The Second World War in Northern Ireland

The Second World War in Northern Ireland

County Tyrone Part 1

Cluntoe Airfield

Shown above are the Control Tower and Crash Tender shed as they stand today. As can be seen the Control Tower is in remarkable condition and surely merits preservation.


Cluntoe was known by the United States 8th Air Force as AAF 238 Combat Crew Replacement Centre B. It was originally supposed to be an Operational Training Unit for Bombers and site construction began in 1940 making it one of the earlier Airfields of the time.

With number 4 Combat Crew Replacement Centre being operational at Cluntoe there were 57 B-17 Flying Fortress Crews who passed through the Centre between November 1943 and February 1944.

Easily accessible beside the village of Ardboe there are 3 runways with a wide selection of buildings to keep the visitor happy

Cluntoe Operations Block

The two photographs above show a 1940 pattern Operations Block at Cluntoe.

Norden Bomb Sight Building, Cluntoe

More photographs showing the inside of one of these Buildings can be seen at Toome.

The "1943" has been written in the cement of an air vent - Norden Bomb Sight Buildings will usually have a strong smell of Oil.

Cluntoe Night Flying Equipment Store

Cluntoe Shooting Range Butts

Well Done to the gentleman who has the Shooting range Butts in his front garden - He has created a very steep lawn!

Two Turret Trainer Building, Cluntoe

The picture above appears to refer to Private J.G.Peluser and Private First Class M.W.Cooley with the date April 17th 1944.

Within a couple of months these Soldiers would be in the thick of battle in Occupied Europe!

(Visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/yourplaceandmine/ for more information.)

Aerial picture of a "Snowflake" Aircraft dispersal at Cluntoe Airfield.

To give an idea of scale there is a House in the bottom right on the picture!

Here you can see Cluntoe as it looked in the early years of the Second World War. The dispersals shown above can be seen on the mid left of this picture.

(From the book "British Military Airfields" by David J. Smith)

United States Army Air Force Bomber Crew at Cluntoe Airfield

Paul W. Perry Crew 466th Bomber Group - 785th and 74th Bomb Squadrons Standing Left to Right: William Bento (R/O), Paul W. Perry (P), Joseph R. Kelly (CP), Lloyd K. Randolph (N), Gerald D. Camp (FE) Kneeling Left to Right: Jack F. Towner (G), John F. Durtsche (BTG), Oliver J. Rauch (B), Robert L. Traeger (WG) Arel A. Bye (G) This crew was originally assigned to the 492nd Bomber Group before being transferred to the 466th Bomber Group . This photograph was taken at Cuntoe Airfield. (Visit http://www.americanairmuseum.com/media/15980 for more info.)

Change of Personnel at Cluntoe

A detachment of Royal Air Force Personnel pass in review during Ceremonies changing over the Airfield at Cluntoe from the Royal Air Force to the United States Army Air Force.

Captain K. K. Wallick, the new Commanding Officer acknowledges the salute.



Squadron Leader W. B. Rawling, Former Commanding Officer of R.A.F. Clutone, congratulates Capt. K. K. Wallick of the United States Army Air Force who was the new Commanding Officer. Photograph taken on 29th August 1943.

(These photographs are from Fold 3 and are available to EVERYONE)

Combat Crew Code Training Room, Cluntoe

SC Keyer, TG-10-F (60) cycle used in Combat Crew training in the Code Training Room of Army Air Force Station number 238 at Cluntoe.

Photograph taken on 30th December 1943.

(The photographs above are from Fold 3 which is available to EVERYONE below:-https://www.fold3.com/s.php#query=Northern+Ireland&preview=1&t=495)

Dungannon War Memorial

On looking at the names on the War Memorial in Dungannon it is interesting to see that there are 2 names of men who served with the United States Army.

Robert Meglaughlin is recorded by the U.S. Army as McLaughlin. He was born in 1907 in Northern Ireland but emigrated to the United States where he enlisted in the U.A. Army at Albany, New York on 18th June 1942.

