Bangor Main Street, Castle and Town Hall
The pictures above shows Main Street, Bangor with 2 Airraid Shelters that have been constructed in the centre of the roadway. Then we have some drill taking place on the lawn of the Town Hall (Castle)and finally the site of a hut which was constructed beside the main entrance of the Town hall.
Lieutenant Simon D. St.L Fleming was part of the Clanmorris family who resided in the Castle and was born in Bangor Castle and joined the Royal Artillery in 1939. After serving with the Eighth Army in North Africa he was wounded in 1942 and a year later was seconded to the Long Range Desert Group.He was Killed in Action on 16th June 1944 and is buried in the British Divisional Cemetery at Fiora in Italy.
(Thanks very much to North Down Museum for their assistance with the pictures.)
Pilot Officer Thomas Andrew McCann Killed in Action. Buried El Alamein
Thomas Andrew McCann, born in Lisburn the Son of Thomas and Florence McCann.
Having been educated in Bangor, County Down, he worked with Belfast Harbour Commissioners before joined the RAFVR around January 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot.
His Service Number was 116980 and after completing his training he arrived at 6 Operational Training Unit, Sutton Bridge on August 21st 1940.
On converting to Hurricanes he was posted to 601 Squadron at Exeter on September 11th.
Having seen action in the Battle of Britain he was posted to 134 Squadron which went to Russia in August 1941, leaving there in November.
Commissioned in February 1942, Thomas was posted with 134 Squadron, which were operating Hurricanes, to North Africa.
He had been attached to 213 Squadron and, on July 27th 1942, was scrambled from Landing Ground 154, south-west of Alexandria.
The squadron was attacked by Me109s as they took off and Pilot Officer McCann as well as two other pilots were killed. (Thanks very much to John Dillinger)
Air Raid Shelter, Adair's Lane, Bangor
The Air Raid Shelter shown here is in Adair's Lane, Bangor.
It is the same design as the one shown below at Ballyvester, Donaghadee and is well maintained by the Owner.
There is another Shelter of this type at Crawfordsburn.
Air Raid Shelter, Elmwood Drive, Bangor
This is the inside of an Air Raid Shelter in Elmwood Drive, Bangor.
The design is slightly different to the Shelter shown above in Adair's Lane in that this shelter has a corrugated iron roof over which concrete is poured.
The Adair's Lane Shelter had a wooden mould constructed into which the reinforced concrete was poured.
This particular Shelter would have had bunk type beds attached to the walls which would have been on hinges and would have been secured by chains hanging from the roof.
The exterior of the Shelter was faced with red brick as shown above.
Air Raid Shelter, Bryansburn Road, Bangor
Similar in design to the Shelter shown below however I believe this one has two rooms inside.
Air Raid Shelter Maxwell Park, Bangor
This Air Raid Shelter is in great condition.
The photograph below left shows the steps down as seen from inside and on the right is an inside view.
Dufferin Hall, Bangor
Dufferin Hall was used during the War as a Billet for Soldiers.
The 6th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers where here prior to the Invasion of North Africa and I believe that a Welsh Regiment may also have been here for a time.
The People of Bangor contribution to the Northern Ireland Spitfire Fund
(Thanks to the North Down Museum)
Air Raid Shelter, Conlig
The Air Raid Shelter shown here was constructed for the occupants of a house on Main Street, Conlig.
It can be seen from Henderson Avenue and as can be seen from the Adair's Lane example is typical of what was constructed. - For added protection the building could have been covered with earth.
This Air Raid Shelter is incredibly strong. - Each wall has inner and outer red bricks between which are reinforced concrete and the Roof was laid where it was able to harden into position making this Very strong!
Bangor Intermediate School
This photograph shows 25th Brigade General Hospital Sergeants Mess at what was called Bangor Intermediate School (Later to become Bangor Academy)
Park Avenue, Bangor
Park Avenue, Bangor. Children playing with Air Raid Shelters in the background. My picture shows the same scene today. (Many thanks to Scott Harkins for the original picture)
U-19 Submarine Deck Gun in Ward Park
This First World War gun is a rare item!
Taken as a Trophy from German U-Boat U-19 it was given by the Admiralty to Bangor in recognition of the actions of Commander The Honorable Edward Barry Stewart Bingham who was serving aboard H.M.S. Nestor during the Battle of Jutland.
Bingham was awarded the Victoria Cross.
During the Second World War many of the captured guns which were on display around Northern Ireland were cut up and smelted down for use in the War Effort so it is very pleasing that this particular example has survived unlike the one which is shown below which had been on display at Ballyholme!
(Many thanks to Nigel Henderson at the Great War Ulster Newspaper Archive)
Interesting reference in this Access Pass to the Gun Park at Clifton Road. (From Bangor Heritage Museum)
From 1942 he was joined by Commander Keane from United States Navy.
Eisenhower Pier, Bangor
General Eisenhower photographed on board U.S.S. Quincy in Belfast Lough.
As part of the build-up of Allied forces for the Invasion of Occupied Europe the town of Bangor played its part.
General Eisenhower made his temporary Headquarters at the Hotel facing what is now known as "Eisenhower Pier" in Bangor.
Shown above left is General Eisenhower taken on 19th May 1944 on board USS Tuscaloosa in Belfast Lough. He is seen addressing the ships Officers and Men whilst on the right he is on board USS Quincy. Both ships were in Belfast Lough off Bangor. (Quincy picture from "After The Battle")
Sitting in Belfast Lough were the United States Battleships USS Arkansas, USS Nevada, USS Texas with the Cruisers USS Quincy and USS Tuscaloosa. They were accompanied by a huge number of other ships of all types. (National Archives pictures)
Shown below are the Nevada and Texas on 14th May 1944.
(From http://www.history.navy.mil which is available to everyone)
To the left is a painting called "Task Force 129" by local Artist David Pentland.
