The Second World War in Northern Ireland

The Second World War in Northern Ireland

County Down Part 1

Eglantine Church, Lisburn.

All Saints Church, Eglantine, Lisburn has the impressive stained glass window shown above which was presented by members and friends of 31 Group Royal Observer Corps on 8th September 1990. A small plaque below says "To the Glory of God and in memory of Airmen of the Royal Air Force and Commonwealth Air Forces 1939 - 1946 buried in the adjoining graveyard" which is shown here.

During the war the Church was surrounded by buildings which were part of the Long Kesh Airfield complex.


Five of the airmen buried here were killed on 19th March 1945 when their Liberator KG896 of 1674 Heavy Conversion Unit based at Aldergrove crashed.

It was being Captained by Flying Officer Holmes and crewed by Pryde, Edge, Aston and Hook – (All of whom are buried here) along with five others and the Instructor Flying Officer Honey.


Another Airman buried here is Flying Officer Gordon Elgin Vance who was with Acting Squadron Leader Westlake of 290 Squadron, the pilot of Oxford BG601 and was leading a formation of 3 Oxford aircraft, widely spaced, in simulated torpedo attacks on ships of an escort group in connection with a naval exercise. The Oxfords were escorted by 5 Martinet aircraft forming a fighter cover about 500 feet above the Oxfords. At approximately 10.15 hours A/Sqn Ldr Westlake called up the other aircraft and instructed them to return to Ballyhalbert. The Oxfords closed formation with A/Sqn Ldr Westlake's aircraft leading. The other 2 aircraft were about 2 wingspans range away from and slightly above and behind the lead aircraft. The lead aircraft was flying at less than 50 feet above the sea and at a point close to Copeland Islands the aircraft was seen to fly even closer to the sea. At 10.30 hours the propeller of A/Sqn Ldr Westlake's aircraft was seen to touch the sea and the aircraft hit the water at about 160mph and broke up on impact. RAF High Speed rescue launches were dispatched from Donaghdee and they picked up A/Sqn Ldr Westlake who sadly succumbed to his injuries.

Hillhall Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery

These 2 pictures show all that remains of a Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery which was positioned at Hillhall on the outskirts of the City of Lisburn.

The design of this building is the same as other locations which are shown in this website. - There is a corrugated metal inner which is covered by a protective layer of concrete.

The photograph here shows a doorway into the building with "1941" painted above. Immediately facing the doorway is a brick supported soil bank which may have been to provide some protection from blast in the event of bombing.

Finnis Searchlight Battery

These are the 2 buildings which remain of the Searchlight Battery which stood near the village of Finnis and can be found on the Rathfriland Road.

Kernan Lough Searchlight Battery

These photographs show the Searchlight Battery which is built beside Kernan Lough.

There are currently about 4 separate buildings and the first photograph looks down towards the lough.

You can see in the second picture that there are protective walls covering the door entrances and the following picture shows where shovels were to be stored in the correct military fashion

Ballycranbeg Roman Catholic Churchyard, Kirkistown

Here are the graves of 3 graves of Polish airmen who lost their lives in Air Crashes whilst training in Northern Ireland.

They are as follows:-

St. Sierz S. Grondowski crashed his Spitfire Mk5, number W3427 on a hillside near Lisburn in bad weather whilst on a training exercise.

Plt. W. Kolek crashed his Spitfire Mk5, number BL469 on landing following a training flight.

Ppor J.R. Tuczemski crashed his Spitfire Mk5, number AB245 near Ballymena after hitting an obstacle when on a training flight.

All three of these airmen were from 315 Squadron based at Ballyhalbert and buried nearby are the 2 airmen mentioned below.

Pilot Officer Walter Bartholomew McManus and a Belfast Telegraph Spitfire

Pilot Officer Walter Bartholomew McManus was from 504 Squadron and was flying Spitfire J/5469 which had been purchased as part of the Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund and was named "Down"

He had been flying from St Angelo Airfield in County Fermanagh to Ballyhalbert and crashed at Derrymacash near Lurgan.

He is buried in Ballycranbeg Roman Catholic Churchyard.

