Fred Wilson served in both World Wars.
Fred was from Rahalton between Blaney and Churchill in County Fermanagh and went to St Lucia Barracks in Omagh to join the Army when he was 17 years old.
His mother wrote to get him home but he refused going on to serve with the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles (no. 8220).
Fred was sent to France in September 1914 and fought at the retreat from Mons.
He was awarded the 1914 Star with clasp, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal at just 18 years old.
He was later with the Royal Irish Fusiliers (no. 52079).
During the Second World War Fred became a Prisoner of War at Dunkirk. He was 43 years old and had been told to fight until the young soldiers got away to "fight another day"!!
Having been taken to a Stalag in Poland he tried to escape twice from the Camp and was sent to a Polish farm.
The family got a telegram reporting him missing in action - the Red Cross later reported him as a PoW.
He subsequently endured the Long March-about 400 miles to Dusseldorf in temperatures as low as - 22.
At the end of the march he had to guard German weapons which were piled up "nearly as high as a house".
Fred survived both wars went on to be Mess Sergeant at Palace Barracks.
He died in 1993 at the age of 96.
(Thanks very much to Joanna Fyffe)
Forthill Park, Enniskillen
This photograph shows a U.S. Army Soldier with Mr Kelly in Forthill Park, Enniskillen in 1944. (Many thanks to Sheriff Johnston)
*****PLEASE DO NOT COPY*****
U.S. Army - American Soldiers at Work and Play!
Sharing the Chores above and some Bayonet Practice in the Snow below! ***FROM PRIVATE COLLECTION. PLEASE DO NOT COPY*** (Many thanks to Sheriff Johnston)
***FROM PRIVATE COLLECTION. PLEASE DO NOT COPY*** (Many thanks to Sheriff Johnston)
B-17 Flying Fortress "Galley Uncle" at The Graan, Enniskillen
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress "Galley Uncle" crashed at The Graan on 8th December 1943 killing seven Airmen.
Witnesses at the time reported the aircraft engines coughing and spluttering as it missed the spire of St Macartins Cathedral before heading away from Enniskillen and crashing on the hillside beside The Graan Passionest Monastery.
Both locals and Priests ran to provide assistance to the injured who were subsequently cared for in local hospitals.
This photograph shows the dedication of the plaque shown top right.
Shown above are the people behind the names - Sad to see that 7 of the Airmen in this picture lost their lives in this crash.
(Thanks very much to Selwyn Johnston for these pictures)
Visit by Consul General of the United States of America Mr Daniel Lawton to the Memorial on 18th May 2016 and having the circumstances of what had happened explained by Father Brian D'Arcy.
The American Consul General, Daniel Lawton, laying a Wreath at the Memorial.
U.S. Army Cartoons, Ely Lodge, Enniskillen
Ely Lodge was home to 168th Infantry (excluding the 2nd Battalion) 34th Infantry Division of the United States Army during 1942 and from 16th December 1943 until prior to their departure in June 1944 was also used by 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry, 8th Infantry Division U.S. Army.
The Cartoon Characters shown here were painted in a Nissen Hut at Ely Lodge by American Soldiers who were based there and fortunately they still remain to be seen.
(Thanks very much to Mr Selwyn Johnston for these photographs.)
U.S. Army at Ely Lodge
This is Sergeant Norman Duffy from Cleveland, Ohio.
He is showing a Flame Thrower during a Chemical Warfare Demonstration given at Ely Lodge by Captain Fred J. Lucht, Chemical Warfare Officer, on 22nd October 1942. (Signal Corps U.S.Army Public Demain Photograph which is available to EVERYONE)
This tunnel was part of an Assault Course used by Troops at Ely Lodge. (Thanks to Selwyn Johnston)
These pictures show Soldiers from Cannon Company, 121st Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division testing the waterproofing of vehicles at Ely Lodge on 17th May 1944.
In the background of the last picture is a Jeep crew!
This aerial photograph shows where this testing took place as it looks today. These are stills from a Video which can be seen on this Website. (Google)
Bracelet lost by American G.I. Found in Fermanagh and returned to Loser!
Cecil Kells was ploughing one of his fields at Drumoghan, Springfield when he was something shining within one of his newly created furrows.
On investigation he realised it was a bracelet and on the inside was the inscription "Pvt. James W. Shaw" along with a Service Number.
With the abbreviation Pvt rather than Pte it was clear that the bracelet had been owned by an American Soldier.
The owner was Private James Shaw who was serving with 13th Infantry, 8th Infantry Division.
His Unit arrived at Ely Lodge on 16th December 1943 and took part in various training exercises in the area until June 1944 when they, along with most of the other Troops who were based in Northern Ireland, left for England and onward to Occupied Europe.
Before he had left home in Union, South Carolina his wife Martha had purchased the bracelet from the Smith Jewellery Store in Union and had it engraved with his name as a gift.
They had got married on 4th July 1942 and Martha said "We got married July the 4th so we could have a long weekend. I gave him the bracelet. That was the only thing I could give him that he could keep. As far as i can remember it's just gold with a little chain around it"
Fortunately James survived the war even though he was wounded on two occasions having taken part in Operation Overlord and the D-Day landings in Normandy.
The bracelet had been lost whilst James Shaw's Regiment was involved in vigorous training prior to the invasion and Cecil, who was about 6 years old at the time, remembers seeing the Americans training on his family Farm.
Some years had passed since the bracelet had been found when Cecil told a friend, William Dickson, about it.