It shows USS Nevada with USS Quincy along with HMS Glasgow being assembled in Belfast Lough on 14th May 1944 in preparation for D-Day.
Ghose Photograph of U.S.S. Arkansas and U.S.S. Texas in Bangor Bay. (Thanks to Adam Surrey)
Belfast Lough in 1944 with U.S.S. Arkansas on the left and U.S.S. Texas to the right.
U.S.S. Arkansas. (From World War Photos)
USS Texas is shown with Vought OS2U Kingfisher aircraft on the catapult. The aircraft and catapult were off loaded in Belfast prior to Operation Overlord and the invasion of Normandy.
Shown here are U.S.S. Satterlee along with two other Destroyers photographed in Belfast Lough on 14th May 1944 with County Antrim in the background.
(Photographs from National Archives which is available to EVERYONE)
This photograph shows lots of Warships in Bangor Bay.
Treatment For An Injured Pilot in Bangor Bay
Clark Gable in Victoria Road, Bangor
On 19th May 1944 Captain Clark Gable and his friend Capt. Lee Mahin arrived in Bangor under the guise of being on two weeks leave after which they would returning to their USAAF base in England.
However all was not as it seemed as Clark Gable had been tasked by the Pentagon to film and record the arrival and departure of Allied Task Force 129 in Bangor Bay and then the D-Day landings which would soon follow.
He was then to return to the United States and edit the film prior to his army discharge.
The two Officers arrived at the American Red Cross Club at Princetown Road where they met Jean McDowell who ran a Guest House at number 6 Victoria Road, Bangor.
Jean was a former Nurse and suggested to the two that they might like to stay at her Guest House as it overlooked the Bay with all the ships at anchor.
Clark Gable stayed for an unspecified number of days at 6 Victoria Road however it is not known if Mrs McDowell had recognised the Hollywood Movie Star in her Guest House.
After his discharge from Military Service Gable wrote a personal letter to Miss McDowell and thanked her for her kindness to both him and his friend John Lee Mahin.
He enclosed a signed photo of himself and invited Mrs McDowell to spend a holiday at his ranch in California!
The letter and signed photograph was framed by Mrs McDowell and hung on her living room wall until her death in 1972.
The House is shown here and as can be seen from my photograph above there was an excellent view of all of the shipping in Bangor Bay. (Combat America & U.S. Treasury Poster. Thanks very much to Doreen Hamilton for the information and the Bangor Through The Years Facebook Page for their Help)
In 1895 Samuel Cleland Davidson, the founder of the Sirocco Engineering Works, bought the house and 18 acre grounds. On his death, the house passed to his youngest daughter Mrs Hadow.
During the Second World War, Mrs Hadow arranged for the house to be used as a convalescent home for officers, receiving about 250 patients. Mrs Hadow was later awarded the MBE for her services.
(Information an picture from Property News)
Bryansburn Road / Maxwell Road Bangor
This comparrison picture is taken at a slightly different angle however you can see the same house on the right side of the picture and even the same tree in full bloom!
On 20th July 1940 at shortly after 2pm the Steam Ship "Troutpool" was at the entrance to Bangor Harbour.
The ship was owned by Pool Shipping Co Ltd of Hartlepool and was carrying a cargo of 7,908 tons of grain from Argentina. She had put into port for degaussing in an attempt to prevent the activation of magnetically operated mines. When this had been dome the ship started its engines when it activated a magnetic mine.
This mine had been dropped previously by a long range Focke Wulf German Focke-Wulf Condor aircraft from 1st Staffelhof Kampfgeschwader 40. It had flown from Bordeau via Brest to belfast Lough for its Mine Laying Mission.
Some of the crew survived and were rescued by the "White Heather" which now serves as a pleasure craft from the same harbour however unfortunately 11 crewmen were killed.
The Condor aircraft headed towards Islandmagee and dropped some more mines however another remained in the racks and while flying at low level attempting to free this mine the Condor was sighted by gunners at Grey Point Fort.
Both left engines of the aircraft failed and the Condor crashed into the sea with 2 of the crew of 5 being lost and their bodies never recovered.
Two of the crewmen of the Troutpool - Thomas Beckett and Shief Ahmed are buried at Bangor New Cemetry with 3 other unidentified sailors from the same incident buried in one grave at Movilla Cemetry in Newtownards.
The remains of the ship now lie in 15m depth of water at the entrance to Bangor Harbour off what is known as Eisenhower Pier.
Shown here are a Luftwaffe Recognition Model of a Condor as well as a wooden plate showing a Condor Aircraft on the base. These are in a Museum in Berlin.
How Magnetic Mines were counteracted as shown in "The War Illustrated" from April 1940.
Shown above are two photographs showing Ballyholme Beach, Bangor.
As can be seen in the section on Eisenhower Pier Belfast Lough was filled with all types of naval shipping in the build-up to D-Day and throughout this time training continued. (From "From Belfast Lough To D-Day" book)
These pictures show a Landing Craft exercise on Ballyholme Beach.
The Ballyholme area had a considerable military presence with the old "Caproni's" Ballroom, which stood facing Ballyholme Yacht Club where the appartments currently stand, having seen Glenn Miller play! American personel were billeted on the nearby tennis courts and putting green while the "Hotel Pickie" in Princetown Avenue in Bangor was used at an Officers Club by the U.S. Army.
(Many thanks to http://www.navsource.org)
Sand From Ballyholme Beach in U.S. Navy S.E.A.L.'s Memorial
Shown here is a brief Ceremony where some sand was removed from Ballyholme Beach and presented to U.S. Consul General Dan Lawton.
The sand is to form part of a new D-Day Memorial to U.S. Navy S.E.A.L’s on the Boardwalk at Virginia Beach, Virginia and will incorporate sand which has been collected from locations throughout the world where there is a link to American Forces who took part in the D-Day landings in Normandy.