Walter McManus is shown here in 1940, looking at a Royal Canadian Air Force recruiting poster and on the right as Pilot Officer McManus with his Bride, Kathleen Hunt in May 1941.

Below is the Telegram which his Bride received telling her of his death.

Pilot Officer Walter Bartholomew McManus received a Formal Military Funeral. His Headstone and the ceremony are shown below. (Many thanks to Stephen Riley and Selwyn Johnston for their assistance)

Lieutenant Frank William McGarry buried at Ballycranbeg

Lt Frank William McGarry was with the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve and was based at Ballyhalbert with 768 Royal Naval Squadron working with Number 4 Naval Air Fighter School.

He was flying a Corsair JT357 when his engine failed and he crashed 5 miles SSW of the airfield.

Killard Point

The American Troopship “Georgetown Victory” was built in 1945 and registered at Baltimore.

On 27th March 1946 it left Freemantle bound for Glasgow with 1200 Royal Navy men and Royal Marines who were looking forward to returning home and demobilisation following the end of the War.

On reaching Lands End the ship turned north for Glasgow but shortly before midnight on 30th April it passed close to St Johns Point before being driven onto the rocks at Killard Point.

Fortunately no fatalities took place and all men eventually reached Glasgow by other means a day later however many had lost various souvenirs of the war.

The ship later broke her back and was subsequently scrapped – some remains can still be seen in the shallows off Killard Point.

Greyabbey Aircraft Crash Site

Shown above are 2 pictures of a brass memorial plate which can be found on a wooden post at Tullykevin Road, Greyabbey marking the site of the crash of a Hellcat Aircraft.

The wording on the plate is difficult to read but says "In Memory of Sub Lt (A) L.F. Akister 300 Sqn R.N.V.R. Aged 20. Killed when his Hellcat GU146 Crashed Here on 4th July 1944. He is Not Forgotten"

Sub-Lieutenant Frederick Robert Akister was a member of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve based at H.M.S. Emperor and is now buried in St Peter Churchyard, Rawdon, Yorkshire.

Strangford Lough Firing / Bombing Range - Gransha Point

Some evidence remains of the WW2 Bombing / Firing Range at Gransha Point.

The concrete structures shown here are at the shoreline and my first photograph shows Gransha Point in the rear left position.

While on my visit I was fortunate to find some firm evidence of its previous use in the form of this .50 Bullet.

Strangford Lough Bombing Range - South Island.

A practice Bombing Range was operated at South Island in Strangford Lough, north of the village of Greyabbey.

It had been requisitioned for an Air to Ground Gunnery Range with the target being a rough timber representation of a Submarine Conning Tower which was placed on the western end of the Island.

One of the practices was known as “Skip Bombing” a line of old military vehicles which were positioned on the island.

On one occasion a Seafire aircraft was struck by debris from a bomb dropped by the aircraft flying in front of it causing the Seafire to crash into the Lough at Kircubbin.

'Ballyrolly House' - Millisle's "Kinderfarm"

As the Nazi's took control of mainland Europe and commenced the Holocaust a rather special evacuation plan was put into place to rescue thousands of Jewish children.


Known as "Kindertransport" Jewish children were transported to Harwich and from there many arrived in Belfast to be looked after by the Jewish Aid Committee.

Following a meeting in Mooneys Public House at Cornmarket in central Belfast (This Public House is shown as it looked on 26th May 1938 thanks to "Old Belfast Photographs" Facebook site) it was arranged to take out a lease on the then vacant Ballyrolly House in Millisle.


Above left is the Farm House and on the right is an original "Blackout Blind" which remains in position in one of the Farm Outbuildings.


The Outbuildings and rear Farmyard are shown below.

Between 1939 and 1948 around 300 Jewish Children lived at what became known as the Kinderfarm.

The children worked hard on the farm and were soon self sufficient with vegetables. They also built a small synagogue on site and attended Millisle Primary School.

This is a little story which was written in wet cement in a Farm Outbuilding by one of the Jewish children.

The author has signed it. The name is very difficult to distinguish however the initial is "W" and it has been dated at the bottom with the year 1941.

It is very difficult to make out however I believe it says:-

"Here in this very place the boarders played cards. They were supposed to be working. The Boss came down and kicked up a row - result E. Meyerstein flew out"  


This is the "Safe Haven" Holocaust Memorial Garden which can be seen at the entrance to Millisle Primary School.

