The Second World War in Northern Ireland

The Second World War in Northern Ireland

County Down Part 4

Killyleagh Castle

Killyleagh Castle was used by a number of Military Units from both the British and United States armies during the Second World War.

555 Field Company Royal Engineers had been based here at the start of the war. The 59th Division (Staffordshire) were on field exercises in Northern Ireland and based in Killyleagh at the start of the war and were later deployed to Kent before taking part in the invasion of German Occupied Europe.

I have records of 68th Armored Field Artillery Battalion 1st Armored Division of the United States Army being at Killyleagh from 20th May 1942 until 9th December 1942.

(Visit  https://sites.google.com/site/americansinulster/u-s-army-group-photograph-for more information.)

Bombing Range Quadrant Tower, Killyleagh

This Bombing Range Quadrant Tower stands at Moore's Point and a second one was constructed at Killyleagh.

The Bombing Range was created with the Target being between Green Island (Which was requisitioned) and the shoreline. Practice took place with 11 1/2 LB Practice Bombs and I have seen reference to pockmarks on Green Island having been caused by these Bombs. (IBID. 60/2/124)

H.M.S. Al Rawdah

Shown above is what was known as H.M.S. Al Rawdah. 

This ship was built in 1911 and was requisitioned by the Ministry of Shipping in 1940 in which year it became a Prison Ship for interned prisoners and was moored of Killyleagh.

The Al Rawdah remained a prison ship until 1946 and was later scrapped in 1953.

The picture was taken at the end of the war after it had left Strangford Lough and the ship is seen with U-Boats U-2502 and U-2326 alongside.

Gibraltarian Evacuee Camp - Clough

This small building appears to be all that remains of what was the Gibraltarian Refugee Camp at Clough.

It appears to have been the Electricity Generator Building which supplied power to the camp and is at the back of a private property on the Clough to Downpatrick Road.

Downpatrick Gaol

The 123rd Ordnance Battery of the 1st Armoured Division of the United States Army moved into the old Downpatrick Gaol in May 1942. With a compliment of 210 men they stayed there until October 1942. They were under the command of Lt. Colonel John Waters who was the Son-In-Law of General Patton and set up his Headquarters at Downpatrick Racecourse.

They had been at Newcastle for about two weeks before going to Downpatrick to replace the 6th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers who later became the 53rd Reconnaissance Corps.

At the nearby Cathedral Graveyard is the burial place of 2 Merchant Navy Sailors who were buried on 3rd April 1942.

The top picture here shows the old Gaol Entrance behind which is now a school while the smaller is the entrance to what is now Down Museum. Above is from inside the Museum and you can see the double gable of where two of the huts used for accommodation by the U.S. soldiers stood.

Only a short walk along the street will bring you to Downpatrick Cathedral and here you, like the American Soldier in the picture shown above, can look at what is believed to be the Grave of Saint Patrick!

Downpatrick Gaol building - Not the most suitable of accommodation however I guess it would have been warm and dry with both heat and light!

Downpatrick Racecourse

The Racecourse at Downpatrick was used from 1942 by 1st Battalion of the 1st Armoured Division United States Army along with a Maintenance Company, Service Company, Reconnaissance Company and Company B Tank Destroyer Battalion 1st Armoured Division.

There are some concrete bases from Nissen Huts remaining and the photograph above shows what remains of a Toilet Block.

"The Mount" Downpatrick

The area of The Mount at Downpatrick was used by the Ulster Home Guard for Target practice with both Sten Guns and Lee Enfield rifles.

Crossgar Railway Siding

This is the site of the United States Army General Depot G-10-10 in Crossgar.

It is on the Ballynahinch Road just outside the village and immediately beside the old Railway line.

To assist with movements of supplies a dedicated siding was constructed.

Shown above is the Railway Crossing with a view along the railway line with the Siding on the right.

Much of the concrete from the Depot remains to be seen although it is difficult to show scale in this photograph.

There are two large buildings in the background and crossing the centre of the picture is where railway lines had been laid to assist in the movement of supplies.


Tobar Mhure, Crossgar

As well as British Army personel the U.S. Army designated the location as "Signal Depot S-810" and it was the base of Detachment A, D Platoon, 830 Signal Service Company of the United States Army.

Castlewellan

During the war both the Castle and its grounds were used to accommodate U.S. Troops who arrived in May 1942 with the first Unit being Headquarters 1st Armored Division along with HQ Combat Command B and HQ Artillery Command as well as 141st Signal Company - All of the 1st Armored Division including the Military

Police. They were followed on 27th May 1943 by 705th Light Maintenance Company of the 5th Infantry Division and the following month Company C 307th Quartermaster Sterilization Battalion.