The link is well illustrated throughout this website and the Ballyholme connection was ensured by M.L.A. Alan Chambers during contact with retired S.E.A.L. (SEa, Air, Land Team) Captain Rick Woolard of the Navy SEAL Museum.
Ballyholme Boatyard working for the Admiralty
Bertie Slater was a Scottish boat-builder who, during the inter-war years, developed a Boatyard in Ballyholme Bay.
With the Second World War the yard was kept occupied with contract work for the Admiralty however when he was offered three large sheds for the growing business bertie said that he thought the money could be better spent as part of the War Effort!
All that remains now of the Boatyard is the rails as shown in my photograph above along which dollies were used to move boats in and out of the water.
(Information from www.shipyardboats.co.uk)
Caproni's Ballroom, Ballyholme, Bangor
Caproni's was a favourite with Service Personel. (From Display in Bangor Museum)
This is Grey Point Fort which is at The Fort, Helens Bay and can be visited for free. It is also easily accessable from Crawfordsburn Country Park.
The fort consists of a number of buildings including Ammunition Magazine, Gun Batteries, Shelters, Obsetvation Post, Fire Command, Radar Platform and 3 searchlight emplacements.
This is the Master Gunners Store in which 2 Field Guns were kept.
During the Second World War the Fort was used to protect Belfast Lough and as part of this role when any ship entered Belfast Lough it was contacted by Coastal Defence Personnel and asked to identify itself.
If there was no reply it was told "Heave to or be sunk" and if there was still no suitable response then a shell would have been fired across the ships bow as a final warning before opening fire with explosive shells.
Shown on the left is the Belfast District Grey Point Battery Site Plan which dates from 1911.
The Guardroom at the entrance to the site is shown above with the Workshop that faces it below.
Shown here is one of the 3 Searchlight Emplacements as well as a War Department Boundary Stone which marks the boundary of the Fort. The markings read "W.D. (War Department) No 1 To H.W.M. (High Water Mark) in line with B.S. (Boundary Stones) 1 & 2"
This is a selection of Cartoons which were drawn during the Second World War and are on display at Grey Point Fort.
They are in a similar style to the old Seaside Postcards with the one above right dated 16th October 1940.
It is worthy of note that the cartoon below right has a sign on the tree pointing "To Kilroot Fort". - I have visited and photographed Kilroot Fort which is still in super condition. Scroll down County Down Part 1 on this website for Information and Photographs.
Air Raid Shelter of Private Dwelling Uncovered at Grey Point
These photographs show a Second World War Air Raid Shelter which was uncovered at a Private Dwelling at Grey Point whilst renovation was taking place.
(Thanks very much to Ross Young)
Shown here is the High Street building as well as the Pickie Hotel which was used by the American Red Cross.
(Information from ww2 Telephone Book and Hotel Pickie picture from Bangor through the years facebook page)
This school was used as Military Hospital during the war although I am aware of nothing that remains today to illustrate its involvement.
Personel who worked in the Hospital were billited at the Pickie and Strand Hotels and the Pickie Hotel became home to the American Red Cross Club.
Orlock Point Searchlight Position
Orlock is on the coastal road from Groomsport towards Donaghadee and was home to one of the Coastal Defence Batteries along with Grey Point, East Twin Island (In Belfast) and Kilroot (See County Antrim section.)
As time has passed some of the buildings have gone with some being converted into private dwellings however this Searchlight Position can be found by anyone using the Coastal Path which is open to the public.
The top photograph shows how this building overlooks the sea and above left shows inside where you can see where the electric cables ran to the Searchlight building from the main Gun Position on the hill behind.
Groomsport Gun Battery
I was carrying out research for this website when I located a piece of military architecture from slightly more recent times.
One of a number of Heavy Anti-Aircraft Batteries built around Northern Ireland was situated near Groomsport at Ballymacormick Point.
On visiting the site 3 Gun Emplacements can be located however they were heavily overgrown on my visit.
This H.A.A. Battery was known as "B.A.2".
All three are located to the right of the tree in this picture which was taken with an old Royal Observer Corps bunker in the foreground.
The aerial photograph above shows the B.A.2 Gun Battery from above with the 4 Gun Positions visible. (Google)
Probably one of the best known Pillboxes in Northern Ireland.
When travelling down the eastern side of the Ards Peninsula you should start at Donaghadee.
A short distance along the main road in the direction of Millisle is the townland of Ballyvester. On looking to your right at the Car Park you will see the pillbox shown here sitting on top of the hill.
A second example of Second World war architecture is the Air Raid Shelter at the nearby Ballyvester Road T junction and shown here.
This pillbox is in a nearby field and is in very good condition. Both these types appear to have flagstones as frontage and rather than facing the shore as you would expect they are both facing inland.
This Pillbox still has the original door.
Under Sea Cable at Ballyvester
During the Easter Tuesday Air Raid on Belfast a parachute Mine fell at the junction of Oxford Street and East Bridge Street causing considerable damage to the Central Telephone Exchange and destroying numerous telephone cables.
One of the effects of this was that contact was lost between local Anti-Aircraft Command Headquarters and Royal Air Force Fighter Control in Lancashire.
The telephone link passed under the Cable Hut / Repeater Station shown in these pictures.
The old Cable Hut has now been replaced by a private dwelling.
During the war this building was protected by Home Guard personnel who were billeted nearby.
(Thanks very much to Mr George Busby for these pictures)
Royal Air Force Greystone
The old photograph immediately above shows one of the two Chain Home Transmitter Buildings (One being a Stand-by) which were constructed south of the larger building, which is shown below. Both of the Transmitter Buildings have now been demolished. (Thanks to Edward Boyle for the picture)
This is a Chain Home station between Ballywalter and Millisle which was part of the extensive system which covered the United Kingdom.
It was a basic radar system which could determine distance and direction of incoming aircraft formations, giving rise to its initial name of RDF (Radio Direction Finding).
