The Second World War in Northern Ireland

The Second World War in Northern Ireland

Greater Belfast Part 8

Victor Long Royal Ulster Rifles and Special Air Service.

Victor Long was from Kimberley Street in the Ballynafeigh area of Belfast.

He was one of Four Brothers, Fred, Victor, Nigel and Jack who served during the war.

Victor C. Long, Service Number 7021988, was initially with 1st (Airborne) Battalion, Royal Ulster Rifles before becoming a member of 1st Special Air Service Regiment on 17th March 1944.

The Photograph above shows Victor in Palistine. It is believed this was taken in 1942 and Victor gave it to his Nephew on an occasion when he was home on Leave. 

(Thanks to Francis Nige Long)

Victor was 21 years old and had just recently arrived at Darvel in Scotland for Training with the S.A.S.

They were on the Mull of Kintyre and 'We raided the Home Guard's Armoury which caused a bit of a rumpus' 'We then got back to the mainland and pinched a few vehicles to get home, one of which was an R.A.F. Officers bus loaded with supplies. We nicked the lot'


He held the rank of Sergeant in 'T' Troop, 1st Special Air Service and saw action in Northwest Europe.


Victor took part in Operation Archway which had been was planned to support the XVIII Airborne Corps 'Operation Varsity' parachute landings across the River Rhine. 

The force from the Special Air Service was known as Frankforce after Lieutenant Colonel Brian Franks who was in Command of the Operation.

Two reinforced Special Air Service Squadrons, one each from the 1st and 2nd Special Air Service Regiments numbered about 300 all ranks carried in 75 armed Jeeps.

The 1st Special Air Service squadron was led by Major Poat and consisted of three troops, each consisting of three sections with three Jeeps. They had a 3 inch Mortar Section at Squadron Headquarters which also kept a reserve of 12 Jeeps.


Victor was one of the first British Troops who liberated Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp on the afternoon of 15th April 1945.

The first two British Soldiers to reach the camp were Special Air Service Officer, Lieutenant John Randall and his jeep driver who were on a reconnaissance mission and discovered the camp by chance.

Shown above is a Silk Escape Map which was sewn into his uniform.

Victor later recalled that 'After we entered the Camp one of the first things we came across was a huge open grave that was almost full of dead bodies.

There were lots of dead bodies everywhere and the people that were alive were in a bad way.

We weren't allowed to leave the Camp until we'd been fumigated because there was so much disease around.

Sergeant Long was involved in 'Operation Gain' which was a British Special Forces operation by D Squadron, 1st Special Air Service. The purpose was to cut rail communications in the Orléans region to the south-west of Paris in German-occupied France in an effort to prevent German forces from other parts of France from reaching the Normandy area in substantial numbers.

Operation Gain began on 16th June 1944 under the command of Major Ian Fenwick who was later among ten men who were killed in a number of ambushes.


He had arrived by parachute on 17th June 1944 and after lying-up for some time they made contact with Major Fenwick and his 6 strong Headquarters Section who had landed the previous day.

As a member of Lieutenant Bateman's Section Victor recalled that 'We didn't really allow the Maquis into out Camp because Major Fenwick said you couldn't trust them.

Victors first action was blowing up the Orleans to Pithiviers Railway Line on 20th June.

Captain Pat Garstin and his men dropped on the night of 4th /5th July south of the village of La Ferte-Alais. Among these men was Victors Friend Corporal Thomas 'Ginger' Jones.

On 12th August Captain Riding sent Vic Long and John Morton on a Road Watch and the following morning Leslie Packman and John Ion set off in a Jeep to collect the pair.

When their Pick-up did not arrive Victor and John Morton walked for about an hour before they heard shooting. The two men watched as there was more rifle fire before about forty or fifty Germans moved onto the road and pushed the Jeep into a ditch at the side of the road.

Having hears nothing from Packman and Ion the two men returned to their Camp where they reported what had happened to Blair Mayne.