My sincere appreciation goes to both Mr Magill, who is the current owner of Ballyrolly House, and Mrs Linda Patterson, Principal of Millisle Primary School for their patience and assistance.

Statues marking the Kinder Transport can be seen at Railway Stations in various Cities including London.

The two shown here are Hamburg on the left and Prague on the right.

D-Day Ship, Portaferry

From Lough Shore Road at Portaferry you can see the wreck of a ship in Ballyhenry Bay in Strangford Lough.

The ship can be seen clearly at low tide and has an interesting story. – This was a  Ship which was known as S.S. Empire Tana.

Built in 1923 as "Carso” in Trieste, Italy was captured by the Allies in 1943 and renamed.

This ship was used as part of the Goosberry Breakwater on the British “Sword” Beach in Normandy on D-day 6th June 1944.

After the war the ship was purchased by the John Lee Breakers Yard at when being delivered to the breakers yard it struck a rock, sank and broke into 2 pieces.

The picture above shows S.S. Empire Tana as she used to look. (For more information visit http://www.archeosousmarine.net)

Murlough House, Dundrum.

This is Murlough House which can be found in close proximity to what was 19 Satellite Landing Ground.

The House can be reached through the National Trust property at Dundrum however it can only be viewed from outside as this is private property.

It became home to 1st Battalion, 13th Armour of the United States 1st Armoured Division in 1942 and up until 29th April 1944 was also a base for 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion of 15 Corps United States Army.

Main Street, Dundrum


This House at 51 Main Street, Dundrum was used by E Company, 16th Battalion, 1st Armoured Division of the U.S.Army although unfortunately I do not have any more precise information.

Harbour Defence Motor Launch, Dundrum Bay

This sad old Boat which sits rotting away in Dundrum Bay has an interesting WW2 history.

It was built by Blackmore in Bideford, Devon and was completed in 1943.

Powered by Gardner 300hp diesils it had a maximum speed of 11.8 knots.

The boat was lightly armed and used for Harbour Defence with this particular boat being ML1300 which served to protect Weymouth Harbour which was a very important Port during Operation Overlord – The invasion of Occupied Europe on 6th June 1944.

Anti Landing Obstacles Murlough Beach

These pictures show some of the Anti-Landing Poles which were erected to prevent any airborne landing  attempted by enemy forces.

This particular area was of considerable importance with the Military using Murlough House as well as the nearby Airstrip and around Dundrum Castle there were a number of American Forces.


All of this as well as Ballykinlar Camp where the sand dunes behind the ranges can be seen in the picture top right. It is also worth noting that these poles stretch for quite a distance and the area would have had the additional protection of a pillbox which has now collapsed.


Seaforde House

Seaforde House was used from 25th October 1943 by 5th Reconnaissance Troop Mechanised 5th Infantry Division of the United States Army who used the M-48 Scoutcar.

The location of this photograph is now within the Seaforde House Estate which includes a tourist attraction Tropical Butterfly House - How times have changed!

The yard where the U.S. Troops M.T. Section can be seen working in now a busy farming area and out of bounds to visitors.  (Picture from "After The Battle" Magazine)

Gibraltarian Evacuees in Saintfield

Sighted on right of the Ballygowan Road on leaving Saintfield can be seen the red bricked building shown here. - This is the site of an old Grbraltarian Evacuee Camp similar to those seen in the County Antrim section of this website.

The red bricked building was used to generate electricity and an amount of wiring and electrical boxes can be found inside.

The picture on the right shows a concrete path running across the field as well as the concrete base of a nissen hut which was used for accommodation purposes.

Narrowwater Castle, Warrenpoint

This is the very impressive Narrowwater Castle on the Newry Road at Warrenpoint. During the Second World War the United States Army 2nd Infantry Division had men quartered on both the upper floors and in the surrounding grounds.

Evidence of the occupation of the grounds can be seen from around fifteen concrete bases for Nissen huts which remain adjacent to the Mound Road side of the estate.

The pictures above show American soldiers at what they knew as Camp Narrow water.