He was serving with 109th Engineer Combat Battalion, 34 Infantry Division in Italy when he was killed on 5th November 1943.

At that time he was checking for Mines and Booby-traps in an area Southwest of Santa Maria Olivetto when he stood on an S Mine.

He is buried in Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy which is shown below.

George Montgomery is described by the U.S. Army as being from the Irish Free State.

He enlisted at New York City on 31st January 1941 and served with 165 Infantry, 27 Infantry Division.

He died on Makin Island, which is now known as Butaritari Island and is part of the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific Ocean on 21st November 1943 and is mentioned on the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and Honolulu, Hawaii.

I have been informed that George Montgomery was from Coalisland and is remembered on a headstone in the graveyard of the Newmills Church.

(Thanks very much to Alex Field for your assistance.)

Dungannon and Castlecaulfield

The Dungannon and Castlecaulfield areas had much happening during the war.

The American 8th Infantry Division were based at Ballynorthland Demesne as well as a Prisoner of War Camp at Dungannon Park.

Sadly nothing appears to remain.

There was much training taking place in the area with Firing Ranges being used at Dunamony Wood as well as grenade practice at Annaghmackeown.

I believe that the Range at Dunamony Wood was beside Dungannon Road and aerial photography appears to show measured Firing Lines that are still visible.

It is difficult to identify the precise location of the Grenade Range however a small building near the junction of the Annaghmackeown Road and Finulagh Road has an appearance similar to a small Ablution Block which may have been constructed for the use of Troops on the Range.

The various American Units which were based within this area included 1st Battalion 133rd Infantry, 34th Infantry Division.

The various American Units which were based within this area included 1st Battalion 133rd Infantry, 34th Infantry Division.

Some soldiers were billeted in Parkanaur Hall,(Top) with officers at Castlecaulfield House (Right)) while other soldiers stayed at Acheson Hall in Castlecaulfield (Left)

Of the British Army units who were training in the Dungannon area 59th Division Staffs arrived in October 1941 and Castlecaulfield was also home to the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry for a time.

Church of Ireland, Castlecaulfield

This War Memorial can be found in Castlecaulfield Church Of Ireland Church.

George Hall, Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy is included on this Memorial.

I believe George was born on 14th January 1901. His parents were Mary Jane and Thomas Edward and he lived at Reascor, Castlecaulfield.

Any other information would be much appreciated.

Seskinore

The Headquarters of the American 552d Quartermaster Railhead Company was based at Seskinore House.

Fintona

The 2 photographs here show Kiln Street in Fintona. 

The picture above shows men from the Motor Pool of Headquarters Company 135th Infantry washing their vehicles in the river on 5th November 1942.

It is interesting to note that the old Royal Ulster Constabulary Police Station is the large white building to the left of the picture.

On the right is a photograph of the same location as it now looks.


(The picture above is from the excellent "After The Battle" Magazine whilst the comparison picture is from Google Streetview)

St Lucia Barracks, Omagh

St Lucia Barracks can be found on Derry Road in Omagh and some of the large Barrack Blocks can be seen in the photograph above (Which can be dated to the 1980/90's by the Chinook Helicopter)

It was commissioned in the 1880's and given the name St Lucia after the West Indian Island.

This was the Garrison of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and Royal Ulster Rifles who joined with the Royal Irish Fusiliers in going to France in 1939 at the start of the Second World War as part of the British Expeditionary Force.

Now a listed building the barracks is no longer used by Military personnel however the white tablet shown here currently remains while the silver gun is now on display in the Castle Museum in Enniskillen.

The wording on the memorial says "This tablet is erected by 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in memory of their comrades who lost their lives during their tour of Foreigh Service 1888 - 1908" - Sadly many more soldiers from the Regiment were to be killed in later wars.

This is a page from "The War Illustrated" which was printed in 1947 and shows 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers returning to their Regimantal Depot at St Lucia Barracks in Omagh. (The War Illustrated)

Prisoner Of War Camp - Lisanelly, Omagh

Enemy prisoners of war were detailed at Lisanelly Military Barracks

Omagh Courthouse

The picture to the right shows soldiers of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on parade outside the Courthouse in Omagh where some American soldiers were billeted.

