Shown above are the Control Tower and Crash Tender shed as they stand today. As can be seen the Control Tower is in remarkable condition and surely merits preservation.
Cluntoe was known by the United States 8th Air Force as AAF 238 Combat Crew Replacement Centre B. It was originally supposed to be an Operational Training Unit for Bombers and site construction began in 1940 making it one of the earlier Airfields of the time.
With number 4 Combat Crew Replacement Centre being operational at Cluntoe there were 57 B-17 Flying Fortress Crews who passed through the Centre between November 1943 and February 1944.
Easily accessible beside the village of Ardboe there are 3 runways with a wide selection of buildings to keep the visitor happy
(Thanks very much to Paul Mooney for this photograph of the Control Tower at Cluntoe as it used to look)
Cluntoe Operations Block
The two photographs above show a 1940 pattern Operations Block at Cluntoe.
Norden Bomb Sight Building, Cluntoe
More photographs showing the inside of one of these Buildings can be seen at Toome.
The "1943" has been written in the cement of an air vent - Norden Bomb Sight Buildings will usually have a strong smell of Oil.
Cluntoe Night Flying Equipment Store
Cluntoe Shooting Range Butts
Well Done to the gentleman who has the Shooting range Butts in his front garden - He has created a very steep lawn!
Two Turret Trainer Building, Cluntoe
The picture above appears to refer to Private J.G.Peluser and Private First Class M.W.Cooley with the date April 17th 1944.
Within a couple of months these Soldiers would be in the thick of battle in Occupied Europe!
(Visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/yourplaceandmine/ for more information.)
Aerial picture of a "Snowflake" Aircraft dispersal at Cluntoe Airfield.
To give an idea of scale there is a House in the bottom right on the picture!
War Bond Fund Raising Rally 31st August 1944
The above pictures come from R.A.F. Cluntoe War Diary.
Sewage Disposal Works
(Thanks very much to Paul Mooney for these photographs) ***PLEASE DO NOT COPY****
Various Site Buildings
(Thanks very much to Paul Mooney for these photographs) ***PLEASE DO NOT COPY****
Cluntoe Airfield post war. (From Ardboe Gallery)
Toilet facilities shown above. (Thanks very much to Paul Mooney for these photographs) ***PLEASE DO NOT COPY****
This appears to be Dispersed Living Quarters. (Thanks very much to Paul Mooney for these photographs) ***PLEASE DO NOT COPY****
Interesting to see the iconic Cream and Light Blue paint still clearly visible.
(Thanks very much to Paul Mooney for these photographs) ***PLEASE DO NOT COPY****
This Nissen Hut had been at Cluntoe before being moved to the Bannfoot area where it was used for a time by the Ulster Special Constabulary. (From Gumtree)
Here you can see Cluntoe as it looked in the early years of the Second World War. The dispersals shown above can be seen on the mid left of this picture.
(From the book "British Military Airfields" by David J. Smith)
United States Army Air Force Bomber Crew at Cluntoe Airfield
Paul W. Perry Crew 466th Bomber Group - 785th and 74th Bomb Squadrons Standing Left to Right: William Bento (R/O), Paul W. Perry (P), Joseph R. Kelly (CP), Lloyd K. Randolph (N), Gerald D. Camp (FE) Kneeling Left to Right: Jack F. Towner (G), John F. Durtsche (BTG), Oliver J. Rauch (B), Robert L. Traeger (WG) Arel A. Bye (G) This crew was originally assigned to the 492nd Bomber Group before being transferred to the 466th Bomber Group . This photograph was taken at Cuntoe Airfield. (Visit http://www.americanairmuseum.com/media/15980 for more info.)
Change of Personnel at Cluntoe
A detachment of Royal Air Force Personnel pass in review during Ceremonies changing over the Airfield at Cluntoe from the Royal Air Force to the United States Army Air Force.
Captain K. K. Wallick, the new Commanding Officer acknowledges the salute.
Squadron Leader W. B. Rawling, Former Commanding Officer of R.A.F. Clutone, congratulates Capt. K. K. Wallick of the United States Army Air Force who was the new Commanding Officer. Photograph taken on 29th August 1943.
(These photographs are from Fold 3 and are available to EVERYONE)
Combat Crew Code Training Room, Cluntoe
SC Keyer, TG-10-F (60) cycle used in Combat Crew training in the Code Training Room of Army Air Force Station number 238 at Cluntoe.
Photograph taken on 30th December 1943.
(The photographs above are from Fold 3 which is available to EVERYONE below:-https://www.fold3.com/s.php#query=Northern+Ireland&preview=1&t=495)
There was a small Radar Station at Ballinderry.
It was off the Ballinderry Bridge Road and was a Chain Home Beam Station and Ground Control Intercept Station.
One building was at the site until around 2017.
Dungannon War Memorial
On looking at the names on the War Memorial in Dungannon it is interesting to see that there are 2 names of men who served with the United States Army.
Robert Meglaughlin is recorded by the U.S. Army as McLaughlin. He was born in 1907 in Northern Ireland but emigrated to the United States where he enlisted in the U.A. Army at Albany, New York on 18th June 1942.
He was serving with 109th Engineer Combat Battalion, 34 Infantry Division in Italy when he was killed on 5th November 1943.
At that time he was checking for Mines and Booby-traps in an area Southwest of Santa Maria Olivetto when he stood on an S Mine.
He is buried in Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy which is shown below.
George Montgomery is described by the U.S. Army as being from the Irish Free State.
He enlisted at New York City on 31st January 1941 and served with 165 Infantry, 27 Infantry Division.
He died on Makin Island, which is now known as Butaritari Island and is part of the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific Ocean on 21st November 1943 and is mentioned on the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and Honolulu, Hawaii.
I have been informed that George Montgomery was from Coalisland and is remembered on a headstone in the graveyard of the Newmills Church.
(Thanks very much to Alex Field for your assistance.)
The Dungannon War Memorial can be seen in the background of this photograph (Copyright Unknown)
Archie Morrow from Dungannon.
Archie Morrow, Service Number 6975767 served in the army from 1931 until 1946 in both the Royal Irish Fusiliers and Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
He enlisted in August 1931 and after training found himself in Bombay in 1932. Two years later he was in China and then Malaya - All of this before the start of the Second World War!
September 1939 saw Archie serving with 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and seeing action with the British Expeditionary Force in France.
At one stage he was reported Missing in Action and Family legend has it that he borrowed a bicycle from a French mademoiselle and made his way back to his unit outside Ypres before getting back to the U.K. on 1st June 1940.
During 1942 Archie saw service in Madagascar (Where he caught Malaria), India and Iraq before joining the British North Africa Force on 29th August 1943.
He was badly wounded in Sicily. This is believed to have happened at Lemon Bridge when Archie was driving his Commanding Officer in a Jeep. The jeep was hit and his C.O. was killed with Archie receiving a leg wound from which he suffered for the rest of his life.
Having recovered sufficiently from his wounds Archie
rejoined his unit just in time for Anzio and Monte Casino!
