The Second World War in Northern Ireland

The Second World War in Northern Ireland

Information - People Part 2

The Six Hiller Lads from Belfast in the Royal Navy.

The 6 Hiller Brothers from 83 Hyndford Street Belfast, who joined the Royal Navy in WW2.

Artie - Benjamin Arthur Hiller, RN (D/SSX 27599) who was killed in Action on 2nd May 1942 on HMS Edinburgh which was the flagship of Rear-Admiral Stuart Bonham Carter, commanding the escort of returning Convoy “QP 11” consisting of 17 ships which left Murmansk on 28 April 1942.

She was sighted by a German aircraft and on 30 April the German submarine U-456 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Max-Martin Teichert fired a torpedo into her starboard side causing Edinburgh to list however the swift action of the crew in closing watertight bulkheads prevented the ship from sinking immediately.

A second torpedo struck Edinburgh in the stern which incapacitated the ships steering and crippling her. She was taken in tow and an attempt was made to return to Murmansk accompanied by destroyers Foresight and Forester and four Mine Sweepers Gossamer, Harrier, Niger and Hussar. Along the way she was hounded constantly by German torpedo bombers.

On 2 May, as she progressed at a snail's pace under tow and her own power, she was attacked by three large German destroyers and cast off the tow causing her to sail in circles.

Although her guns were in disarray, she fired on the attacking German ships. Her second salvo straddled the German ship Hermann Schoemann, damaging her severely enough that her crew scuttled her and while Edinburgh’s escorts drove off two more German ships she was struck amidships by another torpedo so the crew abandoned ship.

About 840 men were rescued by other ships however Two officers and 56 other ranks were killed in the attacks.

Artie, who was born on 30th January 1919, is named on the Royal Naval Memorial at Plymouth Hoe.

The photograph here shows Artie at H.M.S. Drake.

George - Believe he settled in Plymouth area after WW2. No other details

Joe – Served on H.M.S. Hermione.

In July 1941 H.M.S. Hermione was involved in the escorting of a Malta bound convoy code named operation “Substance”, the convoy consisted of thirteen merchant ships and all managed to get through to Malta, however one vessel with a load of petrol onboard, miraculously survived a torpedo hit.

The Australian destroyer HMAS Nestor stood by her but they were left behind by the Convoy. Alone the destroyer fought off German dive bomber attacks until Hermione arrived on the scene to assist.

On August 2nd Hermione rammed and sank the Italian submarine the Tembien. submarine.

On 16th June 1942, whilst returning to Alexandria, HMS Hermione was torpedoed by the German submarine U-205, North of Sollum and sank in position 33º20'N, 26º00'E.

87 crewmembers went down with the ship.

During his service on H.M.S. Hermione Joe was Wounded in Action however he survived the war and returned to Belfast.

John – He survived the War and moved to Australia where he died in Queensland on 9th November 1997.

Len Hiller is in the centre of this photograph of him with other crew members of H.M.S. Valiant.

Len - Was born on 3rd October 1914 and served on HMS Voltaire, which was an Armed Merchant Cruiser and had been built in Belfast.

On 4 April 1941 HMS Voltaire was on patrol in the central Atlantic, about 900 nautical miles west of the Cape Verde Islands when she was spotted by the german raider Thor and the ships headed for each other.
The two ships opened fire on each other and H.M.S. Voltaire was soon ablaze. After over an hour of battle and with only 2 guns remaining in action a white flag was hoisted by the Voltaire which sank shortly afterwards with the loss of 75 dead.

197 survivors, including Len Hiller, were rescued by the Germans and he spent the rest of the war in a Prisoner Of War Camp.

During the battle the german ship, Thor expended 724 15cm shells!

Len Hiller is seen on the Left in the first picture and top Right in the second.

Directly above is the back of the Post Card showing Len as a Prisoner Of War.

The address of "ARBT KDO E 391" refers to Arbeits Kommandos meaning Working Camps.

Camp E391 was at Mahr Trubau, Germany however the town is now known as Moravská Třebová and is in the Czech Republic.

Camp E391 was also known as "Stalag VIIIB/344" and work was carried out at a Timber Mill.

The family address was 99 Donegal Avenue, Belfast and the house still stands today - It is shown in the photograph on the left.

(Thanks very much to Len's Family for use of these photographs) 

His parents were informed he was “missing in action” after H.M.S. Voltaire was sunk on 9/04/41 and then they received the news that Arty was killed 2/5/1942. They did not find out that Len was alive until the war was over. He subsequently became a Masseur with a number of Irish League Football Clubs.

Len died on 25th October 1999.