These stations were able to measure the elevation of the formation, which knowing the range gave the height.
Signals were sent from wires and the Chain Home stations were arranged around the British coast and were first tested in 1940 during the Battle of Britain.
This Chain Home station can be found at Ganaway Road, Millisle where it is in the field beside a caravan park. - It was known to the R.A.F. Personnel who worked there as R.A.F. Greystone.
The three photographs above show the Buildings on the opposite side of the Road from the large concrete building.
It was here where personnel enjoyed some food and refreshments.
Inside is the usual Two-Tone paint scheme in colours which can be seen in lots of similar buildings I have visited.
I always look upon signs as an indication of the fact that these places were used by people during the War.
In this Building there are a number of Signs as shown above and below.
It is interesting to note that there appears to be a Key Number painted above the lock on the Door to the "Local Produce"
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Blair "Paddy" Mayne
Robert Blair Mayne was one of the greatest soldiers of the Second World War and a founding member of the Special Air Service.
He was born on 11th January 1915 at the family home, "Mount Pleasant" in Newtownards, County Down, Northern Ireland.
After attending Regent House Grammar School (Which is shown below) he went to Queens University, Belfast where he read Law before qualifying as a Solicitor and joining McLaine And Sons Solicitors in Belfast.
Blair was an excellent sportsman and when at Queens became the Irish Universities Boxing Champion. He was also a Rugby player with 6 caps for Ireland and 1938 he was chosen for the British Lions tour of South Africa.
In February 1939 Blair was commissioned as a Second-Lieutenant in the 5 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery at Movilla Road Camp in Newtownards and when war was declared on 3rd September 1939 the regiment was dispatched to North Africa however Blair remained and moved through a number of Regiments such as the Royal Ulster Rifles, The Cameronians and then the 11th (Scottish) Commando.
In January 1941 the Commando was part of "Layforce" and headed to the Middle East under the command of Brigadier Laycock. It was during the Litani River Raid in Lebanon that Blair was "Mentioned in Dispatches" for his actions in leading his men against Vichy French Forces. The raid had resulted in approx 130 soldiers being killed. This equated to around one third of the Commando.
A Scots Guard officer, Captain David Stirling, had meanwhile proposed a small highly trained Unit of men who were to operate behind enemy lines. After facing much opposition from the High Command Stirling was finally able to present his idea to the Commander In Chief. Stirling won the day and was permitted to form a Unit of 60 men. Having heard of Paddy's actions at Litani River Stirling recruited him into his new Unit.
These men were to be known as L Detachment Special Air Service.
L Detachment's first raid resulted in failure however things improved when they teamed up with the Long Range Desert Group and the "Colonel Paddy" legend began on 8th December 1941 with attacks on Tamet and Sirte.
Mayne along with 7 soldiers attacked and destroyed about 25 enemy aircraft on the ground as well as fuel and ammunition dumps. This action resulted in him being awarded his first Distinguished Service Order.
He returned to Tamet with 5 men on 27th December 1941 and destroyed a further 27 aircraft and other vehicles. Having used all his explosives he was seen to destroy some of the aircraft with his bare hands by ripping out the electrical equipment from the cockpits!!
Following this action he was promoted to Second In Charge of L Detachment S.A.S.
In early July 1942 L Detachment had been equipped with Willys Jeeps which were fitted with Vickers K machine guns and the first jeep raid took place on Kufra. Further such raids took place resulting in numerous enemy aircraft being destroyed on the ground at places like El Daba, Fuka and Sidi Haneish.
L Detachment became the 1st Special Air Service Regiment on 21st September 1942 and following David Sterling's capture at the start of the year Robert Blair Mayne became Lieutenant Colonel Mayne in charge of the Special Air Service.
On 10th - 11th July 1943 Blair Mayne led his men to Sicily where they landed at Capo Murro Di Porco capturing 2 gun positions and hundreds of Italian soldiers. The action continued the following day with a landing at Augusta where the town was soon captured and Blair Mayne received the 1st bar to his D.S.O.
On 9th - 10th August 1944 Blair parachuted into France behind enemy lines. He was operating for a few days before driving back through the lines at Normandy and returned to England. With the recce completed he was again parachured into France on 19th August with the drop-zone near Orleans. With 20 air dropped Jeeps he pushed back and forward through enemy lines using the vehicle mounted machine guns to kill numerous German soldiers.
For these actions he was awarded the second Bar to his Distinguished Service Order.
On 10th April 1945 1st S.A.S. were involved in "Operation Howard" and near the village of Borgerwald the Special Air Service men were ambushed resulting in their Commanding Officer being killed. Blair took over and manned the guns on their jeep. With an officer driving they made several attachs up and down the road firing the guns until he was able to rescue the wounded and recover the dead. Blair's actions resulted in a German retreat!!
For his amazing actions Blair Mayne was recommended for a Victoria Cross, the highest military honour, however he was to receive a 3rd Bar to his Distinguished Service Order.
As with other "Special Forces" Soldiers Blair Mayne had difficulty adjusting to life after the war. This was not helped by the back pain he suffered from connected to parachute drops. He went to the Falkland Islands with Lord Hunt's expedition of 1945 however continuing pain forced his return to Northern Ireland.
Sadly "Colonel Paddy" was killed in a road traffic accident whilst driving the red Riley car he referred to as his "Big Red Fire Engine". The accident took place at Mill Street, Newtownards where his car struck a telegraph pole.
The mural shown above. is dedicated to the memory of "Colonel Paddy" and can be seen at the junction of Queen Street and Upper Movilla Street in Newtownards. (Picture from alchetron.com)
Shown above is the Report of Major General Vokes of the Canadian Infantry relating to the actions of Paddy Mayne and below is the Report recommending a Victoria Cross and then the Award of the 3rd Bar of Distinguished Service Order. (From S.A.S. War Diary)
Paddy's medals and some other items including an Escape Map, Fighting Knife and Forage Cap. *****PLEASE DO NOT COPY MY PHOTOGRAPHS*****
Blair's funeral was on 16th December 1955 and took place with thousands of mourners. He is buried at Movilla Cemetry, Newtownards in the family plot while there is a full size bronze statue of Paddy in the heart of the town of Newtownards directly outside the Town Hall at Conway Square.