William had met Mr Richard Neal, a Defense Attache attached to the U.S. Embassy in London, when Richard was o holiday in Fermanagh and enquired if it would be possible to trace the owner.
After a number of failed attempts William sent a letter addressed to Private Shaw to the National Personnel Records Centre in St Louis Missouri who had agreed to forward to the last known address of the soldier.
This was done in February 2003 and on 1st October William received a surprise telephone call from Allyson Ayes in Union, South Carolina who was the Granddaughter of James Shaw.
Two days later James Shaw telephoned William and thanked him for his efforts.
James remembered having been Camped at Ely Lodge and seeing Seaplanes on the Lake.
He had been wounded during the Normandy landings and again in Germany which had affected his health for the rest of his life.
The bracelet was posted to the Shaw family who confirmed that it had arrived safely - Back with its owner after all those years.
Mr. James William Shaw, 81years old, husband of Martha Ivey Shaw, died Sunday, August 21, 2005 after an extended illness.
Enniskillen War Memorial
American Soldiers in Belmore Street, Enniskillen during WW2 and as the same street looks today.
The Inniskillings Memorial behind them has been moved to beside Enniskillen Castle.
Shown here is one of the best known landmarks in County Fermanagh - the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Regimental Museum.
"The Skins" have a large number of battle honours with the Queens Colour flag including 6 from the Second World War covering Northwest Europe, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Yenangyaung and Burma.
The picture above shows Northern Ireland children enjoying a U.S. Military Jeep (The word "Jeep" comes from "General Purpose")
It is shown here as a comparison with the one on display at Enniskillen Castle. I do not know the location of the old photograph however with the Personnel being U.S. Navy it may very well be from the Londonderry Area.
An American Soldier in Enniskillen Castle. My photograph shows the Castle and "Water Gate" which is behind the Soldier as seen from outside the castle.(From "Pardon Me Boy")
With a history of over 300 years this Museum is well worth a visit and is open throughout the year. For more information visit the "Museums" section of this site.
Captured German 21cm Mortar at Enniskillen Castle
Trophy Guns in Enniskillen
(Thanks very much to Ronnie Johnston. ***PLEASE DO NOT COPY***)
Here are a few photographs of Captured First World War Guns of the same type as is on display at Enniskillen Castle.
One is seen outside Portoral Royal School with a peir outside the entrance to Enniskillen Gaol. - With most of these First World War Trophy Guns having been cut up and smelted down during the Second World War I wonder what happened to these? (Thanks very much to Ronnie Johnston. ***PLEASE DO NOT COPY***)
U.S. Army 8th Infantry Division Flag in Enniskillen
The 8th Infantry Division of the United States Army had Units based in County Fermanagh during 1943 and 1944 when they departed in July to take part in the invasion of Occupied Europe.
Some 20 years later on 18th March 1964 Private John Burns, who had been in Fermanagh with the 8th and was from Dublin, made the journey from Frankfurt, Germany where he was still serving with the U.S. Army.
He presented the people of Enniskillen with the 8th Infantry Division flag along with a message of thanks for the friendship and cooperation of the local population from his Commander, Major General Stanley R. Larsen. (Shown here)
The Flag was accompanied with a Certificate saying “For Hospitality and Co-operation extended by Residents and Officials that will never be Forgotten”
Since leaving County Fermanagh the Division had been in combat for 226 days during which 2,532 soldiers were killed in action and 10,057 being wounded of whom 288 died of their wounds.
One of those who died was Brigadier General Nelson W. Walker who lost his life whilst leading his Platoon just 5 Days after landing in France.
At the time of his visit Private Burns was accompanied by the American Consul, Mr Byron Manfull and his wife Mrs Manfull.
On receiving the gift the Mayor of Enniskillen, Alderman W.F.Bryson declared “This is an historic occasion” and the flag was subsequently hoisted on Enniskillen Town Hall flagpole. (My sincere thanks to Roger Edmondson for this.)
British Soldiers Training on Belmore Mountain near Enniskillen
Soldiers of 5th 6th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry training on Belmore Mountain on 25th May 1942. (IWM Pictures)
Drumcose Estate, Enniskillen
16th December 1943 saw the arrival at Drumcose Estate of Company A and Company B of the 8th Medical Battalion (8th Infantry Division)
From December 1943 until June 44 Drumcose was Headquarters of 28th Infantry (8th Infantry Division) and from 15th December 1943 was used by 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry (8th Infantry Division)
Royal British Legion, Enniskillen
This stained glass item is worthy of note.
It can be seen in the Enniskillen Branch of the Royal British Legion and shows Field Marshall Montgomery with the flags of the United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Above the Union Flag is the Royal Air Force crest whilst below in the scroll the wording says "We Few. We Happy Few. We Band of Brothers"
Young Soldier Buried in Enniskillen
This is the last resting place of 6984974 Fusilier Dominic Ward of the 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
He is buried in Enniskillen Roman Catholic Cemetery and his date of death is given as 19th September 1941.
He was the son of Michael and Bridget Ward from Enniskillen.
Dominic was only 17 years old so I find it rather poignant that he has been laid to rest in full view of a Secondary School where students of the same age as Dominic are still in education.
I have been unable to find the circumstances as to how he died however I believe that it was probably either by accident or natural causes.
The soldiers of the 70th Battalion were deemed too young to be involved in service oversees and were used mainly for homeland defence.