Sammy was born on 17th April 1921 and trained at HMS Caledonia from 21st August 1937 until 3rd June 1938 when he was posted to HMS Diomede followed by HMS Hermes, HMS Royal Oak, HMS Jupiter and finally the Aircraft Carrier HMS Victorious from early 1941 until October 1946 and he was finally invalided out of the navy on 27th July 1948 and after living in Newtownards moved to Victoria, Australia where he died on 4th January 2009.

(All the ship photographs from Imperial War Museum)

(My thanks to Jackie, Norton and Lawrence Hiller for all their help)

William Walter "Dickie" Dougan

From Ballycross near Banbridge in County Down he was as Apprentice Aircraft Fitter at R.A.F. Halton in 1934 and Passed Out as a Corporal Fitter in 1937 and went to R.A.F. Harwell as a Sergeant Pilot in 1941.

Trained as a Bomber Pilot he flew Wellingtons and other "Heavies" in North Africa. During a Ferry Flight he had just landed on Malta when it was bombed and he was able to escape his Wellington before it was destroyed.

He converted to B-24 Liberators which he flew between 1942 and 1945.

In 1942 he was part of the 159 / 160 Special Duties Squadron and dropped both Agents and Weapons into Yugoslavia.

By the end of the war Dickie had accumulated 2000 Hours on Liberators and had been Mentioned in Dispatches not once but Twice.

His R.A.F. Service continued and in 1948 he was involved in the Berlin Airlift.

In 1950 Dickie was the R.A.F's first "Master Pilot" at Central Flying School.

"Dickie" Dougan Died in 2007.

(Many Thanks to Jimmy Furphy)

Lt. Virgil A. Brown

Lt. Virgil A. Brown of Mason City, Iowa, still wearing his gas mask from training stops to feed chickens on the post before returning to his quarters, May 22, 1942. The chicken house appears to be a crate in which equipment was sent to American troops serving in Northern Ireland. (A.P. Photograph)

Colour Party of Veterans Associations and Groups

This is the Colour Party of a number of Veterans Associations and Groups on parade at an Armed Forces Day celebration.


This is a Certificate from the Bomb Reconnaissance School to show that a Civil Defence member is authorised to undertake Bomb Reconnaissance and Reporting duties.

Flight Lt Albert Smith D.F.C.

Albert Smith was a navigator awarded an immediate DFC for flying his damaged aircraft back to England after his pilot had been killed by anti-aircraft fire.

On September 17 1944, British airborne forces landed in Holland to capture the bridge at Arnhem. In the first wave, Smith and his crew took off in their Dakota towing a Horsa glider carrying men of the Border Regiment. Flying in a loose formation, 47 Dakota/Horsa combinations had left Broadwell near Burford and 41 successively released their gliders over Arnhem.
The following day Smith returned with another Horsa, in which the CO of the Border Regiment was among the troops. The CO’s glider had suffered a failure over England the previous day, and he was anxious to join his men, who were already at Arnhem.
As the combination crossed into enemy-held territory it was hit by anti-aircraft fire which killed the pilot and wounded two of the crew — including Smith, who was occupying the second pilot’s seat and acting as the map reader. He immediately took over the controls of the Dakota and kept the aircraft on its course towards the target.
The glider had also been damaged, and the pilot, recognising the Dakota’s problems, prepared to cast off. Using the radio intercommunication embedded in the tow rope, Smith told them to wait as he turned towards friendly territory. As they crossed Allied lines, the glider pilot released and landed safely as Smith set course for home. He arrived over the Suffolk coast and made a successful emergency landing at the USAAF airfield at Martlesham Heath.
After recovering from his wounds, Smith, who was a warrant officer at the time, was invited by the BBC to make a radio broadcast about his experience. The citation for his DFC concluded: “He set a fine example of courage and resource in the face of great difficulties.”
The son of a Battle of Mons veteran, Albert Edward Smith was born on May 30 1917 at Richill, Co Armagh and in September 1939 he volunteered for aircrew service in the RAF and trained as an observer. During the early years of the war he flew bomber operations over Germany before becoming a bombing instructor in Coastal Command. Anxious to see more action, he joined the newly-formed  575 Squadron at Broadwell in early 1944.
On the night of June 5 1944, Smith dropped men of the 5th Parachute Brigade over Normandy and the following night towed a glider to the same area. By mid-June rough airstrips had been created in Normandy, and the Dakotas flew in supplies and evacuated the wounded.


The Medal and Citation shown above is on display in the Museum beside Pegasus Bridge in Normandy. 


This is the headstone of Richard Doyle who is buried in Dundonald Cemetry. He was from Belfast and was one of four members of the 6th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers who lost their lives as the result of a Boating Accident in England on 10th March 1942. Corporal Doyle was 29 years old.