To find the final resting place of "Colonel Paddy" on entering the main gate of Movilla Cemetry make your way immediately left to the ruin of the old Abbey and the plot is only a few yards in front of you!
The Mayne Family Home "Mount Pleasant" was gutted by fire some years ago however it has now been completely renovated and as well as a Blue Plaque on the house the plaque shown above is on the gate pillars of the Driveway to Mount Pleasant.
A nearby road has also been named in his memory.
Blair "Colonel Paddy" Mayne is also remembered in Scotland as illustrated by the photographs below.
This Memorial is at Darvel in East Ayrshire, Scotland where he was based in 1944. (Thanks very much to Martyn Boyd for the Photographs)
The Memorial being unveiled by Special Air Service Veterans. (Thanks to Martyn Boyd)
Tommy Maxwell Royal Marine S.B.S. - Movilla Cemetery, Newtownards
Tommy was born in Belfast on 16th May 1922 and on leaving school at 14 years of age he started work at Kiltonga Mill, Newtownards before joining the Royal Marines as a Boy Soldier in 1938 when he was 16.
Tommy was initially stationed in Portsmouth and was Sea Service Battery 62 before joining H.M.S. Cairo which was a C Class Cruiser. Within a year he was serving in Palestine in response to what was referred to as the “Arab Revolt”.
In early April 1940 H.M.S. Cairo was involved in escorting the Military Convoy “NP 1” taking Troops to the landings at Narvik with Tommy being a member of one of the Gun Crews. (The picture below show a Gun Position aboard H.M.S. Cairo with smoke rising from Narvik in the background. Public Domain)
Later in 1940 Tommy was at Dunkirk and then was involved in assisting Free Polish personnel to escape their German Occupied homeland before seeing action at Crete in 1941.
H.M.S. Cairo was part of the Irish Sea Force with Western Approaches Command until February 1942 when she left Greenock on 9th February taking a “Trade Delegation” to Murmansk for discussions with the Russians.
Having arrived at Kola Inlet on 15th they stayed until leaving on 18th to return safely to Scapa Flow and on to Greenock.
Following some repair to the ship in Belfast Tommy was aboard when it sailed to Gibraltar and from there was involved in Escort operations to Malta.
H.M.S. Cairo left Gibraltar on 18th April along with ten other Ships who were all escorting the American Aircraft Carrier U.S.S. Wasp with its valuable cargo of Spitfire aircraft for Malta!
In June 1942 Tommy again found himself in the Mediterranean having left Belfast on 3rd to provide Anti-Aircraft defence for Convoy WS19Z and was under attack starting 14th from Italian Aircraft and Submarine.
This action continued for the next few days with another ship (H.M.S. Liverpool) being damaged and having to return to Gibraltar.
On 15th H.M.S. Cairo was in action against Italian ships and was hit by 2 Six Inch Shells which caused serious damage as well as being subjected to air attack before finally reaching Malta on 16th.
This had been a considerable action with four of the merchant ships in the Convoy having been sunk during the voyage and then the Polish Destroyer Escort Ship O.R.P. Kujawiak was mined and sunk at the entrance to Valetta Harbour.
H.M.S. Badsworth and H.M.S. Matchless were so seriously damaged that they had to stay at Malta while the Cairo returned to Gibraltar on 19th for repairs to take place.
H.M.S. Cairo (Navy Photos by Mark Teadham)
After a successful return trip from Gibraltar to Malta and back 11th August saw Tommy and H.M.S. Cairo again in action when providing close escort for a Malta Relief Convoy.
On 12th August the ship was going through the Sicilian Narrows when it was hit aft by two Torpedoes which had been fired by the Italian Submarine Axum.
Being totally disabled H.M.S. Cairo was abandoned with survivors, including Tommy, being rescued by H.M.S. Wilton.
Tommy had been wounded during this action with shrapnel wounds to his right thigh and left calf.
He received treatment on board H.M.S. Kenya and amazingly the Medical Case Sheet says “Up and walking without pain. This man is fit for transit” On 14th August his Medical Notes show that he was discharged from the Military Hospital at Gibraltar.
Within just one week of having been wounded on board H.M.S. Cairo Tommy was again involved in a major operation, this time being the Raid on Dieppe.
Having been involved in the Special Service Brigade Tommy joined 44 Commando in 1943 and received training in Wales before going to Achnacarry.
In 1944 Tommy was serving with 3rd Cammando Brigade in India.
He operated for some time in the Pacific Theatre and Burma where, in 1945, he was shot in the head. He received treatment at various places including the Bombay Naval Hospital and Stoke Mandeville Hospital in England.
In 1946 Tommy was at the Royal Naval Hospital at Barrow Gurney near Bristol where he received Electric Shock and Insulin treatment for what is now referred to as Post Traumatic Stress and the effects of having been shot in the head a year previously.
He had been targeted by a Sniper who had secured himself in the top of a tree and Tommy’s injury was such that he had a metal plate fitted in his head where the bullet had hit him above his right eye.
Tommy finally returned home having seen action in a wide variety of places and having been awarded a number of Medals which are shown above. These are:-
The General Service Medal with “Palestine” Clasp
The 1939 - 1945 Star
The Atlantic Star
The Africa Star
The Burma Star with “Pacific” Clasp
The Italy Star
The Arctic Star
The Defence Medal
The 1939 - 1945 War Medal
The Dunkirk Medal,
The Malta George Cross Fiftieth Anniversary Medal and no less than five Russian Medals including the Ushakov Medal for British Veterans of the Arctic Convoys for which President Vladimir Putin signed the Decree on 10th March 2014. (Shown below)
This is the little "Active Service Edition" Bible which Tommy carried with him throughout the war and he is seen on the right with his Wife Georgie Maxwell. The photograph was taken in the 1950's when he was with the Territorial Army.