Omagh A.T.S. Billet

These buildings are on Killybrack Road in Omagh and are only a short distance from what had been Lisanelly Barracks. 

They were used as billets for members of the A.T.S. (Auxiliary Territorial Service) during the war.

Royal Arms Hotel, Omagh

The Royal Arms Hotel was used by the Military as a "Red Cross Club". The building which housed the Royal Arms Hotel is shown above.

Omagh Cemetery

On looking through Omagh Cemetery you will see a number of Headstones such as are shown here. 

Sergeant Robert Samuel Carson was a Pilot with the Royal Air Force when he died on 27th November 1941.

Rifleman Gwylim George Matthers was serving with the Royal Ulster Rifles

Serjeant Thomas McNeice was with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Three Soldiers from the South Wales Borderers have been laid to rest in Omagh Cemetery.

William Duggan's final resting place is shown above with Charles Freeman and Arthur Coates below. All were Privates and serving with 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers.

Corporal Hyndman was serving with the Royal Engineers and Patrick McGaghran was in the Pioneer Corps.

This Headstone refers to Patrick Donnelly of the Royal Irish Fusiliers who died on 11th September 1944 and is buried at Le Havre in Northern France.

Carrickmore

The village of Carrickmore was home to 592 Ordnance Ammunition Comapny of the United States Army. - With the different races being kept separated this was a Coloured Unit.

S.A.S. Soldier from Cookstown Murdered by the Gestapo

Among the names on Cookstown War Memorial is that of  Trooper Thomas James “Tot” Barker who was murdered by the Gestapo.


At 23.34 on the night of 4th July 1944 Captain Garstin and eleven other S.A.S. Soldiers took off from Keevil Airfield in a Short Stirling aircraft to be dropped by parachute behind enemy lines at near La Ferte-Alais to the south of Paris as part of “Operation Gain”

The Unit had been divided into two groups with all of the Northern Ireland soldiers being with Captain Garstin and Lance Corporal Vaculik who was Free French.

French Resistance Fighters had been informed of the parachute drop however two of them believed that a third, who used to take used parachutes and sell them in Paris, was missing for some time and may have been captured by the Gestapo.

On the previous night of 3rd / 4th July a coded  BBC radio message had been received by the Resistance Fighters telling them of a Parachute Drop however on that occasion the flight was cancelled with insufficient time to inform the French.

Ominously while they waited at the Drop-Zone some automatic gunfire was heard in the area.

The following night the Resistance again went to the same location having received another coded message via BBC Radio however on this occasion the first two Frenchmen to arrive were fired on and killed by Germans and all of the others, except one, returned home not knowing that the Germans knew the recognition letter for the drop which was “B for Bertie”

At 01.53 the S.A.S. parachuted from the aircraft with most landing on the Drop Zone, which was a field of wheat, whilst the final five to jump had landed in a Wood. At the edge of the D.Z. was a group of men wearing civilian clothes who greeted Captain Garstin with the words “Vive la France” immediately after which the soldiers came under fire from automatic weapons.

There was a brief exchange of fire however it soon became obvious that the S.A.S. were surrounded and subsequently Vaculik was captured at 06.00 and Corporal Jones an hour later. - They soon learned that Captain Garstin, Lieutenant Wiehe, Trooper Thomas James “Tot” Barker (Previously of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and from Cookstown, County Tyrone) and Lance Corporal Howard Lutton (Who had been Army Air Corps and from County Armagh) had also been captured after being wounded.

Lance Corporal Lutton subsequently died of his wounds and is buried in Clichy Northern Cemetery.

Captain Garstin and Trooper Barker received hospital treatment for their wounds whilst the other men were initially taken to a converted Hotel near Champ de Mars in central Paris and then a Gestapo Headquarters where they were kept and interrogated for three days before being returned to the converted hotel.

A day or two later Captain Garstin and Trooper Barker were reunited with the other soldiers however Captain Garstin was very weak.