Below are the men of 3rd Platoon, Company D 2nd Infantry, 5th Division of the United States Army at Narrow Water.

Military Magazine

With the speedy build-up of military personel throughout Northern Ireland many places were used for storage of ordnance including a large Ordnance Depots at Shanes Castle in County Antrim and at Ballykinlar Camp in County Down.

Another Ammunition Supply Depot Magazine in Down was built between Ballynahinch and Crossgar adjacent to Lough Mann. This was opened in 1942 and was known by the United States Military as "Quartermaster Subordinate Depot 111C"

This complex is now operated by Thales Air Defence systems and it is here that modern missiles are stored and tested. There is little to see. (Google picture)

Seahill Prisoner of War Camp

There were a number of Prisoner Of War camps throughout Northern Ireland including this one on the coast at Seahill.

Other P.O.W. Camps were located at places such as Dungannon, Cookstown, Omagh, Portadown and Gilford.

The layout of the Seahill P.O.W. Camp appears to have been 2 groups of a total of 12 huts in 2 stepped rows of six. These huts were surrounded by barbed wire which was secured to old wooden railway sleepers.

Some of the trees show where they have been marked by the barbed wire which was used to secure the Camp.

Here you can see where a large tree has grown over the original barbed wire and the another picture shows one of the railway sleepers with original wire still attached.

Bangor Golf Club Pillbox

Here are 2 pictures of the Pillbox which can be found on the course at Bangor Golf Club. It appears to be what was known as a Type 22 fitted with rifle ports.

During the war all the greenery around the pillbox was removed to ensure a clear unobstructed line of fire and the building is now used for storage.

During the Nazi bombing of Bangor a landmine landed nearby on the 1st fairway and waited 4 days before exploding harmlessly at 4am.

In an attempt to prevent any air landing attempts steel posts were driven into the second fairway and the Golf Club's commitment to the war effort included a Tillage Order in 1940 for 18 acres of the course to be used to grow food crops.

Clandeboye Estate, Bangor

From 25th December 1943 until 29th April 1944 Clandeboye Estate found itself acting as home to the 277th Army Band of the United States Army.

Second World War Secret at Orlock

The area of Orlock on the North Down coastline has a number of items which are of interest to any Second World War enthusiast. Further down this section are a few of them however here we have a secret!!

Around the mid 2000's an amateur diver was exploring the inlet beside the small tunnel on the Orlock Coastal path.

He reported finding wooden sections which were held together by iron and appeared to form a "Man made floor".

I have enquired from the Ulster University Maritime Archaeology Department regarding this and included pictures of the item shown here.

It is said that the boards on the seabed may be connected to a Second World War Submarine Re-Fuelling Station.

The item shown here appears to be the same type of boards as those lying on the seabed.

Orlock Submarine Indicator Loop

Here we have evidence of one of the projects involved in the defence of Belfast Lough.

It was realised long before the Second World War that great importance should be given to the defence of Belfast Lough and this is illustrated in other sections of this site referring to Greys Point Fort and Kilroot on the County Antrim shoreline.

Another link which was made with Black Head on the County Antrim side was a Submarine Indicator Loop which was laid on the seabed from Sandeel Bay at Orlock.

This electrical cable was used to detect any submarine which passed over it. Action could then be taken by the Royal Navy Extended Defence Officer at Orlock to detonate an electrically operated minefield.

The rocks in the picture above show where the cable entered the sea.

The Officer in charge of this Equipment was Captain King. (From "Second Thoughts" by Charles F. Milligan O.B.E.)

Clough

The 5th Infantry Division of the United States Army were to be found throughout much of South Down. 

The 5th signal Company was in Tollymore Park at Bryansford  with Reconnaissance Troop being at Seaforde. 

The 7th Engineer Battalion and 705th Ordnance Company were in Castlewellan. (Picture from "After The Battle" Magazine)

The pictures above show the 5th Quartermaster Company at work in Clough during March 1944 and a similar view of the Castlewellan Road as it is today.


The photograph on the left shows two American Soldiers in the Camp in Clough. (Thanks to Clare Ferris)

Mount Panther, Clough

Sadly what was once a very impressive old house now lies in ruins and is currently for sale.