He received a Full Disability War Pension however his head wound and subsequent treatment caused him problems for the rest of his life but even after all this he joined the Territorial Army and served as a Sergeant Instructor in the early 1950's
Tommy died on 21st December 2011 and is buried in Movilla Cemetery, Newtownards.
Tommy Maxwell - "By Strength and Guile"
(My Sincere thanks to Tony, Kathleen and Ray Maxwell without whom this item would not be possible) ***PLEASE DO NOT COPY THIS ARTICLE***
Flight Lieutenant Aubrey Doherty D.F.C. and Regent House School
Robert Aubrey Alexander Doherty joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in Belfast in July 1939.
He went to Number 3 Initial Training Wing at Hastings in September and received Ground Training until the following April when he went to Elementary Flying Training School for experience on Tiger Moths.
After 50 hours he progressed to other aircraft and operational flying with Wellington Bombers.
On 24th October 1941 Doherty was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross when serving with 104 Squadron. - The recommendation is shown below left.
On 23rd February 1945 Flight Lieutenant Doherty was serving with 608 Squadron Pathfinder Force and flying Mosquito Mk XX, KB350, 6T-B on a mission to Essen, Germany.
The aircraft was lost without trace.
When he was Killed Flight Lieutenant Doherty had taken part on 65 Missions which is more than two tours!
The Air Training Corps at Regent House School have now named their building "The Doherty Building as shown above. - Photographs from the Ceremony are below.
Finally this is the Second World War Memorial Plaque which can be seen in the foyer of the school (Many thanks to Tony Osborne for all his assistance)
Shown above are the gravestones of W.E.Heller, H Komenda and H.A. Flechter.
Wing Commander Heller was navigator in Avro Anson Mk 1, N5372 which was being flown from the General Reconnaissance School at R.A.F. Squires Gate on a navigation exercise.
It had taken off at approximately 19.40 and crashed at 21.15 at Drumavoley Road, Glenshesk, Ballycastle.
The following information is from Aviation-Safety.net website:-
"The aircraft was being flown by Flying Officer Cooper and he attempted a forced-landing, but struck a tree before crashing into a house in Drumavoley Road, Glenshesk, Ballycastle, which at the time was owned by Charles Blaney. Mr Blaney’s wife and their five children were at home as was a young woman from County Donegal, 22 year old Josephine McGroarty, who was staying there at the time.
She was standing outside the house with her boyfriend John Greer from Ballycastle. John was thrown clear as the aircraft came sliding into a fatal impact with the house. Josephine McGroarty was tragically killed as were two of those on board the aircraft."
The Pilot, Flying Officer Cooper, who was thrown from the aircraft, later stated “On the last leg of the exercise, the aircraft was flying at 2,400 feet. It was however eleven miles to the starboard of track, a fact not known to the crew. I decided to descend to 2,000 feet to avoid another aircraft. We approached from the downwind side of the mountain, and the wind was 150 degrees at 35/40 kms per hour. There would have been an extensively strong down draft as we approached the mountainside. After the aircraft struck Knockgavd, SOS procedures were carried out and preparations were made for a ditching.”
All I know of Kpl H. Komenda is that he was a member of 256 Squadron, Royal Air Force and was killed on 9th July 1942 at the age of 22.
Sergeant W.E. Flegler was a pilot with 315 City of Deblin Squadron and was killed whilst training in battle formation cloud flying and interception photography. He had been carrying out interception practice 1 1/2 miles northwest of Ballyhalbert.
Pilot Officer Hugh Wilson was a Wireless Operator / Air Gunner serving with Royal Air Force Bomber Command in 90 Squadron when he was Killed in Action on the night of 25th / 26th August 1944.
On that particular night the Lancaster aircraft of 90 Squadron were on a Bombing raid to the Opel Factory at Russelsheim, Germany.
These are a pair of Brothers.
Henry Corry was serving with 175 Battery, 66th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery and his Brother, David, was with the Royal Scots Fusiliers.
These headstones are a short distance from each other.
Flight Sergeant Raymond Farquhar Simpson was serving with the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
On 18th November 1943 he was in Lockheed Hudson Aircraft AE653 flying from Number 5 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit at Long Kesh and taking part in Rocket Firing Practice when the aircraft crashed into Strangford Lough.
Billy Hull, D Squadron, 1 Special Air Service, Movilla Cemetery, Newtownards
William Hull was born on 9th July 1922 at 33 Barrington Street, Donegall Road Belfast.
Whilst serving with the Royal Ulster Rifles he was stationed in Newtownards where he met and later married Betty Caddell.
He became Trooper 7017936, D Squadron, Special Air Service and became Blair Mayne's Driver of the specially adapted Jeeps used by the S.A.S. in France, Belguim, Germany and Norway.
Whilst at the S.A.S. Depot at Chelmsford, Essex he was preparing for a Special Operation behind Enemy Lines with a number of other Rifles when, 24 hours prior to the beginning of the Operation, he received new Orders to join Captain Anderson on a different mission.
Hull appealed to Paddy Mayne to permit him to stay with the initial Operation however, fortunately for Billy, this was refused. - This was part of Operation Gain and the story of what happened to those men became known as "The Garstin Stick" - Click www.ww2ni.webs.com/countyarmaghpart3.htm
Billy had been one of 10 Royal Ulster Rifles who had joined the Special Air service at the same time and he was the only ne to survive the War!
(Many thanks to Gary Hull (Son of Billy Hull) as well as Nigel Newell for photograph and John Robertson)
Newtownards 25pdr Field Gun
This 25 Pdr Field Gun, Serial Number 15212, can be seen at the Army Reserve Building at Crawfordsburn Road, Newtownards.