In January 1944 a Platoon from 19th Special Services Company were at Castlewellan and then from February until 10th May 1944 the 2d Platoon Company A 307th Quartermaster Sterilization Battalion, 2d Platoon 4234th Quartermaster Sterilization Company and 4236th Quartermaster Sterilization Company.

As is the norm within a Military environment Officers had superior accommodation to the regular soldiers and the signage on walls within the castle to ensure this was maintained remains to be seen today.

It is always great to see that steps are being taken to ensure that our Second World War heritage is being retained and the examples shown here can be found at Castlewellan Castle.

It is always great to be able to provide a "Then and Now" type photographic comparison and the top picture here shows Joe Wakefield-Dillier of United States Army 1st Armoured Division Combat Military Police speaking with a Dispatch Rider at the entrance to Castlewellan Castle.

Castlewellan Presbyterian Church Hall

American soldiers from 5th Infantry Division attending a Church Service in Castlewellan Presbyterian Church on 6th February 1944. (Picture from "After The Battle" Magazine)

United States Forces attending Warrenpoint Methodist Church

Immediately beside what was Warrenpoint American Red Cross Club is the Methodist Church which was attended by a considerable number of American personnel. 

The wonderful list shown here is displayed with pride within the church.

These are the names of those who attended the church between 25th October 1943 and 6th July 1944 and who came from 2nd Infantry Regiment, Air Corps, Medical Corps as well as Miss Holly Frederick from the Red Cross.


What is most pleasing about this, and perhaps making it unique, is that it is NOT a memorial to those who have lost their lives but rather those who had attended the church and may very well have survived the war!


The wording on the brass tablet says:-

"This Tablet was Presented to the Congregation of Warrenpoint Methodist Church in Grateful  Remembrance of the Christian Fellowship enjoyed by Members of the Second Infantry Regiment United States Army During their stay at Warrenpoint & Vicinity from 25th October 1943 to the 6th July 1944"

Warrenpoint American Red Cross Club

This building was where the 5th Infantry Division, United States Army had it's Red Cross Club. It is located in Church Street, Warrenpoint.

The picture on the left shows the building as it looked some years ago while my photograph is as it currently appears. As you can see it has been converted into apartments so I expect that the mural which was painted by Private Romaine E. Wallace (He is seen in this picture putting the final touches to his work) has now gone.

(Both the B&W Pictures here are from "After The Battle" Magazine)

United States Army in Warrenpoint

Here are 2 photographs of soldiers from 5th Infantry Division, United States Army on parade in the centre of Warrenpoint.

In the first picture you can see the Band Marching whilst in the second the American Flag is blowing in the wind right of centre. (Sorry for blurring in this picture)

(These photographs are from a Private Collection.)

Portaferry Lookout Post

This impressive structure can be seen sitting on top of the hill at Millin Bay Road.

I have shown three views of the building which is made up of two adjoining sections with one being the red bricks frontage facing towards the sea while the concrete section is immediately behind.

There is a blast wall protecting the entrance into the brick section which is shown here while the brick section has 3 loopholes.

You can see from the picture on the right that a ladder had once reached up onto the roof around which is a handrail for the safety of observers who would have been standing on the roof.

There is a mains electricity box inside the concrete section and with a couple of very sturdy chains and the concrete plinth at the front of the red brick section makes me think that a large mast may have been positioned here.


Portaferry Sea Mine

This is an old British Mk14 Sea Mine which can be seen on the waterfront in Portaferry.

Ballywalter Chain Home Low Radar Station

These pictures are of the site of where a Chain Home Low Radar Station was located at Roddens Road, Ballywalter.

The only remaining building connected to the station is the Engine House which is shown in all the photographs. 

Directly above you can see the Engine House along with a more recent relic in the foreground - This is the ventilation shaft and entrance to a Cold War Bunker which would have been manned by members of the Royal Observer Corps.

Top right is a rear view of the Engine House and then internal view with heavy metal rings secured in the roof to assist with the moving of equipment.

Ballywalter Radar Mast Cable Tethers

These pieces of concrete are currently lying on the beach in Barn Bay to the North of Ballywalter.

They were used to support very tall towers from which were strung a "Curtain Array" for Radar at a nearby site.

The Quarter Air Raid Shelters

Here are some pictures of Air Raid Shelters which can be seen at The Quarter and remain in great condition.

This part of the Ards Peninsula was used extensively to accommodate Royal Air Force personnel and these shelters were exclusively for the use of Armed Forces.