Enniskillen Army Reserves Centre
The impressive stone pictured here shows the Cap Badge of The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
This used to sit at the front entrance of the Royal inniskilling Fusiliers Depot at St. Lucia Barracks in Omagh however, following the departure of the Military from St. Lucia Barracks this has now found a new home at Rossorry Church Road in Enniskillen and can be seen from the front gate.
United States Army Soldiers in Enniskillen
Impressive photograph of American Soldiers walking along Townhall Street, Enniskillen with my photograph of the same scene today.
(Sincere Thank-you to Chubby Fitzpatrick. Google Comp)
Entertaining the Troops in Enniskillen
Elias Michael Eliasof Joined the 28th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division in Tennessee.
Enniskillen Railway Station
Sadly Enniskillen Railway Station has long gone however this painting by David Briggs catches the atmosphere of when the U.S. Army soldiers were leaving their Sweethearts behind.
This photograph shows the Staff at Enniskillen Railway Station.
Included in the photograph are two British Soldiers - One N.C.O. in the back row along with an Officer sitting in the front row wearing an Arm Band.
The photograph dates from January 1941 and although I have no firm information as to why they were there I believe the Soldiers would have been involved in helping with Troop Movements and may have served with the Royal Engineers - If you have any information then please contact me at the E-Mail below. (Thanks to Selwyn Johnston)
Metal Collected for the War Effort, Enniskillen
As you walk around the cities and towns of Northern Ireland you may have noticed that there are a number of the older buildings which have had their perimeter fences removed.
The typical sign is a small wall left with the fence having been removed from the top.
The Government had asked for metal items to be gathered together to assist in production of items for the war effort and the civilian population helped by providing a huge amount of items such as pots, pans, beds and even perimeter fencing.This particular example can be seen in Darling Street, Enniskillen.
Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen
In 1934 Killyhevlin was purchased by Thomas J. Fearis. The purchase incorporated Killyhevlin House, a gate Lodge and 150 Acres of land. The sale of the property was agreed on condition that the House remained as "Judges Lodgings".
When Thomas Fearis died his widow, Olga, married a Cattle dealer called Alfie Graham who began taking in Paying Guests who were mainly Commecrial Travellers however during the Second World War the guests included United States Army Officers.
Manor House Hotel, Lisnarrick
During the war the Manor House was requisitioned by the Government and was used by United States Forces and an Officers Mess and Headquarters for the nearby Killadeas Flying Boat station.
Visitors to the hotel should take time to explore the immediate area which includes both Killadeas and Castle Archdale Flying Boat stations as shown on this website.
This Flying Boat Mooring Block can be seen at the Manor House Marina
Necarne Castle, Irvinestown
I cannot think of a more bizarre item to retain as a reminder of involvement in the Second World War than a Mortuary Slab!
There is no doubt however that it is most definitely something that people will look at and we are fortunate that this unique piece of our Second World War history was saved from the bulldozers by people with a desire to maintain a tangible link between Necarne Castle and its WW2 role.
Below is one of the few Nissen Huts which remain at Necarne. This can be seen in the grounds of Necarne Castle (Shown Below) in Irvinestown.
On 21st May 1942 this Hospital was opened and 109th Medical Battalion of 34th Infantry U.S. Army were based here and between 19th September 1942 and 28th December 1943. This was initially a 200 bed hospital however the military soon increased capacity to 500 beds. It was known as 160th Station Hospital of V Corps. Its name was changed to 28th Station Hospital which it remained until 19th August 1944.
Being a Hospital there was also 147th Army Postal Unit based there between 26th January and 22nd May 1944.
The old photograph shows how Necarne Castle used to look. (Thanks to Selwyn Johnston)
Sergeant Derrick Armstrong from Irvinestown.
Derrick Armstrong was just 15 years old when he enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on 24th January 1939.
He served throughout the Second World War and became a Sergeant.
Derrick Armstrong died on 16th January 1985.
He was survived by his wife Valarie and their two daughters. (Thanks very much to Andrew McAfee for information and pictures)
The Union Flag draped coffins of three Royal Air Force Personnel being brought for burial in Irvinestown.
If you have any information regarding the identities of these men and the circumstances of their deaths then please email me at the address given below.
A Military Band marches at a 201 Squadron R.A.F. Funeral in Irvinestown in August 1943.
War Graves can be found in both the Church of Ireland Cemetery (Above and below) and Roman Catholic Chapel Cemetery (Bottom)
Dont forget to look down the side of the Church of Ireland church because sadly there are many more graves to visit.
Some other Airmen also lost their lives other than through either Enemy Action or Aircraft Accidents.
21st August 1944. Flight Sgt. 1294335 William Thomas Gale, RAFVR. Age N/K Died as a result of being struck by a rotating Catalina propeller. - He is buried in Irvinestown Church of Ireland Churchyard Plot 2. Grave 54.
His headstone is shown here with those of Warrant Officer Darrell and Leading Aircraftsman Burnett shown directly below.
21st September 1944. Warrant Officer, 422693 Edward Lindsay Darrell, 22 years old. RNZAF drowned at Rock Bay, Lough Erne. He is buried in Irvinestown Church of Ireland Churchyard Plot 2. Grave 55.
31st July 1945. Leading Aircraftsman, 1701051 Kenneth John Burnett. 22 years old. RAFVR. Drowned in swimming in Lake. He is buried in Irvinestown Church of Ireland Churchyard Plot 2. Grave 68.