He finished his war in Villach, Austria, where there was a stand off with the partisans whom they'd just fought alongside before returning to Number 1 Military Disembarcation Unit Camp on 28th October 1945.
(Thanks very much to Jeff Smith for this fantastic information and photographs)
Dungannon and Castlecaulfield
The Dungannon and Castlecaulfield areas had much happening during the war.
The American 8th Infantry Division were based at Ballynorthland Demesne as well as a Prisoner of War Camp at Dungannon Park.
Sadly nothing appears to remain.
There was much training taking place in the area with Firing Ranges being used at Dunamony Wood as well as grenade practice at Annaghmackeown.
I believe that the Range at Dunamony Wood was beside Dungannon Road and aerial photography appears to show measured Firing Lines that are still visible.
It is difficult to identify the precise location of the Grenade Range however a small building near the junction of the Annaghmackeown Road and Finulagh Road has an appearance similar to a small Ablution Block which may have been constructed for the use of Troops on the Range.
The various American Units which were based within this area included 1st Battalion 133rd Infantry, 34th Infantry Division.
The various American Units which were based within this area included 1st Battalion 133rd Infantry, 34th Infantry Division.
Some soldiers were billeted in Parkanaur Hall,(Top) with officers at Castlecaulfield House (Right)) while other soldiers stayed at Acheson Hall in Castlecaulfield (Left)
Of the British Army units who were training in the Dungannon area 59th Division Staffs arrived in October 1941 and Castlecaulfield was also home to the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry for a time.
Church of Ireland, Castlecaulfield
This War Memorial can be found in Castlecaulfield Church Of Ireland Church.
George Hall, Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy is included on this Memorial.
I believe George was born on 14th January 1901. His parents were Mary Jane and Thomas Edward and he lived at Reascor, Castlecaulfield.
Any other information would be much appreciated.
The Headquarters of the American 552d Quartermaster Railhead Company was based at Seskinore House.
The large House has now gone however some evidence still remains.
Above left is a large concrete area similar to those I have seen at other U.S. Military Locations such as Aughintane House.
Below is a Fuel Store which is nearby and concealed among the trees. - It has a modern warning sign on the door.
Above is a view of the large yard, Inside the archway on the right is the sign "Superintendent's Office" as shown below as well as an old heraldic Crest. The photograph bottom right shows what was known as "The Lions Gate"
The 2 photographs above show Kiln Street in Fintona.
The top picture shows men from the Motor Pool of Headquarters Company 135th Infantry washing their vehicles in the river on 5th November 1942.
It is interesting to note that the old Royal Ulster Constabulary Police Station is the large white building to the left of the original picture.
I have also included a photograph of the area where the work was taking place below.
Ecclesville House, Fintona
The old Ecclesville House was demolished some years ago however this original stone can still be seen at the Ecclesville centre in Fintona.
Ecclesville House became a headquarters for 135th Infantry, 34th Infantry Division, U.S. Army in 1942 and between 15th December 1943 and 1944 was used by men of 8th Quartermaster Company, 8th Infantry Division.
St Lucia Barracks, Omagh
St Lucia Barracks can be found on Derry Road in Omagh and some of the large Barrack Blocks can be seen in the photograph above (Which can be dated to the 1980/90's by the Chinook Helicopter)
It was commissioned in the 1880's and given the name St Lucia after the West Indian Island.
This was the Garrison of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and Royal Ulster Rifles who joined with the Royal Irish Fusiliers in going to France in 1939 at the start of the Second World War as part of the British Expeditionary Force.
Now a listed building the barracks is no longer used by Military personnel however the white tablet shown here currently remains while the silver gun is now on display in the Castle Museum in Enniskillen.
The wording on the memorial says "This tablet is erected by 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in memory of their comrades who lost their lives during their tour of Foreigh Service 1888 - 1908" - Sadly many more soldiers from the Regiment were to be killed in later wars.
This is a page from "The War Illustrated" which was printed in 1947 and shows 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers returning to their Regimantal Depot at St Lucia Barracks in Omagh. (The War Illustrated)
The Barracks Hospital is shown above with the Officers Mess below (From Geograph.ie)
The Corporals Mess in on the left with a Plaque giving some information on the right. (From Geograph.ie)
The St Lucia and Waterloo Blocks are shown above. The front is on the left with a view of the rear of the building to the right. (From Geograph.ie)
The Regimental Sergeant Major's House with the Parade square through the pillar to the left in the picture. (From Georgaph.ie)
James Alexander McCarron, Emerson McCarron and Edward Laird, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
James was part of the B.E.F. when he was wounded resulting in his loss of sight. (James in middle right of the picture above)
Having been captured by the Germans he was a Prisoner of War for a time before being repatriated to Northern Ireland where he received treatment at the Military Hospital at Campbell College.
Fortunately his sight later returned and with that James returned to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
On his return to the Regiment James was serving with 1st Battalion along with his Brother, Emerson (Who is seen above left)
Emerson was 19 years old when he had joined the Army in 1933. He had initally been with the Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards before transferring to the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
The brothers found themselves in action during the first Arakan Campaign between November 1942 until May 1943 as well as the Battle of the Sittang Bend when James was captured and became a Prisoner of War of the Japanese.
When James was captured other Inniskillings, including Emerson, took part in the rescue of a number of Prisoners of War.
Those who were rescued included a number of Inniskillings as well as members of the 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery.
The men were found in appauling conditions. Kept in small bamboo cages with insufficient space to sit or lie down.
With so many of them suffering from malaria and dysentery the ground was covered in human faeces.
Men who were found to have been injured when captured were used as bayonet practice or target practice by the Japanese.
James and Emerson had a half-brother called Edward Laird who was serving with 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
He was with Emerson at the destruction of the Yenangyaung Oil Fields in April 1942.
Edward was a signaller and was captured with two others who were subsequently shot by their captors.
When Edward had complained about this he was punished by being bound hand and foot before being forced to his knees. A Japanese Officer then raised his sword above his head and brought it straight down splitting Edwards head apart.
The bodies of these three men were left lying on a river bank to be eaten by wild animals however, having obtained permission from their captors, Inniskilling P.O.W's were permitted to bury them but without removing personal effects from the bodies.
The body of Edward Laird was never recovered and he is remembered at Taukkyan Cemetery in Yangon.
He had joined the Army when he was just 16 years old in 1936 and was murdered when he was 22 years old.
Emerson (Who is shown here) was hospitalised in Ranchi, India where he was treated for malaria and foot rot before returning to Northern Ireland in 1944.
He continued to serve with "The Skins" for a total of 24 years, including T.A. Service however recurring bouts of malaria took their toll and he finally died in September 1980 at the age of 66.
James was also fortunate to survive the war.
Nec Aspera Terrant (By difficulties undaunted) (Thank-you very much to Denise McCarron Parks for everything)
Prisoner Of War Camp - Lisanelly, Omagh
Enemy prisoners of war were detailed at Lisanelly Military Barracks
The two Bed Plates shown here were attached to Beds which were in use in Omagh County Hospital.