On 8th August all of the soldiers were given civilian clothing and told that they were to be exchanged for German Agents who were held by the British in London and that they were required to wear civilian clothing to ensure that they could pass through civilian areas.

At 01.00 the following morning all of the men were told to board a lorry and were driven north of Paris.

About five hours later they reached a Wood which was East of Noailles and here they were ordered out of the lorry and told to walk along a narrow path to a clearing in the Wood.

Corporal Vaculik (Who is shown above right) asked if they were to be shot and received a reply to that effect.

The S.A.S. men were lined up from left to right Jones, Captain Garstin, Corporal Vaculik, Varey, “Tot” Barker, Joseph Walker (From Moira, County Down) and William Pearson “Billy” Young (Previously Royal Ulster Rifles and from Randalstown, County Antrim), although it is not certain if the order was Barker, Walker or Walker, Barker.

Facing the men were a number of Gestapo.  Two Officers who were armed with Sten guns at the ready whilst another read out the Sentence. A Sergeant of the Gestapo who translated and a Gestapo Agent in civilian clothes.

The Sentence was as follows :- “For having wished to work in collaboration with the French Terrorists and thus to endanger the German Army, you are condemned to the Penalty of Death and will be Shot”

On hearing the word “Shot” all of the men tried to escape into the woods.

Corporal Vaculik managed to get away while Corporal Jones tripped and fell. The Gestapo men ran past him thinking he was dead and when he got up again he saw four bodies lying where they had been shot but could not identify them before he tried to escape.

This Incident was investigated by Captain Sadler and Major Poat of the S.A.S. who visited Noailles  around 20th September and on speaking with the local Resistance Leader he showed them where he believed the murders had taken place and also where the bodies of the S.A.S. soldiers were buried.

A grave had been dug in a wooded area about two miles from where the shooting had taken place and near a large chateau that is approximately one mile to the east of Noailles.

The Resistance fighter said that the Germans had a two day Curfew in place following the shooting and were searching for the bodies of Soldiers Jones and Vaculik.

The bodies of 5 murdered S.A.S. men lay at the scene for three days before finally being buried by a German Army Unit consisting of one Officer and approximately nine men who had been in the Chateau.

During the Investigation it was necessary to open the grave and on doing so a total of five bodies were found. All of them were dressed in civilian clothing and showed signs of having been handcuffed.

One of the bodies was identified as that of Captain Garstin.

All of the bodies were subsequently buried in  Marrissel Cemetery at Beauvais with Captain Garstin being grave number 325 and the others 326 - 329.

The Gestapo had tried to conceal their actions so the Investigation looked into the Germans who had occupied the Chateau who had buried the bodies.

A woman Collaborator, who had worked for the Germans in the Chateau and believed that they had been a Luftwaffe Signal Section,  identified a number of the soldiers including Captain Hans Garling, Officer Hans Zool and Oberfeldwebel Gall.


During a subsequent Criminal Investigation by the Special Air Service a number of those who were involved in this crime were arrested and convicted - Thanks to the eyewitness evidence of Corporal Vaculik!

(My sincere thanks to Honor Barker and Martin Brennan for their valued assistance)

Cookstown Town Centre

The famous 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army arrived in Northern Ireland. The bulk of the Division, under the command of Major-General M.B. Ridgeway was based around the Cookstown and Castledawson areas. They were involved in detailed training in the areas around Cluntoe.

The pictures here show the 2nd Battalion of the 28th Quartermaster Regiment marching along James Street

On the right is 2nd Battalion 28th Quartermaster Truck Company (Colored) on parade in Cookstown. (Picture from "Home Away From Home" Book)

Cookstown Quonset Hut

On the Dungannon Road leaving Cookstown is now a licensed premises where this old American "Quonset Hut" can be seen.

It was from this area that soldiers of D, E and F Companies of 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army made their home prior to deployment for D-Day.