Irvinestown Royal Air Force Funerals
The photographs above and below are from the Private Collection of Andrew McAfee whose Grandparents House is seen in the background on the photograph above.
(Thanks very much to Andrew McAfee. ***PLEASE DO NOT COPY***)
Church of Ireland Church, Irvinestown during Burials of Air Force Officers. (Thanks very much to Andrew McAfee. ***PLEASE DO NOT COPY***)
Here are a few photographs of Royal Air Force funerals.
The first is the Church of Ireland Church while the Roman Catholic Church is shown in the second and third photographs.
Memorial to Airmen lost in Crash of Catalina Flying Boat AH551 on 16th October 1943
This Memorial is at the site where Catalina Flying Boat AH551 crashed on 16th October 1943.
The aircraft was being operated by 131 Operational Conversion Unit based at Killadeas and the Crew were on a Training Flight when the crash happened.
It was being flown by Squadron Leader Pat Cooper who was a very experienced pilot and instructor. He was demonstrating stall recovery to those on board and had put the aircraft into a spin from which he was in the process of recovery when the crash occurred.
Of the 10 men on board eight were killed with two survivors.
Flying Officer (Pilot)SPROULE, DAVID LEIGH, Service Number J/13096, Royal Canadian Air Force, Son of Gordon St. George Sproule and Helen Louise Sproule, of Westmount, Montreal, Province of Quebec, Canada. Buried Irvinestown Church of Ireland which is shown above.
Flying Officer (Pilot)GRAINGER, FRANK HERBERT, Service Number J/12769, Royal Canadian Air Force, Son of Herbert and Amy Grainger; husband of Joyce E. B. Grainger, of New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. Buried Irvinestown Church of Ireland.
Sergeant (Air Gunner)HODGSON, JOHN HARVEY, Service Number R/178888, Royal Canadian Air Force, Son of Harvey Harrison Hodgson and Margaret L. Hodgson, of Vermillion, Alberta, Canada.Sergeant (Flight Engineer)ALLEN, JAMES MILLARD, Service Number R/85646, Royal Canadian Air Force, Son of Walter George and Helen McMillan Allen. of Sutton West, Ontario, Canada. Buried at Irvinestown Roman Catholic Church.
On 11th February 1945 Short Sunderland NJ 183 of 423 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force based at RAF Castle Archdale had just taken off when there was an internal Engine Fire.
As a result of this the aircraft crashed near Dromore road in the townland of Knocknagor with the loss of all of the Crew who are now buried in Irvinestown. Their headstones are shown here.
Flying Officer (Pilot)MCLENNAN, JOHN ALEXANDER, Service Number J/26824, Aged 20
Son of Donald Ewen McLennan and Beatrice Flossie McLennan, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Son of George D. Ross and Elizabeth I. Ross, of Elgin, Manitoba, Canada.
Flying Officer (Pilot)SEEGER, JAMES ROBERT, Service Number J/28722, Aged 22
Son of James F. Seeger and Bertha C. Seeger, of Welland, Ontario, Canada.
Son of Randal and Agnes Woollatt, of Claygate, Surrey. His brother Stuart Percival Woollatt also fell.
Warrant Officer Class II (Flight Engineer)CRUICKSHANK, CHARLES EDWARD, Service Number R/58082, Aged 42
Son of Charles and Agnes Cruickshank.Pilot Officer (Air Gunner)GINGRICH, JACK, Service Number R/222058, Aged 38
Son of Menno and Mary Ann Gingrich and Husband of Margaret L. Gingrich, of West Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Flying Officer (Pilot)HAILSTONE, TERENCE RAMSAY, Service Number J/35173, Aged 20
Son of of Charles and Elsie Jane Hailstone, of Trepanier, British Columbia, Canada.
Son of Frederick, William and Jessie Louise Knibbs, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
The photograph above shows Flying Officer Hailstone with the article referring to Warrant Officer Knibbs. (Both from Findagrave)
Flying Officer (Air Gunner)WILBEE, MORLEY, Service Number J/35193
Warrant Officer Class I (Wireless Op./Air Gunner)SOUCIE, JEAN MARIE, Service Number R/117426, Aged 23
Son of Charles Soucie and of Elizabeth Soucie, of Moonbeam, Ontario, Canada.
Nine of the above are buried in the Church of Ireland Cemetery with Soucie being buried in Irvinestown Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Churchyard.
David Brien from Ballinamallard.
David Brien, Service Number 1080821, qualified as an Air Gunner on 26th February 1944 at Number 7 Air Gunnery School.
He flew in Sunderland aircraft from Killadeas with 131 Operational Training Unit and later in Burma where on one occasion he was involved in the rescue of a crash landed Liberator Crew.
The Liberator had been returning from a supply Mission to Saigon and had crash landed on Paddy Fields between Rangoon and the Sittang Estuary.
At dawn the following morning the Sunderland in which David was a Crew Member went to carry out a search.
On seeing Very Lights which were fired by the downed aircrew David's aircraft, Piloted by Flying Officer Kenneth Robinson from Weymouth in Dorset, circled the crash site and dropped medical supplies as well as food and water.
They then dropped a message to the Liberator Crew telling them to make their way to the coast.
David's Sunderland landed on the sea ten miles from shore and taxied inward firing flares to alert the downed aircrew as to their position.
The Second Pilot, Flying Officer Graham Moffitt from Henderson, Auckland, New Zealand, Flying Officer peter Young from Sheffield and Flight Sergeant David Brien from Ballinamallard as well as Sergeant R.G. Smith from Worcester paddled to shore in a rubber dinghy and fired red signal flares to guide the airmen.