Alexander Buchanan was the Son of Robert A and Isabella J Buchanan from Artigarvan and serving in the Royal Navy as a Steward aboard H.M.S. Broadwater which was part of the Newfoundland Escort Force patrolling the North Atlantic and guarded convoys against U-Boat attacks.
Early in the morning of 17 October 1941 H.M.S. Broadwater attacked a U-boat which was one of a pack attacking Convoy SC-48. The following day HMS Broadwater was struck by torpedoes fired from U-101 and sank at 1340 hours on the same day killing Steward Buchanan who has no known grave.
Thomas Foster Darragh was the Son of Robert and Elizabeth Mary Darragh from Ballymagorry.
He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and was serving as a Sergeant Air Gunner with 218 Squadron.
On 22nd February 1945 Sergeant Darragh was aboard Lancaster NG450 on a raid to oil refineries at Gelsenkirchen when the aircraft was shot down by flak over the target.
The Pilot, Flying Officer Muschamp was killed along with both gunners, including Sergeant Darragh.
There were four Crew who survived the attack and were able to parachute free however on landing they were beaten by members of the Gestapo, before being sent to Prisoner of War Camps.
Sergeant Darragh is buried in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.
Robert Donnell was the Son of William and Elizabeth Margot Donnell from Ballee.
He was serving as a Serjeant with 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers when he was Killed on 12th September 1942 and is buried in Delhi War Cemetery.
James Stewart Hunter was the Son of Annie Hunter from Strabane.
He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and was serving with 100 Squadron.
On 17th January 1943 he was Flight Engineer aboard Avro Lancaster W4372 PH-G which took off from R.A.F. Wickenby at 16.43 on a mission to bomb Berlin. No further communication was received from the aircraft or crew who are all missing presumed killed and are named on the Runnymede Memorial.
Richard Jack was serving as a Fusilier with 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers when he was killed on 23rd May 1940.
He is buried in Esquelmes War Cemetery between Tournai and Kortrijk in Belgium.
My belief is that he may have been part of a rearguard action during the escape from Dunkirk.
Thomas Nicholl was an Ordinary Seaman with the Merchant Navy aboard S.S. Fort Lamy.
The ship had left New York on 23rd February 1943 bound for Liverpool as part of Convoy SC 121.
The cargo included explosives and a Landing Craft Tank L.C.T.2480 which was on the deck.
The ship became a straggler from the Convoy and was torpedoed by U-Boat U-527.
The Master, 39 Crew Members and 6 Gunners were killed with 3 Crew Members and 2 Gunners being picked-up after 12 days and brought to St Johns, Newfoundland.
If you have any information regarding these then PLEASE contact me at the Email address below. (U-Boat.net CWGC, Google)
The picture to the right shows soldiers of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on parade outside the Courthouse in Omagh where some American soldiers were billeted.
Omagh A.T.S. Billet
These buildings are on Killybrack Road in Omagh and are only a short distance from what had been Lisanelly Barracks.
They were used as billets for members of the A.T.S. (Auxiliary Territorial Service) during the war.
Royal Arms Hotel, Omagh
The Royal Arms Hotel was used by the Military as a "Red Cross Club". The building which housed the Royal Arms Hotel is shown above.
Both the Court House and Royal Arms Hotel were used by the American Red Cross.
On looking through Omagh Cemetery you will see a number of Headstones such as are shown here.
Sergeant Robert Samuel Carson was a Pilot with the Royal Air Force when he died on 27th November 1941.
Rifleman Gwylim George Matthers was serving with the Royal Ulster Rifles
Serjeant Thomas McNeice was with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Three Soldiers from the South Wales Borderers have been laid to rest in Omagh Cemetery.
William Duggan's final resting place is shown above with Charles Freeman and Arthur Coates below. All were Privates and serving with 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers.
Corporal Hyndman was serving with the Royal Engineers and Patrick McGaghran was in the Pioneer Corps.
This Headstone refers to Patrick Donnelly of the Royal Irish Fusiliers who died on 11th September 1944 and is buried at Le Havre in Northern France.
563 Quartermaster Battalion and 592 Ordnance Ammunition Company of the United States Army were stationed for a time in Carrickmore within the grounds of the Church of Ireland Rectory at Ballintrain Road in the village.
The U.S. Army was segregated by race and these men were from ‘Colored’ Units who were not to be deployed in Front Line action.
The entensive rail network around Northern Ireland was kept busy with the War Effort and it was by rail that much of the ammunition finally arrived in Carrickmore after having perhaps crossed the Atlantic Ocean. - Shown above is a photograph of the site of the old Carrickmore Railway Station (Google)
On arrival at Carrickmore the ammunition was then taken to nearby fields where is was stacked and covered with tarpaulin sheets and the site guarded before subsequently being transported by road when it was to be distributed. (Thanks very much to Judith Lyons for her help with this item)
S.A.S. Soldier from Cookstown Murdered by the Gestapo
Among the names on Cookstown War Memorial is that of Trooper Thomas James “Tot” Barker who was murdered by the Gestapo.
At 23.34 on the night of 4th July 1944 Captain Garstin and eleven other S.A.S. Soldiers took off from Keevil Airfield in a Short Stirling aircraft to be dropped by parachute behind enemy lines at near La Ferte-Alais to the south of Paris as part of “Operation Gain”
The Unit had been divided into two groups with all of the Northern Ireland soldiers being with Captain Garstin and Lance Corporal Vaculik who was Free French.
French Resistance Fighters had been informed of the parachute drop however two of them believed that a third, who used to take used parachutes and sell them in Paris, was missing for some time and may have been captured by the Gestapo.
On the previous night of 3rd / 4th July a coded BBC radio message had been received by the Resistance Fighters telling them of a Parachute Drop however on that occasion the flight was cancelled with insufficient time to inform the French.
Ominously while they waited at the Drop-Zone some automatic gunfire was heard in the area.
The following night the Resistance again went to the same location having received another coded message via BBC Radio however on this occasion the first two Frenchmen to arrive were fired on and killed by Germans and all of the others, except one, returned home not knowing that the Germans knew the recognition letter for the drop which was “B for Bertie”
At 01.53 the S.A.S. parachuted from the aircraft with most landing on the Drop Zone, which was a field of wheat, whilst the final five to jump had landed in a Wood. At the edge of the D.Z. was a group of men wearing civilian clothes who greeted Captain Garstin with the words “Vive la France” immediately after which the soldiers came under fire from automatic weapons.
There was a brief exchange of fire however it soon became obvious that the S.A.S. were surrounded and subsequently Vaculik was captured at 06.00 and Corporal Jones an hour later. - They soon learned that Captain Garstin, Lieutenant Wiehe, Trooper Thomas James “Tot” Barker (Previously of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and from Cookstown, County Tyrone) and Lance Corporal Howard Lutton (Who had been Army Air Corps and from County Armagh) had also been captured after being wounded.
