The Second World War in Northern Ireland

The Second World War in Northern Ireland

Greater Belfast Part 2

James Magennis Plaque

This plaque can be seen on the front of the Royal Naval Association building in Great Victoria Street and refers to Leading Seaman James Magennis from Belfast who won the Victoria Cross - The highest military honour during the Second World War.

James Magennis was born on 27th October 1919 in Belfast and lived at 4 Majorca Street (Which has now gone due to redevelopment). He enlisted in the Royal Navy as a boy and after serving on surface ships he was moved to submarines before volunteering for Special Duties in 1943.

He won his Victoria Cross through his actions against the Japanese in Singapore and the Citation for the Award is shown here:-

The King has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the Victoria Cross for valour to Temporary Acting Leading Seaman James Joseph Magennis, D/KX144907. Leading Seaman Magennis served as diver in His Majesty's Midget Submarine XE3 for her attack on 31 July 1945 on a Japanese cruiser of the Atago class. Because XE3 was tightly jammed under the target the diver's hatch could not be fully opened, and Magennis had to squeeze himself through the narrow space available. He experienced great difficulty in placing the limpets on the bottom of the cruiser owing both to the foul state of the cruisers bottom and to the prominent slope upon which the limpets would not hold. Before a limpet could be placed therefore Magennis had thoroughly to scrape the area clean of barnacles, and in order to secure the limpets he had to tie them in pairs by a line passing under the cruisers keel. This was very tiring work for a diver, and he was moreover handicapped by a steady leakage of oxygen which was ascending in bubbles to the surface. A lesser man would have been content to place a few limpets and then to return to the craft. Magennis, however, persisted until he had placed his full outfit before returning to the craft in an exhausted condition.

Shortly after withdrawing Lt. Fraser endeavoured to jettison his limpet carriers, but one of these would not release itself and fall clear of the craft. Despite his exhaustion, his oxygen leak and the fact that there was every probability of his being sighted, Magennis at once volunteered to leave the craft and free the carrier rather than allow a less experienced diver to undertake the job. After seven minutes of nerve racking work he succeeded in releasing the mine carrier. Magennis displayed very great courage and devotion to duty and complete disregard for his own safety.


The photograph on the left shows a mural of James Magennis V.C. on Kings Road, Belfast and beside it the Right Honorable Lord Mayor Sir Crawford McCullough presenting Seaman Magennis V.C. with £3000 which was raised through a "Shilling Fund" by the Citizens of Belfast.

On the left is the telegram sent to James Magennis by Basil Brook and on the right is a Letter sent to his Mother by The Admiralty regarding his actions and winning of the Victoria Cross.

Shown below is the Memorial to James Magennis V.C. which can be seen at the front of Belfast city Hall.

American Forces arrive in Northern Ireland

Private Milburn Henke, who was described as the 'first' United States soldier to step ashore, salutes as he lands at Dufferin Quay, Belfast however this was not actually true as a considerable number of his fellow nationals had arrived before him. More information and pictures of Milburn Henke can be seen on this website. (From http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/)

Shown here are Ships arriving at Dufferin Dock in Belfast on 26th January 1942 loaded with American Troops (From "After The Battle" Magazine)

V Corps American Troops arriving in Belfast in January 1942. (Picture from http://www.eucom.mil/ ) A friendly welcome greets them including Belfast Dock Workers giving Churchill's "V" For Victory sign. (From "Home away From Home" Book)

This Convoy of American Soldiers arrived safely in Belfast on 18th May 1942 to be welcomed by General Hartle

American Nurses are among those who make the voyage across the Atlantic. (Picture on left is from I.W.M. and on right from http://www.whilbr.org/searchResults.aspx )

The picture on the left is from War Illustrated Magazine and shows that "Old Glory Flies in Ireland" as soldiers arrive in Belfast Docks on 26th January 1942.

The next photograph is dated 16th March 1942 and shows that one of the first difficulties for the new arrivals is understanding the local Currency! (From http://www.whilbr.org/itemdetail.)

Here the troops are setting foot in Belfast. The first picture is from the United States Army Photographic Record while the following three are Belfast Telegraph pictures of the same event.

26th January 1942 and American Troops have arrived at Spencer Basin and are seen marching along Duncrue Street causing much excitement among local children. (Belfast Telegraph Photographs)

Troops of the United States Army 34th Infantry Division after having arrived in Belfast on 26th January 1942. They are shown marching from the Docks to a nearby Railway Station.