Drum Manor, Cookstown

Drum Manor was used by G and H Company of the same Unit while between 15th December 1943 and 12th February 1944

Killymoon Castle, Cookstown

A and B Companies, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army were based at Killymoon Castle where quonset huts were built in the grounds for the men while officers enjoyed the use of the castle.

The Memorial Stone can be seen near the entrance to the castle and this Stirrup Pump is in one of the three red bricked buildings which are illustrated here.

to the left is an old vehicle inspection ramp which remains as well as a "Bleach Baths" sign - Bleach was used for decontamination of vehicles

Gortalowry House, Cookstown

Gortalowry House was used by 505th Parachute Infantry and 407th Airborne Quartermaster Company (82nd Airborne Division) who were joined on 24th December 1943 by 8th Signal Company (8th Infantry Division).

Desertcreat Farm, Cookstown - Private John Marvin Steele 82nd Airborne Division

Soldiers of 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army were based at Desertcreat Farm, Cookstown between 9th December 1943 and 13th February 1944 when they moved to England in preparation for the Invasion of Occupied Europe.

Among the Soldiers was Private John Marvin Steele who was to become famous.

He was serving with Company F and had parachuted from a Douglas Aircraft, similar to the one shown above, into Normandy in the early hours of 6th June 1944. 

The Drop-Zone was at the small town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise which was being held by the Germans and was to be secured by the 82nd to prevent enemy troops retreating from the Allied beachhead however all did not go to plan for Private Steele as the rigging of his parachute became firmly secured to a Church steeple in the town centre!

When trying to cut the parachute lines in an attempt to free himself he dropped his knife and having been shot in the foot he subsequently played dead in an attempt to survive.

Some hours later he was cut free by the Germans and had his wounds treated before escaping capture and making contact with an American Tank Unit some days later!

Shown above is the Town Square of Sainte-Mere-Eglise and the Church on which Private John Steele became stuck.

As can be seen from my photographs John Steele is remembered in a rather unique and most appropriate way! (Thanks very much to John McCann  for the information and the photograph of John Steele is from the 505 Regimental Combat Team website)

Cookstown Prisoner of War Camp

The plan here shows the Lay-Out of the P.O.W. Camp as drawn by German Prisoners! (Thanks to Eddie McCartney and John Twigg)

If you know about this Camp please send me an E-Mail.

Stewartstown Range

A Firing Range was used in the townland of Sherrigrim west of Stewartstown on the Newmills Road.

If you have any information regarding what happened here please contact me.

Slieve Beagh Training Area

There are some Notices to assist tourists when visiting the area - These two are in Rosslea in County Fermanagh.

Please be aware that the reason why Slieve Beagh was used for training purposes is because it is remote and difficult terrain.

The area was used by the 8th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army in 1944.

Caledon

The picture above shows 3 American GI's walking along Main Street. The middle soldier, Myron Schmall, was later killed in action.

This picture shows a group of American Soldiers outside Mercers Shop in Main Street. As can be seen in the second picture this building is much changed.

This last picture shows soldiers and officers outside Alexander House in Main Street with the comparison picture showing it as virtually unchanged.

Various troops were based at Caledon including 2nd Battalion 133rd Infantry of 34th Infantry Division and one Collecting Company of 109th Medical Battalion of the same Division who were there in 1942.

In 1943 / 1944 Company C of 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division were based in Caledon. - These Units were American however near the end of the war 1st Battalion 5th Infantry Brigade "Merckem" of the  Belgian Army was in Caledon and in October 1945 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Brigade Company C Heavy Weapons of the Belgian Army were also in Caledon before going to Belgium in November.

Belgian Soldiers in Caledon Mill on 1st November 1945.

(Many thanks to http://www.maisondusouvenir.be/ for this picture - More information can be found at the website)

A scene from Caledon in 1942 and as it looks now.

My thanks to Ann Allen nee Mercer and Jason from the Caledon website for their permission to use their pictures. A link to the Caledon website is in "Links"

Belgian Soldiers being inspected by Field Marshall Alexander in Caledon.

(Many thanks to http://www.maisondusouvenir.be/ for these pictures - More information can be found at the website)