Lance Corporal Lutton subsequently died of his wounds and is buried in Clichy Northern Cemetery.Captain Garstin and Trooper Barker received hospital treatment for their wounds whilst the other men were initially taken to a converted Hotel near Champ de Mars in central Paris and then a Gestapo Headquarters where they were kept and interrogated for three days before being returned to the converted hotel.
A day or two later Captain Garstin and Trooper Barker were reunited with the other soldiers however Captain Garstin was very weak.
On 8th August all of the soldiers were given civilian clothing and told that they were to be exchanged for German Agents who were held by the British in London and that they were required to wear civilian clothing to ensure that they could pass through civilian areas.
At 01.00 the following morning all of the men were told to board a lorry and were driven north of Paris.
About five hours later they reached a Wood which was East of Noailles and here they were ordered out of the lorry and told to walk along a narrow path to a clearing in the Wood.
Corporal Vaculik (Who is shown above right) asked if they were to be shot and received a reply to that effect.
The S.A.S. men were lined up from left to right Jones, Captain Garstin, Corporal Vaculik, Varey, “Tot” Barker, Joseph Walker (From Moira, County Down) and William Pearson “Billy” Young (Previously Royal Ulster Rifles and from Randalstown, County Antrim), although it is not certain if the order was Barker, Walker or Walker, Barker.
Facing the men were a number of Gestapo. Two Officers who were armed with Sten guns at the ready whilst another read out the Sentence. A Sergeant of the Gestapo who translated and a Gestapo Agent in civilian clothes.
The Sentence was as follows :- “For having wished to work in collaboration with the French Terrorists and thus to endanger the German Army, you are condemned to the Penalty of Death and will be Shot”
On hearing the word “Shot” all of the men tried to escape into the woods.
Corporal Vaculik managed to get away while Corporal Jones tripped and fell. The Gestapo men ran past him thinking he was dead and when he got up again he saw four bodies lying where they had been shot but could not identify them before he tried to escape.
This Incident was investigated by Captain Sadler and Major Poat of the S.A.S. who visited Noailles around 20th September and on speaking with the local Resistance Leader he showed them where he believed the murders had taken place and also where the bodies of the S.A.S. soldiers were buried.
A grave had been dug in a wooded area about two miles from where the shooting had taken place and near a large chateau that is approximately one mile to the east of Noailles.
The Resistance fighter said that the Germans had a two day Curfew in place following the shooting and were searching for the bodies of Soldiers Jones and Vaculik.
The bodies of 5 murdered S.A.S. men lay at the scene for three days before finally being buried by a German Army Unit consisting of one Officer and approximately nine men who had been in the Chateau.
During the Investigation it was necessary to open the grave and on doing so a total of five bodies were found. All of them were dressed in civilian clothing and showed signs of having been handcuffed.
One of the bodies was identified as that of Captain Garstin.
All of the bodies were subsequently buried in Marrissel Cemetery at Beauvais with Captain Garstin being grave number 325 and the others 326 - 329.
The Gestapo had tried to conceal their actions so the Investigation looked into the Germans who had occupied the Chateau who had buried the bodies.
A woman Collaborator, who had worked for the Germans in the Chateau and believed that they had been a Luftwaffe Signal Section, identified a number of the soldiers including Captain Hans Garling, Officer Hans Zool and Oberfeldwebel Gall.
During a subsequent Criminal Investigation by the Special Air Service a number of those who were involved in this crime were arrested and convicted - Thanks to the eyewitness evidence of Corporal Vaculik!
(My sincere thanks to Honor Barker and Martin Brennan for their valued assistance and Colin Heyburn for the Headstone photographs above and below)
(Thanks very much to Andrew Charles for the above photograph)
Robert Thomas Kelso from Cookstown
Robert Thomas Kelso was from Cookstown.
He enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 31 January 1940 and served throughout the Second World War as a Radio Operator in a Churchill Tank.
The photograph top left shows him after having enlisted when he was a Private.
The sketch top right shows Robert in Tunisia and was done by one of his Comrades.
The bottom picture shows Tanks in Italy. (Thanks very much to Eddie Kelso for these pictures and information) *** PLEASE DO NOT COPY PHOTOGRAPHS***
Cookstown Town Centre
The famous 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army arrived in Northern Ireland. The bulk of the Division, under the command of Major-General M.B. Ridgeway was based around the Cookstown and Castledawson areas. They were involved in detailed training in the areas around Cluntoe.
The pictures here show the 2nd Battalion of the 28th Quartermaster Regiment marching along James Street
On the right is 2nd Battalion 28th Quartermaster Truck Company (Colored) on parade in Cookstown. (Picture from "Home Away From Home" Book)
Cookstown Quonset Hut
On the Dungannon Road leaving Cookstown is now a licensed premises where this old American "Quonset Hut" can be seen.
It was from this area that soldiers of D, E and F Companies of 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army made their home prior to deployment for D-Day.
Drum Manor, Cookstown
Drum Manor was used by G and H Company of the same Unit while between 15th December 1943 and 12th February 1944
Shown top left is a Paratrooper from H Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Drum Manor Camp. The Regiment had arrived in Northern Ireland after having been relieved in Italy in November 1943.
In the centre picture is an H Company Trooper.
Private Gilbert L. Gamelcy, who was nicknamed "Moose", and his Squad behind him are seen above right showing how they would jump from a C-47.
"Moose" is also shown on the left posing with his shaving gear after having a shower and also wearing his Jump Gear ready for a practice jump.
He subsequently became one of H Companies Pathfinders in Normandy and a Four Combat Jump Trooper.
(Photographs from 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment Association)
The photograph to the left shows nine Second Platoon Members of H Company 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at Cookstown.
Kneeling left to right are Unknown, John D. Foster and Weldon Grissom.
Standing from left to right are Clement Gudziunas, Unknown, Donald M. Schultz, Joseph T. Stehn and Jack Gividen.
At the centre back is Harold F. Reid who was killed in Action in Normandy.
(Photographs from 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment Association)
My photographs here show the Headstone of Harold Reid at the american Cemetery in Normandy. Firstly as it usually stands and secondly with sand from Omaha Beach rubbed into the lettering to make it more outstanding.
Killymoon Castle, Cookstown
A and B Companies, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army were based at Killymoon Castle where quonset huts were built in the grounds for the men while officers enjoyed the use of the Castle.
The Memorial Stone can be seen near the entrance to the castle and this Stirrup Pump is in one of the three red bricked buildings which are illustrated here. All of these date from the Second World War.
To the left is an old vehicle inspection ramp which remains as well as a "Bleach Baths" sign - Bleach was used for decontamination of vehicles
I believe this would have been used as a Field Kitchen.
The Water Tower shown on the left is immediately behind the building shown directly above.
It is interesting that this is virtually the same at a building I have photographed at Beltrim Castle which can be seen in the County Tyrone Part 2 Section which was used as a Dining Area / Mess for the Men. I expect this building was similarly used.
