrove.

Unfortunately the Halifax suddenly dived into the ground and exploded killing the crew of Flight Sergeant J.H. Saunders, Flying Officer M.L.M. Gillis and Sergeant R.L.Dixon along with their Instructor.

The scene of the Crash was in the fields beside Dundesert bridge and both Flight Lieutenant D Evans and Flying Officer M.L.M. Gillis are buried in St Catherines Parish Church of Ireland Church, Killead.

This Memorial is on Dundesert Bridge at Poplar Road, Crumlin.

Dunmore House, Aldergrove

Dunmore House is at 8 Crooked Stone Road and was the Official Accommodation for the Officer Commanding R.A.F. Aldergrove during the Second World War.

Cherryvalley Camp, Crumlin

This is the large House at Cherryvalley, Crumlin and in this picture you can see a concrete lane.

Cherryvalley was used as a Camp by the Belgian Army 6th Infantry Brigade "Deinze" 1st Battalion. 

The Bases shown in my photographs are immediately beside Cherryvalley Road. 

This aerial photograph shows concrete paths and numerous concrete bases for Nissen Huts behind Cherryvalley House. (Google)

Hog Park Point Shooting Range

Hog Park Point is on the Southeast Shore of Lough Neagh near Glenavy. 

When the American Expeditionary Force arrived in Northern Ireland they included 133rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion of the 151st Field Artillery Regiment who were Camped initially in the Bellarena Area before moving to the Draperstown Area in February 1942.

As well as training in the Sperrin Mountains the Anti-Tank Battalion would practice firing at Hog Park Point. These could be Day Trips and the Unit concerned would use C Rations.

Bombing Target Range

There was a Bombing Target Range on Skandy Tower Island in Lough Neagh which was used by the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy.

Ballycarry

This memorial can be seen in Ballycarry where James Stuart Steele was born. During the First World War he was a temporary second lieutenant in the Royal Irish Rifles from September 1914 and served on the Western Front from 1915 to 1917 during the battles of Messines, Somme and at Passchendaele. He was given a regular commission in June 1916, was mentioned in despatches in April 1917 and was awarded the Military Cross in August 1917.

He was promoted to Colonel in 1939 and in November of that year took over command of 132nd Infantry (Surrey and Kent) Brigade.He again served in France and Belgium in 1940 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his part in the engagement on the River Escaute.

In 1944 when he was in charge of the plans for Operation Overlord on D-Day.


Gleno 

Sergeant Nathaniel Hugh Crawford was a Navigator in the Royal Air Force.

On 31st May 1944 he was with Number 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit based at R.A.F. Wigsley in Nottinghamshire.
He was a Crew Member in Short Stirling LK 715 which was taking part in a training flight when at 17.15 the aircraft caught fire, broke up and crashed at Co-Operative Farm, West Thickley, Sheldon, County Durham resulting with the deaths of all on board.


Nathaniel's Brother Martin is also named on the Family Headstone and i have been able to gather the following information regarding him.

Private Martin Crawford, who was 34 years old, was serving with Calgary Highlanders, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps and was Killed in Action in Normandy on 22nd July 1944.


He has no known grave but is named on the Bayeux Memorial in Normandy.

Belgian Army in Antrim Castle

The 2nd Infantry Battalion of 2nd Infantry Brigade "Yser" of the Belgian Army were based at Antrim Castle along with a RASC Supply Company (They also were at the YMCA Building in Ballymena in May 1945)

Prepared Demolition Site, Antrim Castle

As part of Northern Ireland's defensive measures in the event of Invasion by the Germans a number of Pillboxes were constructed along what were known as "Defence Lines"

It was most important to prevent invading forces being able to use the transport network so throughout Northern Ireland there were a number of Prepared Demolition Sites where bridges would be blown-up to prevent them being used by Enemy Forces.