Five of the Crew waded out to the dinghy along with one who was carried by local natives and the Sunderland flew them to safety.
Two other Crewmen, who had earlier set out looking for help, reached Rangoon the following day!
The Crashed Liberator is shwn below along with David Brien (Thanks very much to Eric Brien for this information and photographs.)
Crom Castle, Newtownbutler
On 6th April 1941 17th Infantry Brigade of 5th Y Division Leicester Regiment and Seaforth Highlanders arrived at Crom Castle where nissen huts were constructed in the grounds for use by soldiers while Officers lived inside the castle.
Between 16th December 1943 and June 1944 United States Army soldiers of 3d Battalion, 28th Infantry 8th Infantry Division were also based at Crom.
They had a Headquarters Company as well as Company I, K, L and M. (Picture below is from Crom Castle Commemoration Brochure)
804th Tank Destroyer Battalion, B Company, United States Army were also based for a time at Crom Castle prior to their deployment to Europe.
Seaforth Highlanders at Crom Castle
6th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders at Crom Castle, Newtownbutler. Their M.T. Section is shown here making Camouflage Netting. (IWM Pictures)
R.S.M. W. Phillips, aged 23 is shown on the left briefing Soldiers. He is believed to be the youngest R.S.M. in the Army.
On the right are C.S.M. Gerrard, R.Q.M.S. Cameron and Sergeant J. McLean who are all First World war Veterans. (IWM)
Father and Son, R.Q.M.S. Cameron and Private Cameron in the same Battalion. (IWM Pictures)
These soldiers are from 6th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders and they are seen on Exercise at Crom near Newtownbutler in November 1941. (Imperial War Museum Photograph)
Private Newbury at Crom Castle
Private L. Newbury, 4801034, Headquarters Company, Number 3 Platoon, 6th Battalion, The Seaforth Highlanders, Newtownbutler, Northern Ireland.
Private Newbury had either written or perhaps received a Love Letter when he was stationed at Crom Castle, Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh.
The remains which are shown here were found in the floor of an old Hotel / Public House at Ashton in Makerfield near Wigan!
Can you identify Pte. L. Newbury?? (Thanks very much to Pete Sudworth)
Soldiers of the 8th Infantry Division, United States Army shown above and below involved in Bayonet Practice at Crom Castle. (Thanks very much to Selwyn Johnston)
8th Infantry Division, United States Army working with a tent at Crom Castle (Thanks to Selwyn Johnston)
Beside the Tennis Court at Crom Castle (Thanks to Selwyn Johnston)
Shown above are the U.S. Army 8th Infantry Division cloth patch along with Identification "Dog Tags" belonging to Laurence C. Culver and Robert P. Killam who had been based at Crom Castle. (Thanks to Selwyn Johnston)
Oscar Henry Olsen at Crom Castle
Oscar Henry Olson was living in Oakland, California when he was Drafted into the United States Army on 11th November 1942 and from Basic Training at Camp Robinson, Arkansas Oscar joined 8th Infantry Division in January 1943 where he was assigned to the Weapons Platoon of Company L, 28th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division.
Training of various types continued until November 1943 when Oscar now found himself at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey where the training included Embarking and Debarking from vessels.
The Unit sailed from New York on 1st December 1943 on the S.S.Durban Castle which was being used as a Troopship and had 5000 troops on board during this voyage!
The ship docked in Belfast on 15th December and the Soldiers were transferred by train to Crom Castle at Newtownbutler .
(Photograph below of S.S. Durban Castle from Britisharmedforces.org)
Training took place in the surrounding countryside with Passes to Belfast as well as Newtownbutler and Lisnaskea being issued on occasions.
Oscar records that there was only one Dry Day during the month of February.
There were Reviews by both General Eisenhower and General Patton at the Regimental Headquarters and on each occasion the Generals gave Pep Talks with Eisenhower telling the men that he would have a big job for them soon!
There were concerns about the possibility of German Agents who may have been operating from Neutral Eire and the soldiers were involved in Night manoeuvres along the Border in the hope that this would initiate some radio traffic which could be monitored.
On another occasion an entire U.S. Army Regiment was moved from Base camp to Belfast where they boarded a ship for a short time before returning to Camp - This was another tactic to identify any communication by Enemy Agents.
Oscars Unit subsequently landed in Normandy on 4th July 1944 and moved to Sainte-Mere-Eglise where they relieved the 82nd Airborne Division who had been there since D-Day on 6th June.
Their first assault on German Forces took place at La Haye-Du-Puits on the Southwest side of the Cherbourg Peninsula and at this time Oscar was promoted directly to Sergeant.
Pushing forward on 25th July 1944 it was hoped to break the German defence of Brittany and with the arrival of General Patton the unit was transferred into his 3rd Army with the advance continuing until they reached Rennes.
With stubborn German resistance one of the American Regiments was dispatched to St. Malo with Oscar and the rest of his Division going to Dinard however when they arrived the Germans surrendered without a fight.
At Brest they were joined by 2nd and 28th Infantry Divisions in the siege of the city after which it was a train journey to Luxembourg where they replaces the 28th Division at Hurtgen Forest and Vossenach in the area which became known as “The Battle of The Bulge”
It was at Vossenach that Oscar Olsen was awarded the Bronze Star. (The picture below shows Oscar in 1940)
On the night of 27th / 28th February 1945 Oscar was with a considerable number of soldiers who crossed the Roer River near the City of Duren in plywood boats with artillery support whilst under fire from the Germans on the opposite bank of the river.