Looking at the Water Tower you can see "N.I.D.O. I/C R.E. STORES BELFAST" painted on the side.
This refers to "Northern Ireland District Officer In Charge Royal Engineers Stores, Belfast" meaning that this Water Tank was held by the Royal Engineers who may have constructed the building.
Shelves where equipment was stored. *****PLEASE DO NOT COPY ANY OF THESE PHOTOGRAPHS*****
This Room was used as a Prison Cell for those who fell foul of Military Regulations.
Signs of The Soldiers at Killymoon Castle
There are lots of Signs to be seen. - B Company, Number 11 Platoon Stores and above was "Officers Mess Staff and Batman" - You can see that "Mess" has been changed by some whit to "Hess" as in the name of Rudolf Hess, the Nazi who was arrested in Britain.
Orderly Room and Quartermasters Staff would both have been the Aid to the relevant Superior Officer. To the right is a rather poor drawing of Hitler!
The Sign below is beside a small room which may have been used as a Prison Cell. The sign says "Regimental Police and Prisoners"
*****PLEASE DO NOT COPY ANY OF THESE PHOTOGRAPHS*****
There are quite a few Signs on display - "A Coy V.M. Cadre" refers to A Company Vehicle Maintenance Cadre. The writing on the right is "Anti Gas" which may have referred to the type of equipment which was stored there.
There are references to a number of British Regiments.
Above it says "The Royal Berkshires" whilst a Soldier from Essex has proclaimed "Brentford To Win The Cup" as seen to the right.
Someone from D Company 1st Battalion of The Middlesex Regiment left a brief message in April 1942. It appears that the Middlesex Regiment wanted to ensire that they left their mark as can be seen from the comments below. - "The Middlesex Die Hards" *****PLEASE DO NOT COPY ANY OF THESE PHOTOGRAPHS*****
Here it says "My Irish Dashing Diehards Look Especially Smart Every Xmas"
Below are the names of some English Soldiers, Private Lovegrove and Lance Corporal Radbourne and then a rather lengthy comment.
Among the Regiments to have been based here appear to have been the Royal Army Service Corps.
Drawings of Hitler can be seen in a few places.
I have included another interesting comment below.
If you don't have a Notebook then it seems that some people just wrote on the walls!
On the left is says "1,200 Loose rounds" (Meaning ammunition) and on the right is a list of Soldiers names and showing that they have been issued with a Rifle and 40 rounds of Small Arms Ammunition.
Below is a list of Comical Sayings which have been written by an English Soldier. *****PLEASE DO NOT COPY ANY OF THESE PHOTOGRAPHS*****
Here is a list of Soldiers Names with the serial Number of the Rifle they had been issued. This is still pinned to the back of a door.
Details from some English Soldiers.
T. Clifton wrote his details on 10th February whilst A.King tells us he lived at Rylston Road, Reading and dated this 19th September 1942.
Being from Reading he may well have been a member of the Royal Berkshire Regiment
A few Reversed Swastika's can be seen as shown here.
On the right is a List of Standing Orders in regard to Passive Air Deence and Fire.
They were produced by 10th Battalion East Surrey Regiment and dated 15th February 1943.
Shown below is an old stove from which the Soldiers were expected to obtain some heat and perhaps make countless cups of tea.
AMERICAN SOLDIERS at Killymoon
Private Tony J. Vickery was serving with Headquarters Company 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army. As shown in my photograph he included the Army Post Office 469 Number as well as his home city of Atlanta in Georgia.
Private Vickery's Army Service Number was 141147495 and his Nickname was the "Milk Bar Commando" because Milk Shakes were his favourite drink.
A non-smoker who did not drink alcohol Tony Vickery had became a technician 4th Grade when he parachuted into Normandy on 6th June 1944.
On the morning of 11th June 1944 Tony Vickery was on sentry duty whilst the Soldiers he was with were catching up on some sleep in a ditch when a group of German Soldiers came into view from nearby woods. He waited until they were approximately 10 meters from his position before opening fire with his Machine-gun. The fight lasts less than Half and Hour during which Tony is Killed in Action.
He is found lying on the edge of a bank behind which he had concealed himself. He is on his back and had been shot in the throat whilst in front of him are the bodies of the Germans he had killed. *****PLEASE DO NOT COPY ANY OF THESE PHOTOGRAPHS*****
(Information from Martha Gellhorn, Saturday Evening Post and photograph from Freedoms Angels)
Tony Vickery is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France so I went to pay my respects.
One of the Cemetery Guides brought me to his Final Resting Place and used sand from Omaha Beach to highlight the wording on his headstone.
The name John Fencik is written on a wall at Killymoon Castle which was used by men of 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, United States Army.
Private First Class John E. Fencik served with Company A, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
His Service Number was 17056713 and he was awarded the Silver Star for Action as follows:-
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Private First Class John E. Fencik (ASN: 17056713), United States Army, for gallantry in action while serving with Company A, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division. On the morning of 9 July 1943, an attack was being launched on a fortified garrison by about ** men of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Because of rough terrain, effective machine gun fire could not be brought upon the garrison from any covered position. Private First Class Fencik, with Private First Class Roberts, placed a machine gun on open ground and in plain view of enemy gun emplacements, then put down such a volume of fire that enemy machine gun fire was ineffective, thereby allowing other men in his unit to advance to enemy emplacements.General Orders: Headquarters, 82d Airborne Division, General Orders No. 29 (August 20, 1943), Action Date: July 9, 1943
David Richard Bullington of Dyersburg, Tennessee enlisted in his local National Guard unit on 12th March 1940.
He served with the 30th Infantry Division also known as the "Old Hickory" division and undertook his basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
On 16th September 1940 President Roosevelt federalized four National Guard divisions and called them to active duty for one year which lasted for the duration of the war.
In the latter part of 1941 Dave heard of the Paratroops and volunteered for the group but initially received no reply.
After Pearl Harbor he reapplied and this time was accepted.
He attended jump school for four weeks beginning on 13th July 1942 and in August 1942 earned his jump wings before being assigned to “A” Company of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Trained as a sniper Dave parachuted into Sicily with the 1903 Springfield rifle. By the time he made his 3rd combat jump in Normandy, he was the squad’s BAR man.
Dave participated in the Sicily, Salerno, Normandy, Holland, Ardennes and Central Europe campaigns.
He was wounded four times during the war, twice in Sicily with the first and second times being on 10th July 1943.
He was evacuated to a hospital in North Africa and released from just in time to make the second combat jump into Salerno. Dave was wounded a third time by shrapnel in Holland on 22nd September 1944.
The most serious wound was during the attack in Belgium on 3rd January 1945 during the Battle of the Bulge when he was initially treated in Belgium and then evacuated to a hospital in England.
After spending several months in England recuperating from his wounds Dave returned to the 505th PIR and met up with his regiment at the Elbe River approximately fifty miles north of Berlin, approximately a week before V-E Day!
