The Second World War in Northern Ireland

The Second World War in Northern Ireland

County Down Part 7

Ballykinler Camp and Tyrella Beach

This photograph was taken from an aircraft at about 35,000 feet however most of the Camp can be seen.

From left to right is Abercorn Barracks below which is Sandes Home. Four Shooting Ranges can be clearly seen and below these are Training Buildings and Storage Areas.

The undulating ground above the Ranges is the Training Area which may feature in the photograph above and on the right is the Close Quarter Battle Range. Old First World War Training Trenches were located northwest of this near the Sea.

The Training Area continues to the right past "Flagstaff" to Dundrum Bay.

The green Huts as shown below would have been positioned centre bottom of this photograph.

Tyrella Pillbox 1

Tyrella Pillbox 2

Tyrella Pillbox 3 

Tyrella Pillbox 4

Tyrella Pillbox 5

The structures shown above where discovered when some undergrowth was removed.

Thomas Hall, 2nd Monmouthshire Regiment

Thomas Hall was born in Cwmbran, South Wales in 1918 and joined the TA South Wales Borderers/Monmouthshire Regiment in February 1934. 
After five years his service ended in February 1939 however he rejoined the following June to become a Regular soldier in 2nd Monmouthshires. 
(He is shown above left and at Winchester Barracks above right)
Thomas had been training at Ballykinlar then on 8th May 1940 the soldiers marched out of Ballykinler Camp to the nearby Tullymurry Railway Station to go to Larne and ship to Stranraer.
The journey continued through Edinburgh to detrain at Portabello.
The following day the soldiers marched to Leith and boarded the Harland and Wolff built M.V. Royal Ulsterman which had been a Passenger ship which was now used as a Troop Ship.
Joined by H.M.S. Matabele at 19.00 on 10th May 1940 the ships headed for Bodo, Norway where the first Troops landed at shortly after midnight on 14th May and within an hour they were billeted  at a Fish Factory in Langestrande.

This was Operation Avonmouth being the Allied expedition to Narvik in Norway.

There were a number of skirmishes with the Germans and one particular Air Raid in which he was wounded.
At 15.15 on 22nd May 1940 an Enemy Aircraft bombed near Company Headquarters and the R.A.F. Wireless tent was hit resulting in 1 Acting Corporal and 1 Private being Killed in Action along with 8 Other ranks being wounded including Thomas Hall who was evacuated to Bodo Hospital.

The War Diary of Number 2 Independent Company shown above gives details of the bombing with typewritten Casualty List below.

At 23.00 on 30th May 1940  Private Hall was withdrawn and after a few days found himself on the Royal Scotsman docked at Scapa Flow.
Following his recovery Thomas volunteered for the Commandos training at Achnacarry and perhaps in Devon before he joined Number 1 Commando. 
(Shown below in November 1943 and on a Training Exercise above)
After some raids on the French coast Thomas was involved in Operation Torch, the North African landings on 8th November 1942, near Algiers and then subsequent actions and onward into Tunisia. 

Having returned to England for a time Thomas was again on his travels.
When crossing the Mediterranean the ship he was on was damaged by bombs and had to pull into Alexandria for repairs just before Christmas, so spent the Festive season of 1943 there before negotiating the suez canal in January 1944.
After docking in Bombay th Commandos crossed India to Camp near the border with Burma where there was intensive Jungle Training.

They went into action on on the Arakan coastline, and for months afterwards, including the Battle of Hill 170 at Kangaw in Burma. 

The Japanese Army was attempting to reach the coastline so as to breach the Allied lines and split their forces into two.
No.1 Army Commando at the forefront, along with elements of No.5 Army Commando, plus the Royal Marine Commandos, although heavily outnumbered, held the line.
Bravery was in abundance with  Lieutenant George Knowland earned a Victoria cross for his defensive actions, firing whatever came to hand at the enemy, be it grenades, rifles, Bren Gun and even a 2" mortar from his hip until he fell mortally wounded.

A few weeks after this decisive action, the brigade was once again withdrawn from the frontline in peparation for the invasion of Malaya however following the Atomic Bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki the Japanese finally surrendered.

Mopping up operations continued in Malayan waters and coastline, then over to Hong Kong for police action, to restore order and take the official surrender of the Japanese. 
Thomas was in Hong Kong until at least the end of October 1945 and was at a Commando Holding Company in Wrexham when he was finally demobbed in February 1946.
He is shown on the extreme right in the photograph below.

Thomas Hall is seen here along with his Commando Service Certificate.

(Sincere thanks to Darren Little for this information and photographs relating to his Grandfather, Thomas Hall.)

Training at Ballykinler Camp

British Soldiers training at Ballykinler

Soldiers of 59th Battalion, Reconnaissance Corps training at Ballykinler on 6th December 1941. (I.W.M. Photograph)

Beaverette Armoured Cars of 53rd Reconnaissance Regiment at Ballykinler on 19th June 1941. (Imperial War Museum Photograph)

Beaverette Armoured Cars and Bren Gun Carriers photographed in 1941 (I.W.M. Photograph)

British Army soldiers salute the King at Ballykinler in June 1942

Soldiers of the Royal Welch Fusiliers being instructed in the use of the 2 inch Mortar on 21st August 1942 (Imperial War Museum Photograph)

"The Battle of Ballykinler"

 

There was a large contingent of British Soldiers at Ballykinler from the beginning of the Second World War and they were later joined by U.S. Troops after the Americans joined the conflict following the Japanese Raid on Pearl Harbor.