(This is a Library of Congress picture)

(The photographs above and below are from the Life Magazine Photo Archive which is available to EVERYONE)

3rd Infantry Division Soldiers at L.M.S. Railway Station beside Belfast Docks. (Belfast Telegraph Photograph)

(The photographs above and below are from the Life Magazine Photo Archive which is available to EVERYONE)

(The photographs above and below are from the Life Magazine Photo Archive which is available to EVERYONE)

I have put this Photograph in this position because it shows more American Service Personnel who have newly arrived in Northern Ireland.

The location is the York Road Railway Station in Belfast which is the same as the pictures above however this dates from much later.

You can see immediately that the Helmets are different and indeed these are U.S. Marines rather than U.S. Army. (J.C. Falkenberg)

Local Residents are very pleased to see the arrival of the American Troops.

Shown on the left is an interesting photograph as this newly arrived American Soldier is being taken to his new Camp in a Coach.

A considerable number of Coaches had previously been requisitioned by the Royal Army Service Corps when, following the Battle for France and the beginning of the Battle of Britain, it was thought that Northern Ireland was under considerable risk of Invasion.

The intention was that the Coaches would be used to move Personnel to areas on Northern Ireland where they were most needed.

An illustration that this was such a Coach is that all of the glass windows were removed and replaced with simple canvas roll down covers as can be seen in this photograph.

(From the Old Belfast Photographs Facebook Page)

The two pictures below date from 19/20 January 1942 and show American Personnel making the Atlantic Crossing to Northern Ireland

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean was incredibly dangerous with Shipping being obliged to cross only in Convoy formations and as well as the constant risk of attack from the German Navy the fierce Atlantic Storms had to be endured as shown by the photographs below.

This photograph was taken from USS Chateau Thierry during a  journey from New York to Northern Ireland in January 1942. The ship in the photograph is not positively identified buy recorded as being either U.S.S. Quincy or U.S.S. Tuscaloosa. (From U.S. Navy Archive at http://www.history.navy.mil which is available to everyone.)

U.S.S. Neville is seen in the foreground of this photograph which appears to have ten other ships in the background. This may have been the Convoy which left the east coast of the United States on 19th February 1942.  (From U.S. Navy Archive at http://www.history.navy.mil which is available to everyone.)

This is an Anti-Aircraft Gun Crew on the alert on U.S.S. Chateau Thierry. The photograph was taken on 1st February 1942 as the ship approached Northern Ireland.

(From U.S. Navy Archive at http://www.history.navy.mil which is available to everyone.)

This photograph shows a ship coming alongside U.S.S. Chateau Thierry. The Wartime Censor has obliterated the ships number.

(From U.S. Navy Archive at http://www.history.navy.mil which is available to everyone.)

American soldiers and Nurses en route to Northern Ireland during February 1942. Life boats were checked constantly for any emergency. (http://www.whilbr.org pictures)

Private Milburn Henke is becoming accustomed to his celebrity status and is seen here reading the Stars and Stripes.

The drawing behind him was done by the famous Artist, William Connor who is shown below with Private Henke in the pictures below.

(Picture on the left from "Home Away From Home" and on the right from "After The Battle" Magazine)

The American boys in Northern Ireland are fast assimilating the customs and mannerisms of their new comrades in arms.
Royal Military Police soldiers examine the American Mess Kit.mess kit.

L to R: Private Frank E. Sharpo, Dadeville, Alabama, Lance Corp. Jack McIlveny, Private Lyl Seamen, of Prattsville, Alabama, Lance Corp. Robert Perry.

This photograph was taken on 16th March 1942.

(From http://www.whilbr.org/itemdetail.aspx which is available to EVERYONE)

**********American Service Personnel Throughout Northern Ireland**********

This photograph dates from March 1942 and shows United States Troops in Northern Ireland (Fox Photos Hutton Archive Getty Images)

There were Camps throughout Northern Ireland as Training was carried out in all six counties so please take a look throughout this Website for lots of Information and Pictures

This is Sergeant Norman Duffy from Cleveland, Ohio.

He is showing a Flame Thrower during a Chemical Warfare Demonstration given in Northern Ireland by Captain Fred J. Lucht, Chemical Warfare Officer, on 22nd October 1942. 

Please spend some time to look through my Website. I am sure you will find it Enlightening. (Signal Corps U.S.Army Public Demain Photograph)

This (Library of Congress) Photograph explains "A number of U.S. Troops have already been landed in Northern Ireland"

Belfast City Hall

No visit to the City Hall is complete without taking the walking tour around the building which was seriously damaged by German Bombers during "The Blitz". 