His comrades who were killed with him were John McGuire who was 27 years old and is buried in Coleraine Cemetery.

Philip Brummell who was 22 years old and from Boythorpe in Chesterfield and is now buried in the local cemetery.

Charles Stevenson who was 21 years old and from Sutton-In-Ashfield where he is now buried in the local cemetery.

Ivan Ewart D.S.C.

Ivan Ewart was born at Derryvolgie House, Lisburn in 1919 and during WW2 he commanded a Motor Torpedo Boat as a Lieutenant RNVR.

On the night of 17/18 January 1942, Ewart's MTB was one of a patrol of three which attacked a German coastal convoy off Boulogne. It turned out that the convoy was strongly protected by escort vessels, some towing "gun barges". The patrol came under heavy fire and Ewart's boat was hit and severely damaged. Both engines were put out of action and the steering gear destroyed, leaving the boat helpless in the water. Ewart himself was wounded in the right arm and lost his left eye.

The other two MTBs broke off the engagement and withdrew. Ewart decided that the only course of action left was to scuttle his boat, which was now on fire.

When daylight came the Germans picked up the survivors, and the wounded were taken to a convent near Boulogne which had been turned into a hospital. When he had sufficiently recovered from his wounds, Ewart was sent to the naval prisoner-of-war camp known as Marlag & Milag Nord, at Westertimke.

Shortly after his arrival, Ewart was invited to take part in the construction of a tunnel, which was completed in the autumn of 1942. After a number of officers had successfully used it to escape, a perimeter sentry heard suspicious noises and raised the alarm. Ewart was caught in the tunnel as he was preparing to make his exit.

He soon made another attempt. A trailer truck parked in the compound overnight was due to leave the camp the following day. Ewart and a brother officer attempted to conceal themselves in a box, slung beneath the chassis, which housed the spare wheels. Unfortunately they were caught in the act.

The enterprise had an unusual feature in that both men had recently lost an eye, and were wearing black patches. If they had managed to flee the camp, they planned on being taken for victims of an Allied bombing raid.

The German authorities then sent Ewart to Colditz, where he spent the remainder of the war. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1945.


Flight-Lieutenant (Pilot) Granville Wilson D.S.O., D.F.C., D.F.M., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve was from Belfast and flying a Lancaster Bomber as part of the Pathfinder Force with 7 Squadron Royal Air Force.

On 6th September 1944 he was on a large raid to Emden when Wilson's aircraft received a direct hit from a flak shell and he was killed instantly, together with his navigator and bomb aimer, Sergeants D Jones and ER Brunsdon. The 5 other members of the crew escaped by parachute.


Flt-Lt Wilson is buried at Sage Cemetry in Germany however he is remembered on the War Memorial at Queens University, Belfast.

A picture of the War Memorial is shown here as well as the plaque which gives his name.


Below are the headstones of just 2 of the Royal Ulster Rifles who are buried in Hermanville Cemeterie in Normandy.

Rifleman Patrick Mullen was from Rosslea in County Fermanagh and served in A Company and was killed by a shrapnel wound to the head at "Farm Gazelle"

Rifleman Cecil Wilson was from Lurgan and was wounded by shrapnel on 9th June at Cambes. He died on 24th June.

Twenty-Four Men from Northern Ireland were killed with the loss of H.M.S. Glorious in June 1940 with three more on one of her escort ships, H.M.S. Acasta.



Lt Commander Arthur Hezlet of the Royal Navy, and from Aghadowey in County Londonderry, was in command of the submarine Trenchant when he torpedoes U-859 which was carrying a secret cargo for the Japanese. He was awarded the D.S.O. for this operation and later won a second D.S.O. as well as the U.S. Legion of Merit for actions near the Sumatran coast.

Frank Lyness, from Belfast, was serving with2nd London Irish Rifles when he won a Military Cross during the battles of May and June 1944 from Cassino to Trasimene in Italy.



On 8th October 1944 Company Sergeant Major Robbie Robinson of 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, from County Fermanagh, won a Distinguished Conduct Medal at Fontananelice in Italy with another Fermanagh man, Corporal Gerald Strainger was awarded a Military Medal with the Faugh’s.

Men of 591 (Antrim) Parachute Squadron, Royal Engineers were the first to arrive in Normandy on D-Day when they landed east of the Orne Bridge to clear a landing zone for the gliders.

Other men from this Unit also landed with 9th Parachute Battalion near Merville Battery.

The picture shows part of Merville Battery in Normandy.

Chelsea Pensioner in a Willys Jeep at an Armed Forces Day Parade

Wing Commander T. Stanley Towell D.F.C., D.F.M.