You can see that the shelters - of which there are 2 in close proximity, include the all important internal supporting columns which,in the event of a bomb landing nearby, should prevent the heavy concrete roof from collapsing onto the people inside.

New Cemetery, Bangor

There are a number of interesting headstones to be found in the New Cemetry in Bangor.

The first one shown here is the headstone of Corporal Francis Nevin Sloss who was 19 years old when he was killed on 18th June 1943.

He had been serving with 83 Squadron, Royal Air Force which was part of the Pathfinder Force and on that day he was crewing Avro Lancaster I ED439 from R.A.F. Wyton on a training exercise as a wireless instructor.

Sadly the aircraft crashed at High Gate Farm near Swaton about 7 miles Southeast of Sleaford in Lincolnshire.

William Francis Ernest Gault was 20 years old when he was killed on 4th April 1941.

He was the pilot of Hawker Hurricane V7678 from 245 Squadron, Royal Air Force and was flying Convoy Protection when his aircraft crashed through cloud onto a hill near Carrickfergus.

Another of those who gave his life and is buried here is Aircraftsman Second Class Cyril Charles Cameron. He was a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and was a Pilot Under Instruction when tragedy occurred. He was serving with 166 Squadron R.A.F. who were operating Lancaster Bombers and his death is recorded as having occurred during a "Bomb Loading Accident"

Sergeant Gunner William Matchett Mahaffy was a member of 158 Squadron Royal Air Force attached to 104 Squadron. On 13th April 1941 he was acting as Tail Gunner in Vickers Wellington W5525 which was on a bombing mission to Essen in Germany.

At some stage during the mission contact was lost with the aircraft and Sergeant Mahaffy is buried at Reichswald Forrest Cemetery.

The headstone on the left is that of Private Barry John Stubbings. Number 5392025 of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

On looking at this headstone you will see that Private Stubbings was only 16 years old.

Sergeant William John Morrison was a Navigator (Bomber) and was with Number 1674 Heavy Conversion Unit when on 12th April 1944 he was flying in Halifax Aircraft BB310 when it crashed at Dun Fell in the Northern Pennines.

Of the Crew of nine Four were Instructors with the remaining 5 being under instruction.

They were involved in a Night Exercise and the aircraft had been in the air for eight and a half hours when it crashed.

Low cloud had obscured the Airfield at R.A.F. Longtown and having overflown the airfield the aircraft crashed into high ground killing all on board.

(Additional information from http://aircrashsites.co.uk/uw/)

Lance Corporal Thomas Dickson was serving with 2nd Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles when he died on 25th September 1943.

Flying Officer William Watson Miller was only 21 years old and the holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross. On 24th February 1945 he was serving with 248 Squadron and acting as Navigator in Mosquito FB Mk VI in a Training Exercise. Having took-off from R.A.F. Banff in Aberdeenshire an aileron detached and struck the tailplane of the aircraft causing it to break up in the air and crash killing both aircrew.

The Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross to Flying Officer Miller said "This Officer had participated in a large number of varied sorties....In August 1944, during a reconnaissance of the Gironde area his aircraft was hit by Anti-Aircraft fire. The petrol tanks were pierced and a quantity of the contents were lost. A course was set for home but the petrol became exhausted and the aircraft came down onto the sea. FO Miller, who had temporarily lost consciousness, recovered to find himself submerged in the cockpit. He released his harness and managed to climb clear. His pilot was apparently still trapped. Although F.O. Miller had both ankles fractured and was in great distress he re-entered the cockpit in a vain attempt to find his comrade. He displayed great courage, fortitude and resolution in highly trying circumstances"

Flying Officer Robert Henry Rutherford was killed whilst on active service as a Navigator in the Royal Air Force on 22nd July 1943. He was serving with 1657 Heavy Conversion Unit and was on board Stirling Bomber W7586-C during a training flight from Stradishall. Sadly the aircraft crashed at 17.46 hrs when attempting to go round on another circuit of the airfield for a 3 engined approach.

Bangor Abbey

James Skillen Died on Active Service whilst at Sea in 1941.

Unfortunately I have no other details - If you have any information regarding James Skillen then please email me.

Ward Park Air Raid Shelter, Bangor

It is currently being used by a cycle club however its sturdy construction with solid concrete roof and the fact that it has been constructed under large trees give some indication of its previous life as a Public Air Raid Shelter.

There is a shelter of similar construction which can be seen in Castle Gardens, Lisburn and that shelter is photographed in the County Antrim Part 1 section of this website.