This parade was held to celebrate the first anniversary of the arrival of US troops in Northern Ireland, January 25, 1942. The parade, held January 25th 1943, marched past the Belfast City Hall and included troops from the United Kingdom and the United States.

Above are the US Red Cross nurses march past the reviewing stand. Near by is a cylindrical sculpture dedicated to the American troops. (from http://www.whilbr.org/itemdetail.aspx?idEntry=6662&dtPointer=39 )

On the right are Sir James Grigg, Secretary of State for War, is addressing the crowd. To his right are the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Sir Crawford M'Cullagh; the Governor of Northern Ireland, Lord Abercorn; and the Prime Minister, Sir Thomas Dixon. General Hartle can be seen behind the speaker.

American Soldiers marching past Belfast city Hall. (From Forged in Ulster)

Here is the Civil Defence Flag and a Plaque honouring the names of the 34 Members of the Belfast Civil Defence Services who were Killed during Air Raids on Belfast in April and May 1941.

Above left is a wonderful Stained Glass Window in City Hall to the North Irish Horse Regiment of the British Army.

Shown below is Brigadier General Edmund W Hill, commanding General US Forces in Northern Ireland, (left) presenting a cheque of one hundred and ninety three pounds, seven shillings and eight pence to Air Vice Marshall Stevenson, Royal Air Force.

The donation was from US Forces stationed in Northern Ireland to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. The Proceeds were from an American baseball game played in Northern Ireland 14 August 1943.

The presentation took place in Belfast City Hall.

(Picture from http://www.americanairmuseum.com/media/12050)

On the right is a Memorial to Belfast Corporation Employees who were killed during the Second World War.

Donegal Square South at the rear of City Hall can be seen on the left. This photograph was taken on 3rd November 1942 and you can see that there are markings on the kerb stones to make them easier to see during a Blackout. There is also a sign to a nearby Air Raid Shelter

On the right is Donegal Square East and the Public Air Raid Shelters are clearly visible in the centre of the road. (Both above are Belfast Telegraph photos)

The Burma Star Association plaque is on a seat in the main Hallway of Belfast City Hall. It was presented by Admiral the Right Honorable The Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

This photograph shows Air Raid Shelters in Donegal Square East at the side of City Hall. Below right is another view of this street. (From Old Belfast Photographs)

This is a picture of A night Attack on Enemy Shipping by a Halifax aircraft of 502 Squadron in Skaggerak during 1944 - 1945 and was presented to Belfast City Council by 502 (Ulster) City of Belfast Squadron Auxiliary Air Force Old Comrades Association on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Mobilisation for World War 2.

This final photograph shows Belgian Soldiers marching past Belfast City Hall. (Thanks very much to Ronny Soetens)

Malone Golf Club

Parliament Buildings, Stormont

This is the impressive building of what is now Malone Golf Club.

Visitors to the club will see brass plaques in the hallway giving the names of members who served in both the First and Second World Wars.
The building was also used by the American Forces during the war. It was known as Ballydrain and it was here that General Leroy P. Collins, who was Commander of the Northern Ireland Base Section, set up his Headquarters on 5th October 1943.

During the war Northern Ireland's Parliament Buildings at Stormont were made more difficult for german bombers to find with a liberal coating of pitch! - There was also an air raid shelter within the bushes to the right of the main building however unfortunately this has been removed.

The pictures above show the Massey Avenue gate of the Stormont Estate with American Soldiers providing a Guard of Honour for the arrival of King George vi and Queen Elizabeth as they attended a Lunch at Stormont during a Royal Visit to Northern Ireland between 24th and 26th June 1942. (From A.T.B.) 


The three items shown above are Second World War Barrage Balloon Anchorage Points which can be seen in the grounds of Stormont Estate.

The sign on the left is beside them and a similar sign can be seen beside a large Bomb Crater neat the Main Gate on Upper Newtownards Road.

This was created during a Luftwaffe Air Raid during the Belfast Blitz in 1941 and can be seen in my photograph below.

Below is the Royal Air Force Sector Clock which hung in the Plotting Room of 82 Fighter Command at Stormont.

This type of clock was used to record the position of both friendly and enemy aircraft. - The position of sighted aircraft was recorded with the colour of the triangle beneath the minute hand at the time of sighting. This information was recorded on counters which were placed on a large table on which was overlaid a map. The colour of the counter which was used for new sightings was designated by the time of sighting. - A simple and very effective way of monitoring the movement of both friendly and enemy aircraft. Below right is the A.R.P. Control Room at Stormont.

The land around Stormont was put to tillage and used to grow vegetables. (BBC Photograph)