Victor remembers 'That about two or three days later one of the Maquis came to say that they had found the bodies with the hands cut off'

The bodies were later recovered and Victor made a statement regarding what had happened and his observations which was to be used at a later War Crime Investigation.

On leaving the Special Air Service Regiment on 16th November 1945 he received his 1st Special Air Service Regiment Service Certificate which is signed by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Blair 'Colonel Paddy' Mayne.

The Special Air Service wanted to ensure that public knowledge of their operations was kept as secure as possible.

Victor recalled that on his return from an Operation in France 'There was a slip of paper in our Pay telling us not to divulge any information to Journalists whatsoever'

Victor was Mentioned in Despatches and has an Oak Leaf attached to his 1939-1945 War Medal. He was also awarded the 1939 - 1945 Star, France and Germany Star and The Defence Medal as well as the General Service Medal with 'Palestine 1945 - 1948' Clasp.

(Thanks very much to Francis Nige Long)

Fred Long From Belfast Fighting at Monte Cassino.

Fred Long was from Kimberley Street in the Ballynafeigh area of Belfast.
He was one of Four Brothers, Fred, Victor, Nigel and Jack who served during the war.
Fred was serving with the London Irish Rifles, Ulster Rifles.
(Thanks very much to Francis Nige Long)

Captain Gerald Jackson Bryan, CMG, CVO, OBE, MC from Belfast

CAPTAIN GERALD JACKSON BRYAN, CMG, CVO, OBE, MC, soldier and government administrator, died in March aged 96. He was born in Belfast and had a feisty temperament even as a boy. 

During his education he developed a passion for rock climbing and anything adventurous. After the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, he hoped to get a regular commission in the Royal Engineers. War intervened, but he got his sapper commission in 1940 and volunteered for commando training. Gerald sailed with Layforce towards the Mediterranean in January 1941. Layforce was used to land behind the French positions in Lebanon. Fierce opposition, particularly from the Foreign Legion, was encountered, and one Allied attack on French artillery positions near the Litani River proved costly. Despite Gerald’s party capturing a 75mm gun and turning it on the enemy, all the other officers in his company were killed and, after being shot through both legs, he was captured. His wounds necessitated the amputation of one leg below the knee. He and the other British wounded were released under an armistice agreed in July 1941. Gerald was awarded the Military Cross for his action on the Litani River and returned to England.

No longer fit for active service after losing his lower leg, he was assigned to the Special Operations Executive (SOE), which developed special personal weapons and sabotage explosives at Station IX in Welwyn.

As he recovered from the injuries to his remaining leg, he applied for a more active appointment and was eventually accepted to the Colonial Service. Before that, he was promoted to acting major and director of scientific research at SOE’s headquarters in central London, until his transfer in 1944.

His first appointment was to Swaziland, where he met Wendy Hull, his future wife. They were married in 1947 and had three children: Caesar, Mary and Diana. 

(Info from BLESMA and Daily Telegraph)

Alfred McMeekin From Belfast

(Thanks to Amanda Gibson)

Flight Sergeant Walter Berry from Candahar Street, Belfast

On the night of May 12th to 13th 1944, at 00.44 hrs, an RAF Halifax Bomber was shot down over the Belgian village of Londerzeel.
It was inbound to it’s target: the railway marshalling yard at Louvain (Belgium).
The German Nightfighter Pilot Hans-Heinz Augenstein had maneuvred his Messerschmitt 110 below the bomber and fired from short distance straigth above into the wingtanks of the Halifax.
Only a few seconds later, the whole left wing of the Halifax exploded.
This technique, moving under instead of behind the bombers, was called “Schrägemusik” by the Germans and needed a modification to the Messerschmitt so that the 2 machineguns in the rear part of the cockpit pointed upwards instead of rearwards.
The Halifax aircraft was coded “OW-E” and had departed from the RAF Station at Linton on Ouse near the City of York. the Aircraft was from Royal Canadian Air Force 426 “Thunderbird” Squadron and was known as “E for Easy”.