Newtownards Airfield Defensive Structure
This impressive structure was part of the defences for Ards Airfield however it is on Portaferry Road. With the building being underground I have provided the very basic plan drawing to show the layout along with these photographs of inside.
The top two photographs show the first port which can be seen on entering the structure. This is photographed from the first room with the next picture showing the way towards the second room.
These pictures show the approach to the second room and then inside. There are no ports in this room whilst the third room which is shown below has three through which to provide defensive fire.
Another Newtownards Airfield Defensive Structure
As with the Structure shown above this one is also at Portaferry Road, Newtownards and was part of the defences for Newtownards Airfield.
The two photographs below show the entrance from above and then one of the Firing Positions.
Inside the structure with the picture on the right looking into Room 2 and through to the steps going down towards Room 3.
Below left is in Room 2 with the picture on the right showing Room 3.
Shown on the left are the steps down to Room 4 which has three gun positions. Two of these are shown in the photograph above. An impressive structure.
This is a pillbox that can be found on the shore of Strangford Lough between Comber and Newtownards.
It is positioned to have an excellent view of the Lough and is best found by using the coastal path which runs from the Flood Gates Car Park in Newtownards to the Water Treatment plant where it is situated in a corner beside the perimeter fence.
The grass on the top is an interesting camouflage feature which remains in place. ***PLEASE DO NOT COPY THIS PHOTOGRAPH***
Camperdown Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Battery, Comber
At the outbreak of the Second World War the City of Belfast was is a very serious position being easy to locate from the air due to its sitting at the head of Belfast Lough.
It was almost totally undefended in 1939 and to make matters even worse Anti Aircraft Units were moved to Britain!
In June 1940 Belfast was protected by the total of 7 A.A. Guns which was increased to 6 Light A.A. and 16 H.A.A. Guns by Spring 41.
When hostilities began Anti-Aircraft Command had 695 HAA guns, many of which were obsolete, 253 LAA guns and 2700 searchlights which may sound reasonable until you consider the approved totals required which were 2232 HAA, 1200 LAA and 4128 Searchlights.
On the left is where shells were stored for one of the guns whilst on the right is where telephone communications took place from the Operations Room.
Below shows the shelving where the Shells were kept.
Shown here is Heavy Anti Aircraft Battery LR3 which consists of 4 Gun pits with the centrally located Command Post and larger Accommodation building.
Such positions were manned chiefly by 102 Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment and this one can be seen from the Comber to Dundonald walkway on the right between Ballyrainey and the Soccer School of Excellence.
**Sadly I have learned that all but the Accommodation Building have now been totally erased from the landscape. Another part of our WW2 past is now gone**
Craigantlet Medium Frequency Direction Finding Buildings
This building can be seen at Craigantlet on the hill between Holywood and Newtownards.
I have been told there were 2 large wooden masts beside the building which have now gone. These had white insulators and the station was the Medium Frequency, Direction Finding (MF/DF) station allocated to Belfast / Sydenham.
Inside the building you can see the original pale blue colouring.
Where the old stove stood can be seen and the holes around where the dart board once hung shows that more practice was required!!
It was very pleasing to discover that some individuals have left their initials in the brickwork of this air raid shelter.
At one of the entrances is "B.M W.M A.W Aug 26 1942"
In his autobiography "McAughtry's War" Sam McAughtry tells of being the Navigator in a Beaufighter well out over the Atlantic Ocean and turning in the direction of Islay. He made a radio call to this Radio Station and "All the way across 500 miles that signal came, and I swear I smelt soda bread baking as the morse reached my earphones".
Fusilier William Francis Harold Harris of the Royal Irish Fusiliers died on 30th January 1941.
Private William Gideon Lakin of the North Staffordshire Rrgiment died on 18th December 1941.
Colour Quarter Master Sergeant Francis Bowman Morgan of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps died on 6th July 1942.
All these men have been laid to rest in the Church of Ireland Church at Ballykinler.
The Royal Artillery at Newcastle
Shown here is Headquarters 14th (Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire) Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery shown in Newcastle in 1943 having arrived from their Anti-Aircraft Defensive duties around Falmouth in Cornwall.
These Troops were at Newcastle for Gunnery Training which entailed firing at drogue targets which were being towed at sea.
Included in this photograph is Albert Edward "Monty" Taylor who can be seen 5th from the right in the Second Row who, on release, was a Bombardier in 165 Battery, 86 Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery
(Sincere thanks to Peter Taylor for this photograph and information)
Belgian Soldiers in Newcastle
Soldiers from 6th Infantry Brigade, Belgian Army were in the Newcastle area for some time.
The photographs here are from the Private Collection of Staf Verhoeven whose Father Ludovicus Verhoeven took them whilst in Northern Ireland.
Below is a group photograph of the Belgian Soldiers which has been described on the back as "Tullybrannigan, New-Castle, Ireland"
********Please Do Not Copy******** (Thanks very much to Staf Verhoeven for these Photographs)
Belgian Soldiers On The Move
These photographs are from the Ludovicus Verhoeven Collection and show some L.C.T.'s (Landing Craft Tanks)
In the picture on the right you can see Ludovicus on L.S.T. 366. which, although built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation in Massachusetts, was operated by the Royal Navy.
Launched on 11th November 1942 the ship was in service until 26th January 1946 when it was returned to the United States Navy.
********Please Do Not Copy******** (Thanks very much to Staf Verhoeven for these Photographs)
The location can be found in Donard Car Park just off the Main Street in Newcastle.
When in the Car Park if you look towards the mountains with the football pitch in front of you it should be possible to see this view. - My photo is the same tree as it looks today.
Some evidence of the Camp remains such as this Concrete Path and Concrete base for one of the many Nissen Huts which were in this part of Donard Park.
In the same area is where part of the 11th Infantry 5th Infantry Division were based at what was Donard Lodge however the old house was demolished in the 1960's.