In 1942 Mount Panther was home to 2nd Battalion 1st Armour of the 1st Armoured Division United States army. Also based there was 13th Infantry of 8th Infantry Division and 21st Field Artillery Battalion of 5th Division whose hutted accommodation can be seen in the black and white picture below (From "After The Battle" Magazine)

Little remains to be seen other than quite a large concreted area on the Dundrum Road immediately outside the village of Clough from which a concrete path continues around where the Nissen Huts, which are shown in the picture below, were situated.

Ardglass

During 1942 a Company of 3rd Battalion, 6th Armoured Infantry, 1st Armoured Division of the United States Army were based in Ardglass.

Ballywalter House

The wonderful Ballywalter House Demesne is directly across the road from what was Ballywalter Airfield and, as I have mentioned in the County Down Airfields Section, aircraft were hidden among trees in the grounds of Dunleaths Estate.

Michael Henry Mulholland, the 5th Baron Dunleath of Ballywalter, attained the rank of Major during the war and served with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He had joined the Regiment in India in 1937 and fought in the Japanese campaign in Burma.

While he was serving with the Ox and Bucks the stable block and outbuildings within the Estate were used by Military personnel with members of the Royal Ulster Rifles and Royal Berkshire Regiment leaving their mark in the form of this graffiti.

Interestingly his Battalion returned to the U.K. in 1942 for training purposes and for a while were based at Ballyscullion House near Bellaghy where his parents lived.

The house had been requisitioned but because Michael Henry was yet to become a Major he was not permitted by the Army to live in his parents house but rather a nissen hut in the grounds!!

Any person intending to interfere with The Royal Berkshires artwork would be wise to heed the written warning and "Don't **** about with it or else" - It is pleasing to see that the 4 artists have signed their work saying "Completed this work of art on 8.12.42 In co-operation Sir"

Mount Stewart

When you arrive in the Car Park at Mount Stewart please be aware that in the tall trees which you are beside contain a number of interesting items.

Here are some carvings. J.G.A. was from Oxton, Birkenhead and was at Mount Stewart with the R.A.F. in 1940. A nearby comment says "Victory is Ours. R.A.F."

Above is what remains of a very overgrown Nissen Hut which appears to have containged 2 Tractor Sheds.

Another tree which appears to have been claimed by Royal Engineers soldiers who have left their initials.

Following the deployment of 231 Squadron R.A.F. to Newtownards Airfield in 1940 soldiers from 106 Field Squadron (Air Support) Royal Engineers (Volunteers) arrived to work on the airfield to make it suitable for the R.A.F. to operate from.

Headquarters Company of the Royal Engineers was based at Mount Stewart with their Officer Commanding - Major Fulton being billeted in the House while junior ranks were housed in the buildings around the Coach House and stables as shown here.

There are also a number of concrete bases on which nissen huts would have been constructed whilst the two photographs below show what I believe was a Shower Block. (Thanks very much to Toby Edwards for his assistance)

On going inside the surprises continue.

In the attic rooms connected to the main Mansion House was a Convalescence Ward covering both the First and Second World Wars.

In 2003 a total of 10 rooms were identified with paper notices being on several doors. One partial example displayed a typed list of soldiers names however this has now gone.

Room 36, which was a toilet, has the sign "Officers" on the door with other rooms containing neatly stacked bed frames and Room 35 containing a store of bandages, bedpans, Air-Raid Warden helmets and gas masks.

The signs shown below are from the Convalescence Ward.

There is also a statuette of a Nazi Stormtrooper which is on display in Mount Stewart House. This was a gift which was presented by Joachin Von Ribbentrop to Lord Londonderry, who had been Secretary of State for Air, during one of his 6 visits to Germany between 1936 and 1938.

Lord Londonderry, Charles Stewart Henry Van-Tempest-Stewart is shown here on the left with Joachim Von Ribbentrop to the right and Adolf Hitler standing in the centre.

This photograph was taken in Berlin in February 1936 (Belfast Telegraph Photograph)

Donaghadee Golf Club

During a visit to Mount Stewart Lord Londonderry brought Joachim Von Ribbentrop for a round of Golf to Donaghadee Golf Club. (Information from Donaghadee Golf Club)