Born in Richill and joined the Royal Air Force in 1934 with which he served in Bomber Command, Middle East Command and Southeast Asia Command.

On 17th January 1941 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal after completing 20 Operational Missions with 10 Squadron as Second Pilot and then from 15th August 1940 as Captain of a Whitley Bomber when he attacked an Aircraft Factory at Turin in Italy.

During the next three months he flew another 11 Operational Missions to targets at Koln, Le Havre Docks, The German Air Ministry in Berlin, Hamburg Shipyards and an Aircraft Factory at Stuttgart.

He received the Distinguished Flying Cross on 18th June 1943 when serving with 159 Squadron in Southeast Asia Command flying Liberator aircraft from Digri in India.

Joe Rooney, who played Centre half for Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1939, was serving as a soldier when he was killed in Belfast on 5th April 1941.



Petty Officer James Jamfrey was born in Cookstown and serving with the Royal Navy on board H.M.S. Curacoa when he was lost on 2nd October 1942.

H.M.S. Curacoa was performing Convoy Escort Duty when a German U-Boat was sighted.

During zig-zag counter maneuvers Curacoa was struck by the huge passenger liner Queen Mary which was acting as a Troop Ship and had 11,000 troops on board at the time.

H.M.S. Curacoa was cut in half and sank with the loss of 338 men.

James Jafrey had served 23 years in the Royal Navy and had been Mentioned in Dispatches in January 1942. He was 49 years old when he was killed.

Ulster Home Guard training with Spigot Mortar.

Home Guard M.T. Company training with the Royal Army Service Corps in Northern Ireland.

Second Steward Robert Crone

Was from Bangor and served in the Merchant Navy and was lost at sea when the SS Melmore Head was torpedoed on 28th December 1942 off the coast of Canada.

This had actually been the second time he had been torpedoed. He had survived a previous attack in 1941 on the SS Bengore Head on which he was serving.

R.A.F. Ground Crew from Northern Ireland and Eire.

RAF ground personnel service the engine of a P-47 Thunderbolt at Kemajoran airfield in Batavia. in Batavia in readiness for operations against the Indonesians in Sourabaya.

Left to right- Sergeant A Dennison of 12, Parkmount Garden, Shore Road, Belfast;

Leading Aircraftman T Heron of Monkstown, Co. Antrim;

Leading Aircraftman W. McCleave of 34 Bootle Street, Belfast;

Leading Aircraftman Caffrey of 32 Mount Street, Dublin;

Fligth Sergeant A McGrath of Millbrook Road, Lisburn.

This photograph was issued in 1945.

(For more information see

Staff Sergeant Robert T Mitchell from Belfast

"Hurry up Bud, I'm late for my date!"

Staff Sergeant Robert T. Mitchell, from Belfast, serving with the U.S.A.A.F. in Northern Ireland. (Fold 3 Picture)

General Hartle, U.S. Army.

Left to right - Mrs. Sinclair, Mr. Warnock, Duchess of Abercorn, General Hartle, Duke of Abercorn, Mrs Archeson, Maj. Gen. Majendie, Mr. Douglas. James Hamilton, the 3rd Duke of Abercorn, held the office of Governor of Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1945.

Major General Vivian Majendie was General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland District from 7th June 1941 – 14th May 1943. The first important exercise of the United States Army Ground Forces of the European Theater of Operations in the period 8 June, 1942, to 8 November, 1942, ATLANTIC, to test cooperation between United States and British troops. It was held in Northern Ireland, 1 to 8 July, 1942, in the area between Belfast Lough and Lough Neagh. On one side a British officer, Major General V. H. B. Majendie led the 34th United States Infantry Division against the 6lst British Infantry Division, the 72nd Infantry Brigade and the 1st United States Armored Division under Major General Russell P. Hartle.

Sir James Hamilton, the Third Duke of Abercorn, was Governor of Northern Ireland, the Royal Family's representative in the country. In this capacity he met General Hartle in 1942 when the first Americans served overseas. The Duke of Abercorn had previously served in the North Irish Horse, a yeomanry unit of the British Territorial Army.

When Major General Hartle arrived in Belfast in January 1942 he was met by a delegation including the Governor General (the Duke of Abercorn), the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland (John W. Andrews), the Commander of British Troops in Ulster (General G. E. W. Franklyn), and the Secretary of State for Air (Sir Archibald Sinclair).

Major General R. P. Hartle greeting General Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff on his inspection trip to Northern Ireland. In the background is Lieutenant General H. E. Franklyn, General Officer Commanding British Troops in Northern Ireland.

With his Kerry Blue called "Scrappy"

(The 4 photographs and information above come from which is available to EVERYONE)