Holes were cut into the underside of bridges and would have contained Explosives which were wired and ready for detonation when the time came - Fortunately this was not necessary and when the explosives were removed the small chambers were left to be seen as above at a bridge at Antrim Castle. (Many thanks to Adam Kearney)

Belgian Soldiers in Antrim

Belgian soldiers had their Postal Office and Military Police as well as Base Communications at what they referred to as the Showground, Antrim Station in Railway Street, Antrim.

Antrim Cemetery

Flight Engineer James Bell was serving with 97 Squadron Royal Air Force Bomber Command when he was Killed in Action on 27th August 1944.


On 12 August 1940 the Luftwaffe commenced attacking Royal Air Force Fighter Command airfields and radar stations during the Battle of Britain.

At 11.51 a raid of 150+ aircraft was plotted 30 miles north of Cherbourg. These aircraft then split into a number of smaller groups before crossing the English coastline with some going to Portsmouth and nearby Gosport in Hampshire.

(Gerald McElrea shown above and third from Right photographed in Portsmouth in 1939)

These attacks by the Luftwaffe incorporated Air Raids involving large numbers of Aircraft and were planned so that as one group had dropped all their bombs then the next group would replace them in an ongoing stream.

All of this was taking place on the day before what was to be “Eagle Day”, Tuesday 13th August, as directed by Adolf Hitler as the day when the invasion of Britain would begin.

Leading Aircraftsman Gerald McElrea from Antrim was serving in Gosport with 930 Balloon Squadron and was at the Barrage Balloon Site at St Vincent Sports Ground, Forton Road when the site received a direct hit by a large Bomb.

The timing of this raid is remembered by Aircraftsman Second Class A.W. Kemp who on Remembrance Day 1988 recalled the attack saying:-

“The day was fine one with plenty of sun and we were out most of the time, drilling and getting used to our webbing equipment. The powers that be had decided that we were to be trained as much as possible for a line of defence should the German army invade. It was tiring but well worthwhile as we got used to our rifles and equipment very quickly.

Just before midday, we had two corporals who were instructors to help us with our training. They had been with us only a short while when the red alert was sounded, as the sirens blared out. This usually happened well before a raid, but this  time it was almost immediately that the guns opened up and we could hear the noise of the planes diving. Our NCO quickly ordered us all to retire to our air raid shelter.

After a short while Frank Offord and I decided to go outside and find out what all the noise was about. We went around the back of the shelter into a slit trench, which was about 4 foot deep. The noise was deafening; we saw a parachute come down and then another - it was very exciting to watch at the time because it all seemed so far away. Frank and I spotted the Hun planes coming from the back of the site and one was dive bombing.

The next thing I remember was a terrific explosion and we both lost consciousness. We must have been out for quite a while because as I came to Frank was shouting "I'm drowning!" I could see he was up to his waist in soil, his face was covered in blood, his nose was bleeding and he was in great pain. All this of course had also happened to me, and I felt terrible.

We managed to struggle out of the trench and Frank said we'd better get to the sick bay as soon as we could. As we stood up ready to go, we looked at the shelter in front of us and all we could see was a great big hole. I said to Frank "We'd better get help quickly as the others may be buried and badly injured". As we passed the balloon winch we saw it was on fire, and the house opposite had been hit.

When we entered the Naval sick bay they had their hands full as there were casualties everywhere, and all they could do for us was to bathe out wounds and tell us that our centre at Titchfield was coming to collect us. We told them about the air raid shelter and they sent someone to investigate. Meanwhile the air raid sirens started again and we were sent to the air raid shelter were we saw civilians from the row of houses on the edge of the site. The mums did their best to comfort us, because they realised there was no hope for the rest of our crew. We were in so much pain; all we wanted was treatment to ease it. Eventually our R.A.F. ambulance turned up and took us to Titchfield where we were given drugs and treatment.”

Leading Aircraftsman Gerald McElrea was killed along with Nine of his Comrades and a similar number of Civilians. (More information available from http://www.bbrclub.org/)

(Thanks very much to Len Kinley from http://www.downmemorylane.me.uk/ for his assistance regarding photographs for this article)

Private Thomas Harold Dowley was serving with the Royal Army Service Corps, 1 Corps Ammunition Park, when he died on 12th March 1941.