Having been discharged from the Military on 25th
August 1945 at Camp Atterbury, Indiana he re-enlisted from Fort Oglethorpe,
Georgia with the rank of Sergeant on May 24, 1946 and continued to serve until
June 30, 1967, retiring as a Master Sergeant after 26 years of faithful
At the time of his retirement he was serving with the 8th Army in Headquarters Company.
He had served in Korea and would have had a tour in Vietnam however he broke his leg during a training jump at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky just prior to his unit leaving for the war zone in the Republic of Vietnam.
Dave made all four combat jumps with the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment during World War II and made a fifth combat jump during the Korean War in North Korea serving with the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team.
For several years Dave served with the 101st Airborne stationed at Ft Campbell, KY and with the 503rd Regiment in the 11th Airborne Division.
Dave received the Bronze Star Medal for his participation in the Sicily Campaign and two Purple Hearts – one for a wound in Sicily and the other for his final wound in Belgium. As stated previously Dave was wounded four times and could have been awarded four Purple Hearts but choose to continue fighting.
His alliance was to continue battle with his comrades. In August 2009 he received the Legion of Honor Medal at the home of the French Consulate in Atlanta, Georgia.
(Sincere thanks to the 505th Regimental Combat Team at www.505rct.org ) ********PLEASE DO NOT COPY ANY OF THIS INFORMATION OR PHOTOGRAPHS**********
The comment below right has been written by a Sentry who was on duty outside the door of the "Permanent Signals Post" as shown below.
The Solid Fibre Box which is shown above has been used to repair a hole in a wooden door.
This was produced by "River Raisin Paper Company, Monroe, Michigan"
James Santelli served Company A, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.
His Army Service Number was 33365158 and he was the holder of the Combat Infantry Badge.
It is pleasing to note that Santelli survived the War and died on 16th December 1989.
The cartoon referring to Private First Class Ross is clearly American due to the P.F.C. Rank. I am unable to identify which particular "Ross" this refers to as there were Eleven soldiers of that name in 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. *****PLEASE DO NOT COPY ANY OF THESE PHOTOGRAPHS*****
Donald C. Mattison was from Hammondsport, New Your and a member of 1 Headquarters / Headquarters Company 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
He was a Technician Fifth Grade and held the Combat Infantry Badge in Silver. His Army Service Number was 32251130.
It is very pleasing to record that Donald Mattison survived the war and died on 22nd April 2002.
The initials on the right are R.R.L. from St. Louis, Missouri and I believe this may have been Robert R. LaBonte who served with G Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
The photograph below shows G Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment in 1943 and Robert LaBonte can be seen 5th from the right in the Second Row. (Sincere thanks to the 505th Regimental Combat Team at www.505rct.org )
Staff Sergeant John W. Roberts was from kentucky and was based at at Killymoon Castle.
He was killed on 25th June 1944 and is Buried in the American Cemetery in Normandy at Plot E Row 27 Grave 27.
The Ulster Tape and Webbing Manufacturing Company - Killymoon.
Founded in 1922 by Mr S.H. Devlin there was only one Weaver with two Looms but having been registered as a Limited Liability Company in 1926 it expanded under the Founders Son, Mr Samuel Devlin to have twenty-six Looms.
During the Second World War this Company produced 30,000,000 yards of webbing for various Government contracts as part of the war effort.
Linen, Hemp, Cotton and Jute were all spun with the Linen being used for Parachute Harnesses and May West Jacket Straps while the cotton was dyed khaki or Navy Blue.
In peace time the product would usually have been found as understrapping for chairs or settees however during WW2 to was used for a wide variety of purposes.
The Weaving Shed at Killymoon operated for 18 hours per day for almost six years producing Parachute Harnesses, Haversacks, Kit Bags, Ammunition Pouches, Gas Masks, Waist belts, Chin Straps, Shoulder Straps, Mae West Jacket Straps and an ongoing selection of straps for Army, Navy, Air Force, Civil Defence and others.
The Ministry of Supply had the factory using only what was known as "Narrow Fabrics" and at the end of the War in Europe a Letter of Appreciation was received at the Company from the Ministry.
Production continued until the end of the war and a second letter was received from the Ministry.
(Many thanks to Norman Devlin for this information)
McGuckin's Commercial Hotel, Cookstown
This building is what was previously known as McGuckin's Commercial Hotel and some U.S. Soldiers from 82nd Airborne Division were fortunate to find themselves billited here.
The table which is shown here was in McGucking but is now at Killymoon Castle.
(For more information read the excellent "Passing Through" by John P. McCann)
American Red Cross in Cookstown
The Orange Hall in Cookstown was used by the American Red Cross.
Gortalowry House, Cookstown
Gortalowry House was used by 505th Parachute Infantry and 407th Airborne Quartermaster Company (82nd Airborne Division) who were joined on 24th December 1943 by 8th Signal Company (8th Infantry Division).
Desertcreat Farm, Cookstown - Private John Marvin Steele 82nd Airborne Division
Soldiers of 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army were based at Desertcreat Farm, Cookstown between 9th December 1943 and 13th February 1944 when they moved to England in preparation for the Invasion of Occupied Europe.
Among the Soldiers was Private John Marvin Steele who was to become famous.
He was serving with Company F and had parachuted from a Douglas Aircraft, similar to the one shown above, into Normandy in the early hours of 6th June 1944.
The Drop-Zone was at the small town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise which was being held by the Germans and was to be secured by the 82nd to prevent enemy troops retreating from the Allied beachhead however all did not go to plan for Private Steele as the rigging of his parachute became firmly secured to a Church steeple in the town centre!
When trying to cut the parachute lines in an attempt to free himself he dropped his knife and having been shot in the foot he subsequently played dead in an attempt to survive.
Some hours later he was cut free by the Germans and had his wounds treated before escaping capture and making contact with an American Tank Unit some days later!
Shown above is the Town Square of Sainte-Mere-Eglise and the Church on which Private John Steele became stuck.
As can be seen from my photographs John Steele is remembered in a rather unique and most appropriate way! (Thanks very much to John McCann for the information and the photograph of John Steele is from the 505 Regimental Combat Team website)
The photograph above shows the site of Desertcreat Farm as it looks today (Bing Maps)
It was interesting to find a Nissen Hut at the nearby Desertcreat Church - Shown here.
Cookstown Prisoner of War Camp
The plan here shows the Lay-Out of the P.O.W. Camp as drawn by German Prisoners! (Thanks to Eddie McCartney and John Twigg)
This is the last remaining building which was part of the P.O.W. Camp Complex. (Thanks very much to Robin Abbot for his excellent Local Knowledge)
William J Harkness was the Son of William and Susan Harkness from Killycolp, Cookstown, and Husband of Mary J. Harkness from Coalisland.
He was Killed In Action at the Battle of Lemon Bridge, Sicily on 19th July 1943 and is buried at Catania War Cemetery, Sicily.
(Thanks very much to Gareth Archer. Photograph from Friends of The Somme Mid Ulster Branch and Cookstown War Dead book)
Lissan House, Cookstown
This is Lissan House, Cookstown.