Four of the Aircrew were killed in the attack and subsequent crash.
They were:-
Pilot Officer Kenneth Wesley Drumm, Service Number J/94303, Royal Canadian Air Force, who is buried in Brussels Town Cemetery, Collective Grave X 19 6-8
Pilot Officer Robert Joseph Fitzpatrick, Son of Fredrick and Sarah Fitzpatrick and Husband of Eva Farrell Fitzpatrick.Service Number J/87097, Royal Canadian Air Force, who was 31 years old and is buried in Brussels Town Cemetery Grave X 18 28
Sergeant Albert Christopher Jones, He was 20 years old, Son of Albert and Annie Jones, of Langley, Worcestershire. Serving with Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, Service Number 1815824 who is buried in Brussels Town Cemetery Collective Grave X 19 6-8
Pilot Officer James Howard Jones, Service Number J/90284, Royal Canadian Air Force, Son of John M. and Mary C. Jones, of Ridgetown, Ontario, Canada who was 19 years old and is buried in Brussels Town Cemetery, Collective Grave X 19 6-8

Four of the Crew of the Aircraft were able to bale out however Flight Lieutenant John Howard Black, Service Number J 12252 of the Royal Canadian Air Force was soon detained by the Germans and became Prisoner Of War 4897 at the famous Stalag Luft 3, at Sagan in Poland.
The three other Aircrew were:-
Sergeant Walter Berry, Service Number 1080826 who was serving with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
Flying Officer R.H. Douby, Service Number 26935 who was serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Flying Officer J.W. Van Maarion, Service Number 27583 who was serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
These three men, including Walter Berry, were kept hidden by the Belgian Resistance network.
One of the Resistance Fighters had the surname Peeters it is this mans Son who has been in contact with me and is trying to make contact with the family of Walter Berry who may have become a Flight Sergeant and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.
The Resistance Fighter, Peeters, was betrayed by a Belgian citizen, captured by the Germans and sent to a Work Camp. He fortunately survived the war.
He survived the war but has since passed away.

This Aircrew have not forgotten by the local Community and a plaque was inaugurated at a small chapel, close to the crashsite with the story of these men, both the perished ones and there crewmates.
(Thanks very much to Stef Peeters and Bob Block and Ludo Van Hout for illustrations)

Shown above is Belfast News Letter dated 1st June 1944. (Thanks very much to Stephen Wilson for these Newspaper cuttings)

Shown above is article from Belfast Telegraph dated 16th September 1944 with News Letter Article below dated 18th September 1944 (Thanks to Stephen Wilson)

These photographs show:-
Top left. Walter Berry with Anne Brusselmans, who was working for the Resistance, walking in a street in Brussels.
Top Right Walter Berry, photograph taken in 1944, most likely in Brussels when Walter was hiding at one of the hiding places arranged by Mrs Anne Brusselmans.
Bottom left Walter Berry and Wiske Bloks during his visit in 1958 to the crash site at the Middelweg in Londerzeel.
Bottom right Walter Berry with Yvonne Brusselmans who was daughter of Anne Brusselmans.
(Thanks very much to Stef Peeters and Bob Block and Ludo Van Hout for illustrations)

William McKeown, Royal Ulster Rifles

This is William McKeown from Rosebery Road in East Belfast. 

He joined the Royal Ulster Rifles in 1939 aged 19, Service number 7020821 before transferring to the London Irish Rifles.

He was wounded by shrapnel at Monte Cassino in January 1944 and spent rest of war as POW in Germany. 

 Strangely his service records don’t mention his wounds but on return home he spent a year in the Military Hospital in Southport recovering from his injuries and illness. He was 6 stone. He was discharged as being unfit for any future military service and lived until he was 87. (Thanks very much to Will Johnston)

John "Jackie" Harris from Belfast

Jackie was from Belfast and served with the Royal Ulster Rifles.
He is standing at the back of the group picture which was taken in Egypt.
Jackie served in North Africa and Italy which is where the third photograph is believed to have been taken.
His Medals are the 1939-1945 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal and the 1939-1945 War Medal.
(Thanks very much to David Harris)

Shaws Bridge

Trench System beside the River lagan at Shaws Bridge.