Between 13th May and 9th December 1942 13th Armor of 1st Armoured Division as well as a Tank Destroyer Battalion and Service Company all arrived at Ballykinler.

They were later joined by a Maintenance Battalion of 1st Armored Division, 106th Coast Artillery Battalion and 3440th Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Company as well as part of 11th Infartry, 5th Infantry Division.

With all of these arrivals much of the British complement moved to Gough Barracks in Armagh leaving only a small Guard Unit to maintain there presence at Ballykinler.

 

It was common practice for local Farmers to pass through the Camp onto the beach where they gathered seaweed for use as a fertilizer on the fields.

On one Springtime day a farmer had filled his horse drawn cart and was making his way along the road which passed through the centre of the Camp towards Commons Road at the main entrance.

Passing a Fusiliers Guard House he nodded to them and was acknowledged in the usual way however things were about to deteriorate dramatically.

 

On passing a Guard House which was being operated by the Americans a challenge was shouted by the U.S. Soldier however there was no response from the farmer who may not have heard it or did not know the command was directed at him as this had never happened before.

 

As he continued on his way a second challenge was shouted but when the farmer did not stop the Guard opened fire with his rifle and bedlam ensued.

A bullet struck the cart causing the horse to bolt in the direction of Commons Road. The farmer was clinging on and after a time was able to regain control after which he immediately went to the local Shop which was owned by My Kirby.

 

Mr Kirby was In Charge of the Local Defence Volunteers / Ulster Home Guard and on hearing what had happened and seeing the bullet hole in the cart it became obvious to him that an attempt had been made to land Enemy Troops.

He immediately informed his superiors and called out his Detachment to locate and engage the Enemy!

 

Meanwhile within the Camp the Americans at the Guard House had passed details to their Officers and the First Defence Group within the Camp was deployed to immediately repel Enemy Forces who may at that very moment be attempting to form a Bridge Head.

 

With both sides advancing to contact it was only a matter of time before they saw each other in the fading light of evening and soon shots were exchanged!!

After some time each side finally recognised the other and hostilities stopped without loss of life.

 

This is a true story.

Are you aware of this taking place and do you have any information? If so then please email me at ww2ni@btinternet.com

U.S. Army Tanks at Ballykinler (Thanks to Ed Luke for these two Photographs)

Buglers from 6th Armoured Infantry Division, U.S. Army at Ballykinler in August 1942. (From Home Away From Home)

Sergeant Robert Simmonds at Ballykinker.

****These Photographs are from a Private Collection do PLEASE DO NOT COPY****

Robert Simmonds joined the Army in April 1940 and served with The Royal Fusiliers from where he was attached to Number 17 Primary Training Centre based at Ballykinler.

In his photographs of Ballykinler Camp the Mourne Mountains can be seen in the background and it is interesting to note the Blast Wall which had been constructed around the Buildings.  (Thanks very much to David Simmonds for permitting me to use these photographs)  

****These Photographs are from a Private Collection do PLEASE DO NOT COPY****

(This photograph from Ballykinler Hut Project. Newrymournedown.org)

King George VI attends Training and Equipment Display by United States Army at Ballykinler

Tank Display

Display of Various Equipment including Earth Mover

30 Cal Light Machine-Gun Training Unit

37MM Anti-Tank Gun Training Unit

Musketry Landscape Target Range

Communications Equipment

(Photograph above From West Maryland Historical Library)

Examining a Variety of Vehicles

U.S. Army Military Band provides some music.

Then had some time to relax!

Parade For the King

(The photograph above comes from Western Maryland regional Library at www.whilbr.org )

Spectators

Artillery Training in the Mourne Mountains

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother arrive and meet others prior to Demonstration (Please note that all of these photographs are from Life Magazine)

(Photograph above From West Maryland Historical Library)

With everyone having assembled the Gun Crews are shown below moving into position.

Infantry advance with the aid of an Artillery Barrage

Artillery Pieces in Action

(All of the photographs above are from Live Magazine. The origin of the one below is unknown)

The King is driven away in a Jeep

A Letter of Thanks from Elizabeth to Major General Hartle

As can be seen from both the Letter and Photograph shown here Elizabeth had a very enjoyable day in the company of Major General Hartle at Ballykinler and the display in the Mourne Mountains and as a show of Thanks this signed photograph was sent to Major General Hartle from Buckingham Palace.

(From the Western Maryland Historical Library)

A few photographs of what was an enjoyable day for Elizabeth. (Life Magazine Photographs)

(The photograph above is from Western Maryland Historical Society)

Shown above is an old photograph of Ballykinler Camp as taken from Commons Road. The Plan below shows Commons Road running in the top right of the drawing.