Prisoners of War were marched from the nearby P.O.W. Camp at Monrush to be put to work on the estate.
Hazel Dolling, the last of the Staples family to live at Lissan, said that some of the Italian POWs made furniture from the oddly shaped boughs of Laurel which pervades the woods at Lissan.
Prior to visiting a Cemetery it is always a good idea to look through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website to see what details are recorded of Service Personnel who are laid to rest there however it is important to remember that the details only refer to C.W.G.C. Headstones and, as shown above, there may be more headstones of interest.
Sergeant Thomas James Gildea was serving with 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers when he was Killed in Action. He is buried in Halle War Cemetery southwest of Brussels.
Like his Brother, Private Robert Gildea was also serving with 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers when he was also Killed in Action. He is buried in Catania War Cemetery in Sicily.
Petty Officer Airman R.N. Allan Millar Cameron Bayne was an Airman based at H.M.S. Condor which is a Shore Establishment at Arbroath. He was killed in an Aircraft Crash on 17th february 1943 however i have been unable to find any other details.
Sergeant Alexander Henry Freeburn was serving with 514 Squadron, Royal Air Force and on the night of 21st / 22nd May 1944 he was aboard Avro Lancaster DS633, JI-B on a Bombing Raid to Duisburg in Germany.
The precise details of what happened are unclear however a radar fix was obtained by R.A.F. Waterbeach at 03.03 and the Crew were told to jettison Bombs.
It is believed that this aircraft crashed in The Wash with the loss of the entire crew who may have been shot down by the Me410 of Fw. Johann Trenke, who claimed three aircraft over Northern Norfolk between 0305 and 0322 hours on that day. (Information from www.514squadron.co.uk)
Sergeant Thomas Nelson was an Air Gunner aboard Halifax III aircraft, LW501 NP-M on a mission to Leipzig.
Having taken off at 00.06 hrs from R.A.F. Lissett the aircraft was shot down by a night-fighter and crashed at 02.40hrs near Beedenbostel which is to the Northeast of Hanover.
Fusilier Andrew Artt was serving with the 5th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers when he died on 1st November 1941. He was 51 years old and had previously served during the First World War.
Fusilier Victor George Purvis was serving with the 70th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Serjeant William Neill was serving with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and Eugenio Pellegrini was a Staff Sergeant in the Pioneer Corps. Pellegrini is buried in what is referred to as Derryloran Chapel Grave Yard and it is interesting to note that his Wife's details have also been included on the Headstone.
A Firing Range was used in the townland of Sherrigrim west of Stewartstown on the Newmills Road.
If you have any information regarding what happened here please contact me.
Slieve Beagh Training Area
There are some Notices to assist tourists when visiting the area - These two are in Rosslea in County Fermanagh.
Please be aware that the reason why Slieve Beagh was used for training purposes is because it is remote and difficult terrain.
The area was used by the 8th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army in 1944.
The four Crozier Brothers from Caledon.
Lance Corporal Alexander Crozier.
The youngest of four Sons serving with the Irish Guards was Killed in Action in Northwest Europe
Sergeant William Frederick Crozier.
Served with the Royal Engineers and won the Military Medal at Dunkirk before continuing his service in Burma.
Sergeant Robert Sanuel Crozier.
Another winner of the Military Medal, Robert was serving with the Royal Engineers and saw action in Norway, North Africa, Madagascar, India, Persia, Iraq, Libya and Sicily.
Robert served with 252 Field Company, Royal Engineers and was awarded the Military Medal for 'gallant and distinguished service in Italy'.
He appears in the London Gazette on the 4th April 1944 as "No. 1877596 Lance-Sergeant Robert Samuel Crozier, Corps of Royal Engineers. (Caledon, Co. Tyrone)."
He was killed in action on the 24th April 1944, during the Anzio offensive, and his remains were laid to rest at the Anzio Beach Head Cemetery, in plot I, row H, grave number 3.
He is recorded as the son of Robert John and Jeannie Crozier and as the husband of Mary Ellen Crozier of Caledon, Co. Tyrone. He was 26 years of age when he died.
Thanks very much to Mark Cully for information and picture.
Pipe Major John T. Crozier
Served with Irish Guards Armoured Battalion and served in Palestine, Egypt and Norway. He was wounded in France.
(Thanks very much to Mark Cully for information and picture.)
The picture above shows 3 American GI's walking along Main Street. The middle soldier, Myron Schmall, was later killed in action.
This picture shows a group of American Soldiers outside Mercers Shop in Main Street. As can be seen in the second picture this building is much changed.
This last picture shows soldiers and officers outside Alexander House in Main Street with the comparison picture showing it as virtually unchanged.
Various troops were based at Caledon including 2nd Battalion 133rd Infantry of 34th Infantry Division and one Collecting Company of 109th Medical Battalion of the same Division who were there in 1942.
In 1943 / 1944 Company C of 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division were based in Caledon. - These Units were American however near the end of the war 1st Battalion 5th Infantry Brigade "Merckem" of the Belgian Army was in Caledon and in October 1945 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Brigade Company C Heavy Weapons of the Belgian Army were also in Caledon before going to Belgium in November.
A scene from Caledon in 1942 and as it looks now.
My thanks to Ann Allen nee Mercer and Jason from the Caledon website for their permission to use their pictures. A link to the Caledon website is in "Links"
American Soldiers Photographs of Caledon
These photographs were taken by Technician Third Grade Joe Powell, who served as a medic in the 2nd Infantry Division in the European Theater of Operations.
Joe Harold Powell, M.D., was born on 15 February 1916 in Pine, Texas. He moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1938, before enlisting in the United States Army on 10 April 1942. The 2nd Infantry Division was sent to the United Kingdom to prepare for Operation Overlord in October 1943. The division landed on Omaha Beach on 7 June 1944 and continued through France, participating in the Battle of Brest. In October, the division entered Germany and remained there until May 1945. It then entered Czechoslovakia before returning to the United States in July. After the war, Powell earned his M.D. and moved to Mississippi. He remained there until his death on 22 July 1987 in the city of Bay St. Louis. Items from the collection include a 2nd Infantry Division patch and photographs of Powell’s time in New Orleans, Northern Ireland, England, France, Switzerland, and Germany. (Thanks very much to The National WW2 Museum New Orleans)
Bill Lang (second from right) and comrades from the Motor Transport Section of the Leicestershire Regiment at Caledon House in 1940.
Bill had joined the Regiment in 1939 and served in the disastrous Norwegian campaign. In 1941 he was transferred to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, and then a year later to the newly formed Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, spending the remainder of the war in India.
(Thanks very much to LeicesterinWW2 by Vincent Holyoak and Lord Belmont)
Michael John McGee from Aughnacloy.
Private Michael John McGee, from Mill St. Aughnacloy, served with 7th Parachute Battalion which was part of 5 Airborne Brigade in 6th Airborne Division.