This photograph shows the Pillbox above as seen from offshore.
It was also known as AMES Type 1 meaning Air Ministry Experimental Station and had a radar fixed to the top of radio tower masts to facilitate the long range detection of aircraft.
First tested during the Battle of Britain the Chain Home System was a success and fortunately, even though a number of stations were attacked, the Germans did not realise how important the masts were and did not attack them.
Shown here are some examples of Chain Home which are in the Kilkeel area.
There is a classic Guardroom (Above Right) as well as 4 other buildings. During the war these were covered in earth with lots of foliage grown on top to provide camouflage as can be seen in the picture of the large building shown below.
James Quinn From Kilkeel serving with U.S. Army
James Quinn was originally from Kilkeel.
He is seen third from the right in the photograph above while his Dog Tags are shown on the right.
Top line is his name with his Service Number on the second line. T44 means he received his Tetanus Injection in 1944 and the "C" refers to his religion as Roman Catholic with "A" being hs Blood Group.
James was serving with 563rd Ambulance Company, United States Army.
(Visit Bagnels castle Museum in Newry for lots more)
This rather large pillbox can be seen at the Ulsterbus station in the centre of Rathfriland. I believe it had the official designation FW3/28 and is better known as a Type 28 Pillbox being shellproof and designed to hold a 2pdr Anti-Tank Gun or 6pdr Hotchkiss gun.
Unfortunately it is not possible to gain access however the thickness of the walls show that it is shellproof and has a commanding view towards the Mountains of Mourne.
The Grounds of Gilford Castle was used by both British and American Soldiers.
Both 582 Company and 583 Company of the Royal Engineers were at the Castle and were later joined by other Companies.
The U.S. Army arrived in 1943.
Some evidence of the Camp can still be found in the Castle Grounds as shown above.
This is an amazing relic of the dark days of the Second World War. Shown here are the gates of the entrance to Gilford Castle.
On looking closely at the pillar on the right of the first photograph you will see some strange markings which are shown in greater detail in the next picture.
This is a very tangible reminder of life in Northern Ireland during the Second World War as these are scrapes which were made by U.S. Soldiers who were sharpening their bayonets while on sentry duty!
Interestingly behind each pillar are steps as seen in my photograph above right.
As with many Bridges along the various Defence Lines in Northern Ireland the bridge in the centre of Gilford had Prepared Demolition Charges in the event of an Invasion so the the bridge could be destroyed at short notice.
Gilford's Telegraph Poles
Here are two interesting relics of the War in Gilford.
With the blackout it was important to ensure that any objects which could become a danger were highlighted as much as possible and here are two telegraph poles in Dunbarton Street which still retain their black and white markings.
With the huge influx of Military Personel into Northern Ireland during the Second World War space was at a premium and Camps would appear in some unlikely places.
British Soldiers from the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and Pioneer Corps were camped in the Mill Yard.
Ulster Home Guard, Moyallon
These are the men of Moyallon No. 11, B Company, 4th County Down Battalion Ulster Home Guard.
Back Row Left to right are:- Vols. J.Kennedy, T. McDonald, J.H. Toal, W. Irwin, R.M. Toal, J.A. Mitchell, Sgt. S. Conn.
3rd. Row; Vols. D.J. Neil, T. Patterson, W.E. Dickson, R.H. Fryars, Cpl. A. M’b Nickolson, L/Cpl. S. A. Payne, T.J. Abraham, W.R. W.R. Rainey.
2nd. Row: Sgt. H.C. Baxter, F. Irwin, J. Dunlop, S.J. Sterritt, E. Conn, Cpl. J.G. Toal, J. Adair, Sgt. H. McCracken.
Front Row L to R: Sgt. J. Morrow, P/Sgt. W.H. Jackson, Lt. C.R. R.J. Ferris (2/i/c B Coy.), Capt. W. Sands, (B Coy. Candr) 2nd. Lt. R.J. Hunter P/Cmdr), CSM, T.E. Toal, C.Q.M.S. J, Eccles, M.M., Sgt. G. Dickson.
Absent – Cpl. R.J. Uprichard, T.A. Collen, W. McCracken, E. Weir. (From www.portadownphotos.co.uk. Photograph from David Armstrong)
The rather impressive looking pillbox shown above remains in excellent condition.
The inside is very similar in design to the pillbox at Gilford Road, Portadown and again, as in the case of the Portadown pillbox this is easily accessable at Cranny Road. - I believe the line of the River Bann was used for the construction of a Defence Line in the event that Northern Ireland was invaded by the Germans.
The second picture shows a second pillbox in the same area which is rather overgrown and difficult to find. On looking inside it is the same design as the first.
Scarva Pillbox Defences
The pictures here show three of the pillbox defences around the village of Scarva.
All appear to be a Type 23 and are shellproof with thick walls with a machinegun table at each port. The shutters have been centrally hinged but are now gone and there is also a small storage space.
This first example is at the northern entrance to the village with the second example shown here being at Fir Tree Lane.
It is interesting to see that on entering the pillbox there appears to have been some form of noticeboard on the left of the entrance passage.
Another Type 23 can be found immediately beside the graveyard of the Church of Ireland Church where it has an excellent position overlooking the village and commanding a view south. - It is very difficult to access and any attempt to do so would be very unwise!!
As with the Fir Tree Lane example this pillbox situated at Drummiller Lane overlooks the main Scarva to Bannbridge Road.
This example is in great condition and easily accessable. Interestingly there are markings in the protective wall covering the entrance. One says "N.S. 41" with the second "W.T." with an illegible date.
Scarvagh House was used as a Fuel Depot and a few buildings still remain.
An illustration of the importance of this location is shown by the Pillbox that protects the entrance to the House.
The two pictures below show a Fuel Tanker Refuelling Point while the red bricked building has a sturdy concrete plinth as well as piping on two sides.