After some sustained fighting Oscar was among some American Soldiers who were taken Prisoner by the Germans.
They were transported through Bonn, Siegburg, Koblenz and Bad Ems and throughout this time they were attacked by Allied Aircraft.
(Below is the dreaded Telegram saying that Oscar was Missing in Action)
The journey ended in an established Prisoner of War Camp at Limburg where there were British, Indian Sikh and American P.O.W’s
Having been in the camp for 5 days the Prisoners were moved in Railway Freight Cars which were again attacked by allied Aircraft and in one attack by a U.S. Air Force P-47 Thunderbolt the train was straffed killing 14 American Officers and 2 German Guards.
When the train reached Wetzlar the P.O.W’s received their first and only Red Cross Package before moving again that night.
The next and final stop was in the town of Dutenhofen where the P.O.W.’s were split up between various houses and barns in which to sleep however within 3 hours Oscar was wakened by someone saying “The Americans Are here!!”
A Sherman Tank was in the middle of the street and Oscar was now tasting Freedom again.
(Many thanks to Oscar Henry Olsen, Judy Olsen and Selwyn Johnston) ****FROM PRIVATE COLLECTION - PLEASE DO NOT COPY****
The United States Army I.D. Disc found at Crom
United States military Personnel wear two aluminium dog-tags on a metal beaded chain around their necks.
The idea of the two is that if the individual is killed then one of them is passed through the Military to confirm his passing whilst the other ramains with the body to ensure that it is accurately accounted for and receives proper burial.
In the early 1990’s Bert Robinson was Clerk of Works for the National Trust and was involved in refurbishing the old carpenter's shop in the Forge Yard at Crom he found one section of such a “dog-tag”.
This was inscribed: 'Damian Baca. 20847583 142 A -- Mike Baca 814 Dunlop Santa Fe N.M."
Some research by Mr Colin Beacom has uncovered the following in relation to Damian Baca –
Damian Baca was born on 20th May 1921 and prior to enlisting in the Army Damian was a Bachelor and worken in “Unskilled occupations in Laundering, Cleaning, Dyeing and pressing Apparel and other garments”
His Monthly salary was $312 and he had no other income.
During 1940 he lived with his Father Miguel and Mother Catalia at 814 Dunlap Street, Santa Fe. He had two younger Brothers – Mike and Tony and had been educated to Eighth Grade in Elementary School followed by Grammar School.
It is interesting to note that Damian had volunteered to join the Army on 6th January 1941 and following the entry of the United States into the Second World War following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941 he was fortunate to survive throughout the War until his release on 28th September 1945.
He died on 26th April 1990 and was buried in Plot 5, 423 in Santa Fe National Cemetery, New Mexico on 30th April 1990.
(This information comes from the Impartial Reporter and Belfast News Letter)
A Soldiers Death at Crom
The 8th Infantry Division, United States Army was sent to Northern Ireland as part of a program to replace British troops garrisoning the area.
While it was there the 8th spent its time training, not knowing it was also being used as part of the Deception operation FORTITUDE NORTH, in which the Germans were being told it was part of a planned invasion of Norway.
One of the highlights of their time in Northern Ireland was a visit from General George Patton who gave them one of his special pep talks, in which he used such fowl language many of the men would remember it for the rest of their lives.
With food short in the country, and Army rations monotonous, they took to fishing by dropping hand grenades it he water. The concussion would stun all the fish in the area and they could just scoop them up.
The 3rd Battalion of the 28th Infantry was billeted at Crom Castle, an old estate right along the border with the Republic of Ireland. The only entertainment was the small “Reilley’s Pub” in nearby Newtownbutler. Alcohol was difficult to get due to the rationing, and often of a poor quality.
All it took to move from dreary blacked-out, heavily rationed Northern Ireland to the brightly lit, un-rationed neutral Republic of Ireland was to slip across a nearby river.
Once over the river those men that made the crossing could slip into a pub, enjoy the nightlife, and bring back alcohol that was unobtainable in the north.
This was a major problem, as every American soldier that crossed the border and was caught by the Southern Irish police (An Garda Siochana) was, in theory, supposed to be interned for the duration of the war. In practice the police seemed to turn a blind eye knowing they were just going to buy a few bottles of whisky and return to Northern Ireland.
The officers of the 3/28th tried to explain the issue to their men. That if caught they could cause a serious international incident (to say nothing of a black mark on the officer’s records).
This was the cause of an incident that was little publicized, but well known in the unit. Due to the situation the names have been withheld, but the veterans know who they are.
Private X was a bit of a troublemaker. He repeatedly crossed into the Republic of Ireland swimming the river and holding his clothes over his head to keep them dry. Once there he would go to a local pub, have a few drinks, buy some whiskey to resell to his friends, and cross back into Northern Ireland.
Lt Y was furious with him as nothing seemed to be able to stop Private X from making the illegal trip. As there was no guard house at Crom Castle, Lt. Y put him in the outdoor coal storage area: a wired enclosure used for storing coal and keeping it from being stolen.
He chose (according to the men) private Z, who was on the somewhat stupid side to guard him, and provided real ammunition for his rifle.