On the night of 5/6 June 1944, Private McGee jumped with his Battalion behind the German lines in Normandy.
The task of 5 Airborne Brigade was to capture bridges over the Orne river in preparation for the arrival of the seaborne invasion on 6 June – D-Day.
At Benouville the bridge over the Orne canal was captured by soldiers of 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, who landed in gliders, and the men of 7th Parachute Battalion.
The bridge was intact as the airborne soldiers had arrived so quickly that the German engineers had not had time to set off the explosives that would have demolished it.
Michael McGee’s Company,about 100 men of 7th Parachute Battalion, was in action without a break for almost 24 hours. For much of that time it was cut off from the remainder of the battalion and was under determined attack from stronger German forces. These included tanks and self-propelled artillery as well as infantry.
When a German Panther tank approached the position held by Michael McGee and some of his comrades, it seemed as if that position would be overrun. However, Private McGee jumped from his trench and charged towards the tank, firing a Bren gun from the hip!
This must have seemed suicidal to his comrades but it shocked the Germans so much that the tank commander ordered his driver to stop.
With the vehicle at a halt, other members of McGee’s company were able to run towards it and ‘put it out of action with a hand bomb’. - This was probably a No. 75 Hawkins grenade, which was a hand-thrown or surface-laid anti-tank mine.
Although the Hawkins grenade was effective against light armoured vehicles it would usually have had little effect on a medium tank such as the Panther. However, with the tank stopped the paras were able to blow a track off with the weapon and this put the Panther out of action.
Michael McGee’s courage had saved his company from possible disaster one of whom was Richard Todd, who returned home to become a British actor in leading roles such as "The Dambusters" & "The Longest Day" of which Todd acknowledges in his autobiography!
McGee was subsequently commended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The commendation noted that ‘his complete disregard for his personal safety was largely responsible for the successful and gallant action fought by his company’.
Michael McGee did not survive that day. He had been wounded by machine-gun fire from the German tank and died from his wounds later that day.
With about twenty other soldiers, mostly from 6th Airborne Division, he is buried in Benouville churchyard.
The Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) was the highest gallantry award, other than the Victoria Cross, that could be awarded to a British or Commonwealth soldier.
Interestingly, it could not be awarded to someone who had died but several senior officers turned a blind eye to this rule – which was not rescinded until the 1970s – so that Michael McGee’s courage would be recognised officially!
(Thanks very much to George McConnell for these photographs and information)
Airman's Travel Pass from Aughnacloy
This is a Travel Pass from an unidentified Airman who was travelling from Aughnacloy via Belfast and Larne / Stranraer to R.A.F. Whitchurch which is now Bristol Airport.
Spitfire Pilot Parachutes into Crilly, Aughnacloy
On 20th September 1942 at 12.45hrs Supermarine Spitfire R6992 of 1402 Meteorlogical Flight took off from R.A.F. Aldergrove on a what was known as a PRATA sortie being flown by Flight Lieutenant Gordon Hayter Proctor.
This required Proctor to take the aircraft to high level for the purpose of recording meteorological data. He entered cloud at 30,000 feet and while descending to 20,000 feet his gyroscopic instruments froze.
Allen A Takes up the story:-
On 20 Sept 1942, William Johnston watched as a pilot bailed out of a striken Spitfire over Crilly lands in Co Tyrone. The pilot landed safely and carefully gathered up his parachute and hid it. The abandoned aircraft continued on a few miles, crossing the County Tyrone (in Northern Ireland) and County Monaghan (in Republic of Ireland) border, before finally crashing in Co. Monaghan. Mr Johnston approached the pilot to see if he was alright. The pilot asked whereabouts he was and was relieved to find he was in Northern Ireland. On being informed he was in Co. Tyrone, he asked to be taken to the nearest telephone. Mr Johnston (an employee of Mr William J Knox, of Crilly House) told him he'd "best come and speak to the boss". He then took the pilot to Mr Knox (my grandfather) at Crilly House, who gave him access to a telephone and also a hot meal. The police (RUC) came and the pilot left with them, thanking my Grandpa and saying that he hoped to one day meet and reward the person who had packed his parachute so well, as it had saved his life.
As mentioned above, the aircraft flew into the Neutral Republic of Ireland where it crashed whilst back in Northern Ireland Flight Lieutenant Proctor returned safely to Aldergrove in good time to fly the evening THUM (Temperature and Humidity) sortie! (My photographs show a preserved Spitfire)
Spitfire R6992 was subsequently licated and recovered!
Spitfire R6992 Archaeological Project
A team of aviation historians, QUB University surveyors and professional archaeologists supported by the Co. Museum, Monaghan excavated the crash site of Spitfire R6992. Although the site was largely cleared by the Irish Army at the time of the crash it was suspected that parts would remain buried in the impact crater.
The aim of the project was to safely excavate the impact crater of this aircraft and recover, using aviation archaeology best practice, any remaining pieces of wreckage.
Shown above is a photograph of the Pilot, Flight Lieutenant Gordon Hayter Proctor with the Project Organiser Jonny McNee holding the recovered Cockpit Door.
(Thanks very much to Jonny McNee for these photographs - PLEASE DO NOT COPY)
This photograph shows the Engine being lifted out of the Crater. (Thanks very much to Jonny McNee for these photographs - PLEASE DO NOT COPY)
64 Sqd - On the day 6th August 1940, when it was damaged during the Battle of Britain, the pilot was Sgt Jackie Mann, whose later claim to fame post war was his 2 year imprisonment as a Beirut hostage in 1989. A photograph of his crashed R6992 aircraft being salvaged at his Kenley base has been found and will be available on the day of dig.
1402 Met Flight - The Figgular crash pilot was Flight Lieutenant Gordon Hayter Proctor (RAFVR Service No. 60769) who would have been 28 at the time. He came from Fetcham, in Surrey. His parents were Fanny Eliza and Frank B Proctor. He had a brother and sister (Stanley & Vera) who both passed away in 2003. The pilot landed safely in the grounds of Crilly House – the property of Mr William J Knox in Co Tyrone.
45 Sqd - Sadly Ft Lt Proctor and his navigator (RAFVR Sgt George William Bargh) failed to return from a reconnaissance flight in their Mosquito fighter bomber on the 3rd October 1944. They were flying from their base RAF Kumbhirgram, near Meiktila , Burma (now Myanmar) with 45 Squadron RAF. Their names are recorded on the Singapore Memorial (within the Kranji War Cemetery - 22 kilometres north of the city of Singapore) which bears the names of over 24,000 casualties of the Commonwealth land and air forces who have no known grave.
Magneto Cockpit switches on the left and a Student Group who were involved in the recovery. (Thanks to Jonny McNee for these photographs - PLEASE DO NOT COPY)
This is Josie McCusker who had witnessed the aircraft crash and was a guest at the Dig Site. In this picture she is being interviewed by Michael Fitzpatrick T.V. Reporter.
(Thanks very much to Jonny McNee for bringing this to my attention, the Information and Photographs)