Barnets Park Demesne can be seen top right of the photograph (PRONI)

Ulster Home Guard - Belfast at Barnets Park Demesne, Belfast

This selection of photographs shows an Ulster Home Guard Unit from Belfast who are involved in a Training Exercise. (IWM Pictures)

The Men are first seen being Inspected before boarding Trucks which have a Motorcycle Rider in front of the convoy.

A wheel needs to be replaced on one of the vehicles and in the picture above right a Lance Corporal receives his Work Ticket from a Sergeant (IWM Photographs)

Motor Transport Company, Ulster Home Guard Office receives a new sign for the Door 1st November 1942. (IWM Pictures)

The Men of the Ulster Home Guard. Photographed on 1st November 1942 (IWM Pictures)

4th Belfast Battalion Ulster Home Guard

Photograph below shows Soldier of Ulster Home Guard. (Photographs above from Ebay)

The Work of the Army Post Office

This selection of photographs relates to the work of the Army Post Office. Mail is seen arriving at the Army Post Office in the pictures above.

I do not have a precise location although the photographs were taken in Belfast on 8th February 1941.  (IWM Pictures)

Following its arrival the Mail is checked by the Censors

Following any censorship the Mail is bagged up and prepared for despatch. Shown on the right is one of the very popular "Mail Call" as well as others being delivered to Civilian addresses. (IWM Pictures)

Young Belfast Boy serving in Merchant Navy Murdered in North Africa

MOORE, Cabin Boy, GEORGE THOMPSON, S.S. Laurent Meeus (Belgium) Merchant Navy. 21st June 1944. Age 16, of Belfast.
Buried Dely Ibrahim War Cemetery. Plot 4 Row A Grave 12.
Page ten of the Deaths at Sea Register for July 1944 states young George T. Moore from Belfast was murdered at Algiers while serving on the Belgian tanker Laurent Meeus.
The circumstances surrounding his death are unknown.
He is one of twenty-two Merchant Seamen buried at the Dely Ibrahim War Cemetery who are recorded as non-war dead whose graves are looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission .
(Thanks very much to Billy McGee for information and pictures.)

(Thanks very much to Andrew Hull for the Newspaper Articles shown here)

Belfast Boys in the Merchant Navy Lost at Sea

I have been contacted by Billy McGee who is trying to trace photographs of these six young lads for a revised version of his book "They Shall Grow Not Old...."

CARSON, Deck Boy, JOHN, S.S. Victoria City (Bideford).
Merchant Navy. 2nd December 1940. Age 15.
Son of John and Josephine Carson, of Belfast.

GIBSON, Ordinary Seaman, KENNETH JOHN, M.V. Otaio (Plymouth). Merchant Navy. 28th August 1941. Age 16, of Belfast.

LOUGHRAN, Cabin Boy, JOSEPH, S.S. Kervegan (Cardiff).
Merchant Navy. 9th February 1941. Age 16.
Son of Daniel and Mary Loughran, of Belfast.

MEHARG, Mess Room Boy, LAWRENCE MCIVOR, S.S. Agnete Maersk (Belfast). Merchant Navy.
24th March 1941. Age 16. Son of Andrew and Isabella Meharg, of Belfast.

MOORE, Deck Boy, WILLIAM A., S.S. Victoria City (Bideford). Merchant Navy. 2nd December 1940. Age 16.
Son of William and Annie Moore, of Belfast.

OSBORNE, Mess Room Boy, JAMES, S.S. Kervegan (Cardiff). Merchant Navy. 9th February 1941. Age 16, of 3 Short St, Belfast.
(Thanks to Billy McGee)

Victory Visit of Their Majesties and Garden Party in Botanic Gardens, Belfast.