Lt. Y told private Z “If he so much as lights a cigarette, shoot him!” In theory this should have meant not to let Private X get away with anything, or to escape. It also could have been related to his being in a combustible area with all the coal and dust. In practice, and it is not known if this was planned (although some veterans felt it was) Private Z took it seriously.
A while later a shot rang out, and soldiers poured out of their barracks to see what had happened. Sure enough Private X had lit a cigarette, and following orders Private Z had shot and killed him.
The incident was hushed up. No action was taken against Lt. Y as he was only using a figure of speech and didn’t think he would be taken so literally. Private Z was found not to blame as he was only following orders (and was known to be a little slow). However, the men of Lt. Y’s company held it against him and blamed him for the murder of their friend.
Later on, in their first action in France, Lt. Y was killed. Another officer nearby saw it happen, and said it was single bullet from a sniper.
Long after the war one veteran of the company ran into a man from Lt. Y’s platoon and mentioned the death of Lt. Y. The response was interesting.
He said,” yeah we took care of that bastard.”
While the facts point to Lt. Y being killed by a German sniper in the hedgerows, it remains unknown if he had actually been a victim of one of his men getting revenge for Private X.
This item has been included with the permission of Jon Gawne.
Copyright Jonathan Gawne 2010. (The sources for this story must remain confidential, however they come from interviews of four separate veterans of the unit at different times and places)
Edward Jones, an Irish Guardsman from Newtownbutler
(Thanks very much to the Jones Family for this article from the Impartial Reporter)
Clough Church of Ireland, Rosslea
Flight Sergeant Thomas Lipsey Gibson was a Pilot serving with 514 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
On the night of 21st / 22nd May 1944 he was flying Lancaster Bomber DS633 JI-B on a raid to Duisberg in Germany.
Circumstances remain unclear however the Order of Battle states that this aircraft is believed to have crashed in The Wash.
A radio fix had been obtained by the R.A.F. Station at Waterbeach at 03.03 and the Crew was ordered to jettison its bombs.
The aircraft may have been shot down by the Me 410 of Johann Trenke who claimed 3 aircraft over Northern Norfolk between 0305 and 0322 on that morning. - There were no survivors however all the bodies were recovered.
Flying Officer Rowland David Betty was serving as a Wireless Operator with 50 Squadron, Royal Air Force Bomber Command when he was Killed in Action on 29th January 1944.
He is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves in Berlin "It is Better to Die on your Feet than Live on your Knees"
Flying Officer Joshua Stephen Willis was with 25 Operational Training Unit and flying Wellington 1C R1767 from R.A.F. Finningley on a Night Navigation Exercise. - A Searchlight illuminated the aircraft which crashed into the ground at Chatteris, Cambridgeshire.
James Samuel Willis is recorded on the Headstone shown here as having been in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers however the Commonwealth War Graves Commission shows him as serving with 9 Bomb Disposal Company, Royal Engineers when he died on 11th April 1941.
Killesher Church of Ireland, Florencecourt
Volunteer Betty Burleigh was serving with the Auxiliary Territorial Service when she was killed on the night of 15th / 16th April 1941.
This was the night of the Easter Tuesday Luftwaffe Air Raid on Belfast
The Danish Resistance Fighter from Derrylin
Monica Emily Wichfeld (née Massy-Beresford)
Monica was born on 12th July 1894 in London however she grew up at St Huberts which was a large Manor House in the townland of Geaglum near Derrylin.
She was the daughter of John George Massy-Beresford and Alice Elizabeth Mulholland, the granddaughter of John Mulholland who was the first Baron Dunleath of Ballywalter.
On 15 June 1916, she married Danish aristocrat and diplomat Jorgen Adalbert Wichfeld and moved to his Estate at Maribo which is southwest of Copenhagen.
At the outbreak of the Second World War Monica was in Italy however with the rise of Mussolini in 1941 she returned to Engestofte in Denmark which had been occupied by the Germans on 9th April 1940.
She became involved with the Danish Resistance and began fundraising for two underground newspapers "Frit Denmark" (Meaning Free Denmark) and "Land og Folk" (Meaning Land and People) before becoming more directly involve by concealing firearms, ammunition and explosives.
Having met S.O.E. Trained Flemming Muus she hid the Top-Secret S.O.E. Agent Jens Jacob Jensen, whose Codename was "Jacob", at her home.
Becoming more active she was involved in all aspects of the local resistance group along with collecting clandestine air drops of British Personnel and Weapons.
She assisted people to escape Denmark and hid a Jewish Family who were being hunted by the Gestapo.
"Jacob" was captured and
tortured by the Gestapo during which he gave the names of forty-four Resistance
Fighters and numerous Danish families who had been assisting them.
Among these was Monica who was arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo for four months before being put on trial in May 1944.
She was sentenced to death however this was later changed to Life Imprisonment and she was sent initially to Cottbus Prisoner Of War Camp which is Northeast of Dresden and then Waldheim Prison which is still in use today.
After suffering from TB Monica died of Pneumonia on 27th February 1945 and has no known grave.
(Information and picture from Great British Women, Revolvery and thepeoplenews.com)
Kinawley Church of Ireland, Derrylin
Monica De Wichfield Massey Beresford is named on this War Memorial at Kinawley Church.
Anthony Cavendish Butler who is named on this is also named on a Headstone in the grounds of the Church as shown below.
Lieutenant Anthony Cavendish Butler, 103008 was serving with North Irish Horse, Royal Armoured Corps attached to Number 3 Commando.