Camp Pinetum, Clandeboye Estate, Bangor

Shown above are 2 buildings which remain at what was known by United States military personel as "Camp Pinetum" within Clandeboye Estate, Bangor.

The Camp was opened on 29th November 1943 as Depot O-621 when a number of Ordnance Maintainance Depots were established throughout Northern Ireland.

It was used initially as a Vehicle Park however on Thanksgiving Day 944th Ordnance Motor Vehicle Distribution Company, under the command of Captain Ewen J Cameron, arrived and created a vehicle storage and issue point.

There are some trees at the site showing old carvings.

One of these is shown here and is dated 1944 however unfortunately there are only initials.

Ballyholme Sea Defences

The bricks and concrete shown here were once one type of defence and are now working as another.  

This pile of brickwork and concrete was once the Air raid Shelters from around Bangor and now they are used as a seawall beside the childrens playground near Ballyholme Yacht Club.

Ards Hospital Air Raid Shelter

This building with a strengthened roof would have been used for protection during Air Raids and it is interesting to note that "The McKelvey Pavillion For Sick Children" was opened at Ards Hospital only a few weeks before the German air raid on Ards Airfield which had a number of wounded personel being brought to the hospital.

***Unfortunately I believe that this Air Raid Shelter has now been totally removed***

Airman's Grave in Comber

Shown here is a rather distinctive headstone which can be seen at the Newtownards Road Cemetery in Comber.

This is the final resting place of Sergeant Observer Thomas James McCloud, 1066739, of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve who was flying with 18 Squadron when he was killed in action on 6th November 1942.

The headstone immediately catches the eye on entering the cemetery as it is not the usual Commonwealth War Graves Commission type headstone but rather a family cross which incorporates the Royal Air Force wings.

On researching 18 Squadron I believe that at the time of Sergeant McCloud's death the Squadron were flying Bristol Blenheim aircraft and were operating in both North Africa and supporting the Allies in the Italian campaign. 


A.R.P. Death at Moneyreagh

Margaret Kate McGowan was 21 years old and from Kinlough in County Leitrim, Eire.

She is recorded as being in the A.R.P. and having been killed at Moneyreagh on 17th December 1942. Sadly this is all the information I currently have.

Mourne House, Kilkeel

The picture above (From "After The Battle" Magazine) shows U.S. soldiers of 40th Field Artillery 5th Division on 13th March 1944. The buildings in this picture would have been to the right of the broad concrete path which winds from the main Kilkeel to Rostrevor Road and  is the first obvious sign of this location's involvement in the Second World War. This road was actually constructed by U.S. Military personel and is shown below.

On passing through the gates into the estate there are a couple of concrete bases on the left which I believe were used as a Guard Room and Cinema for the troops based here.

They began to arrive in 1942 with the first being 2d Battalion 6th Armored Infantry and 16th Armored Engineer Battalion (Without Company D) of the 1st Armoured Division.

In October 1943 the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery 5th Infantry Division Artillery and 19th Field Artillery (5th Infantry Division) - Equipped with 105mm towed Howitzers arrived along with 46th and 50th Field Artillery Battalions of 5th Infantry Division who were also equipped with 105mm towed Howitzers and therefore with all this large equipment it becomes clear why the space at Mourne House was utilized.

I have read that some of the planning for the D-Day invasion took place at this house.

Without doubt the highlight of my visit was locating some trees where U.S. soldiers left their mark by carving some personal details. Of the graffitti which can be found the one shown above is probably the clearest. "J.C. Butler 17 April 1944 GA" showing him to be from the state of Georgia. 

"Tom Maines" can clearly be seen on another tree however I am unsure of the writing below his surname.

As the years have passed and nature has done its best to recover from the lettering it is difficult to identify clearly what was written and this is particularly true of the next pictures.

Top of this tree is "Jerry Miller" however I am afraid I cannot make out the next line which may be a date ending in 44.

Then we have "Stanley" and below this I think it says "1 44" which would probably refer to January 1944 and "ILL" for the State of Illinois.

The bottom wording is very faint but appears to say " R. Haslam" and another date below this "Jan" something.

The final tree shown is where "Norman Taylor" had decided to leave his mark.

There is a "KY" visible which mat refer to Kentucky but the word above is difficult to read and appears to contain "TEARN"

At the bottom may be another date but is very difficult to read.

This is fascinating stuff and if anyone can assist in making out more detail from the pictures PLEASE contact me at the usual E-Mail address.


The previously SECRET Document above refers to the departure of U.S. Troops from Mourne House and onward to Operation Overlord and the invasion of Normandy.