Here are the headstones of Alfred Richard Spooner and James Harold Hall, Both of whom were serving with 218 Army Troops Company, Royal Engineers and who died within one day of each other. - If you have more information about the circumstances of their deaths then please contact me at ww2ni@btinternet.com

Shanes Castle, Antrim

There was a large Ordnance Depot at Shanes Castle.

Ammunition was stored in approximately 10 bunkers which were concealed within the trees shown below.

The name of the Location has changed a number of times during the war.

Initially known as Ordnance Ammunition Depot Number 2 from 3rd March 1942 until 16th December 1942 it became General Depot G-10-9 U.S. Army Air Force Ammunition Store with a capacity of 24,000 Tons.

53 (Ordnance ) Company of the United States Army was based here.(Google)

Large German First World War Guns in Antrim

The Guns which are shown here were presented by The War Office to Antrim in 1924 in recognition of the service and Sacrifice of the local men during the First World War.

Above is an Anti-Aircraft Gun with the larger of the two which is shown below being a 18 Inch Howitzer.

The guns were handed over by Colonel Packenham on behalf of the King and one was positioned in Market Square with the larger Howitzer in Fountain Street.

Having been positioned as War Trophies however they both found another use during the Second World War when they both were cut up and smelted down to be used in the War Effort! (Thanks very much to Martin Briscoe for the Photographs and Information)

Aberdelghy House, Lisburn

During the Second World War the house and surrounding land was used by both the United States Army and British Army.

I believe that the U.S. troops were from 4049 and 4059 Quartermaster Truck Companies.

The British soldiers included 66 Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery who were here from January until June in 1944 when they left to be involved in the invasion of Europe.

This is an Air Raid Shelter which remains in the grounds of what was Aberdelghy House.

It had one entrance, which is shown below, as well as an escape hatch in the roof.

Greenmount Agricultural College

All courses were suspended throughout the Second World War however work still continued on site with much of the land being used for tillage as per the compulsory legislation of the time.

Shown above are members of the Royal Berkshire Regiment with a 4.5 inch Howitzer and Quad at Greenmount in the winter of 1940 / 41. (From a private collection) Military Personnel were billeted at Greenmount from May 1942 with British soldiers being housed in Nissen Huts in front of the Manor House. Exercising took place in front of the Manor House and 4 NAAFI Huts were located in the Yard Field.


The Military population of Greenmount changed in 1944 when the Allied Soldiers left for the invasion of Normandy and for a while were replaced by Belgian Army Transmission Troops and later replaced by German Prisoners of War!

The photograph shows a Bonfire having been prepared to celebrate Victory in Europe Day in May 1945. (Thanks to Greenmount for the photograph)

Portrush Then and Now

Members of Company L, 168th Infantry, United States Army marching back to quarters following a lecture in Portrush Town Centre.

A Mortar Team from Company L 168th Infantry, United States Army posing for a picture at Portrush Seafront. (B&W Pictures from "After The Battle" Magazine)

The final picture above is in the same location (You can see the white building from my colour photograph in the background).

(From United States Army in WW2 Photographic Record)

Carrickfergus Sea Mine

This is a Second World War Sea Mine which is now positioned at the front of Carrickfergus Castle and is used to collect money for a worthy cause.

The article above gives some information regarding the Sea Mines, such as the one shown here. It comes from "The War Illustrated" Magazine.

Barn Mills, Carrickfergus

This impressive old building on Taylors Avenue, Carrickfergus was Barn Mills where Parachutes were manufactured during WW2.

The picture on the left shows Parachute meterial being examined through light whilst in the picture on the right the "Post Felling Seams" Process it taking place.

Magazine article in "The War Illustrated" regarding Linen Production in Northern Ireland and it's use in the War Effort. (The War Illustrated)