He was the Son of Henry and Blanche Cavendish Butler from Lisnaskea and was in action with 5 Troop when he was killed at Agnone and the Punta Dei Malati Bridge.
John Henry George Crighton, 5th Earl of Erne, was a Major serving with Royal Horse Guards attached to 12th Royal lancers, Royal Armoured Corps.
He was killed in action on 23rd May 1940 and is buried at Wormhoudt Cemetery, France.
Thomas Herbert Johnston, Number 1798342, was the Son of George and Annie Elizabeth Johnston from Aghalane and was a Leading Aircraftman.
He died on 21st June 1946 and id buried in Celle War Cemetery, Germany.
John Wallace was a Bombardier serving with the Royal Artillery.
Devenish Church of Ireland, Monea
Sergeant James Irvine McCullagh was an Air Gunner serving with 427 (Royal Canadian Air Force) Squadron, R.A.F. when he died on 22nd October 1943.
Edward L. Scott is recorded on this Headstone nearby as having been Killed in Action on 31st March 1942.
Lough Navar Air Crash Memorials
These are 2 memorials side by side at the Lough Navar Viewpoint relating to the crashes of a 201 Squadron Sunderland and 202 Squadron Catalina in November 1943 and November 1944 respectively.
The wording on the two memorials is as follows :-
Sunderland W4036 Of 201 Squadron RAF Sank in Lough Erne on November 18th 1943 Flt/Lt Douglas J Dolphin RCAF (Skipper) age 23
Sgt. John B Green RAF age 23 Sgt Elvert Parry RAF age 20 Killed. Buried Flintshire. Wales.
Remember all airmen based on Lough Erne who died in World War Two"
The accident took place when Night Landings were being practiced at 21.25 hours. Although three airmen were killed the remaining Crew Members survived.
"CATALINA JX 242 OF 202 SQN. KILLADEAS. CRASHED AT LOUGH AN LABAN ON NOVEMBER 20th 1944 EIGHT CREW MEMBERS DIED
Flt/Lt. George Forbes-Lloyd RAF (Skipper), P/O William Sharpe RAAF, W/O Ernest Slack RAF, Sgt. Fred Deam RAF, Sgt. John Geldert RAF, Sgt. Peter Marshall RAF, Sgt. Douglas Nater RAF, Sgt. Gordon Tribble RAF "
(Photograph of Douglas Dolphin from Canadian Veterans Virtual War Memorial) and Newspaper Article from Montreal Gazette)
Shown here is the headstone of Pilot Officer William Sharp who was laid to rest in the Church of Ireland graveyard in Irvinestown.
"In memory of Elvet, Grandson, Died in Action" - Buried in Mold Cemetery. (Many thanks to David Smith)
This photograph of P.F.C. Phil Callaghan was taken at Lough Navar during the search for one of the crashed Aircraft. (Many thanks to Breege McCusker and Selwyn Johnston for permission to use this photograph)
The two photographs above show some of the wreckage of Catalina JX242 which can still be seen at the crash site. (Thanks very much to Peter Graham)
Derrygonnelly Boy Killed by Second World War Ordnance on 19th April 1952.
The boy picked up the bomb and showed it to his seventeen years old brother Harold, who handed it back to him and went on playing. Almost immediately there was a terriffic explosion which killed Brendan instantaneously.
Giving evidence at the inquest Harold Walker (17), said that accompanied by his two brothers, Brendan aged 14 and Jim aged 11, he left home about 1.30PM on Sunday, and rowed across to Innislougher island, a short distance from their home.
When they arrived they played together, and after about 15 minutes, Brendan called him over and showed him an object which he had in his hand. It was like a cylinder in shape, made of tin with a lead top. Witness handled it. It was heavy weighing he thought about one pound. It was painted red except for the lead portion. He thought there was a number on it. and it was about four Inches long.
Witness did not know what it was. He thought Brendan found it near the place where the accident occurred. He gave the object back to Brendan, who sat down and began examining it.
Witness continued playing nearby. A few minutes later, when he had his back turned to Brendan, he heard a loud bang and saw a heavy cloud of smoke and ran out of the way. He went back and saw Brendan lying on his back. He lifted him and found he was dead. He and Jim rushed back to the boat and went home where he told his brother George, who returned him to the island. They brought back the body.
Dr. Forster, Fermanagh County Hospital, to which the body was conveyed, described terrible injuries to the deceased boy.
He said the eyes had been blown out, the stomach had been ripped open, the left hand was gone, the first finger and thumb of the right hand were gone, and the left thigh was pulled out of joint and turned right round and fractured. The face was badly disfigured.
George Walker gave evidence of taking the body from the island, and Jim Walker said he was up a tree at the time of the explosion. He had seen Brendan with the object.
Const. Prentice, Derrygonnelly. said over a radius of thirty feet from a pool of blood on the island there were scattered fragments of clothing and flesh and pools of blood.
Outside that distance he found a heavy metal base of some kind of bomb or grenade, two and a quarter inches long, with pieces of flesh, clothing and blood attached to it.
It smelled strongly of powder as if it had been recently exploded. That was between six and seven o’clock on Sunday evening.
A verdict of death was returned by misadventure caused by some kind of bomb or detonator, there being no evidence to show of what make.
Head Constable Gregg and Mr. J. Baker, foreman of the jury, expressed sympathy with the parents, Mr.and Mrs. William Walker, who live with their family on a little cottage on the Ely estate.
(Old Newspaper Item. Thanks to Selwyn Johnston)