(Thanks very much to David Wright)

L/Cpl Bill Purdon, Irish Guards, From Belfast.

William James, “Bill” was born on 13th April 1923 at 169 Rosebery Road, Belfast, the Son of Benjamin and Isabella Purdon, nee Henry.

At the time of his birth, Ben Purdon was an Insurance Agent for the Prudential but he had previously been a Soldier in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Unfortunately Bill’s father would die when he was only 10 years old and this may explain his extremely close relationship with his oldest sister Lily who was 6 years his senior.
Bill lived in the family home with his mother and siblings, Lily, Edmund, Kathleen and his youngest brother Noel, referred to affectionately as “Nosey”.
Bill was educated in the local Primary school at Euston Street and his first job was in Alexander’s Car showroom on the corner of Donegal Square East. However he disliked what he described as an ‘Office’ job and soon found a more suiting position in the Ewart’s Linen Mill on the Crumlin Road, training as a Fitter.
Bill was 17 years old at the onset of the Second World War and he soon had the draw of the Armed Forces.

It was on the 9th June 1942, shortly after his 19th Birthday that Bill enlisted with the 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards in Belfast and left for training in Hobb’s Barracks at Lingfield in Surrey.
The Irish Regiment of Foot Guards was raised on 1st April 1900 by command of Queen Victoria to commemorate the bravery shown by the Irish Regiments in the South African Wars. It inherited the great heritage of the three existing regiments of Foot Guards, while soon adding its own character, customs and traditions to establish its unique identity.
The custom of receiving ‘royal’ shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day began in 1901 and has taken place every year except where prohibited by operations.
In August 1902 the Irish Kennel Club presented an Irish Wolfhound to the Regiment as the Regimental Mascot and this tradition continues to the present day and marks out the battalion whenever it is led on parade by the Wolfhound.

Bill, as part of Corporal Townson’s Squad passed out as Guardsman Purdon in September 1942. It is worth mentioning the two other members of his Squad, Geordie Andrews and Mick Goode who would remain loyal friends throughout their Service.
In November 1942 it was announced that the 1st Battalion would be leaving for North Africa and preparation began.
In March 1943, as the Battalion finally prepared to board it’s transport ship sailing from the Clyde,
Bill was one of a number of soldiers called forward to be told they would be transferring to another Unit and not going with their colleague to fight in North Africa. It remains unclear if this referred to the newly formed Armoured Brigade or some other unit, but Bill was understandably deeply upset.
In late March 1943 the 1st Irish Guards landed in the North African country of Tunisia. The Battalion fought in the Medjez Plain area, seeing heavy action at Djebel bou Aoukaz, or 'Bou'. Part of the area was taken on 27th April and further fighting continued for several days with the Irish Guards suffering heavy casualties.
As a result of these losses, Bill was returned to the 1st Battalion on 16th June 1943 and he was to spend the next 6 months in Tunisia, training and preparing for the next battle. During this time he was also promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal.

In December 1943 the Battalion sailed for Italy and took part in the Anzio Landings on 22nd January 1944.
The battalion saw action at Carroceto where they repulsed several German attacks, and also took part in the attack on Campoleone, where they experienced heavy casualties.
A German counterattack was launched several days later and whilst the Battalion inflicted heavy casualties on the Germans, they were surrounded the following day with little support against German armour. They were forced to fight their way through to Allied lines, suffering further casualties in the process.
A few further actions took place for the Battalion's companies but, by April, the Battalion was severely depleted in manpower and returned to the UK in April 1943. They would remain in the UK for the duration of the war as a training battalion.
(Thanks very much to Mark Purdon)

Bill Purdon, Cregagh Unit, Ulster Home Guard, from Belfast

This photograph shows Bill Purdon in the uniform of the Home Guard or Local Defence Volunteers. The cap badge shows a Harp and Crown.
Both his older brothers, Bill and Edmund were in the Ulster Home Guard with Edmund being in the Queen’s University Unit whilst Bill patrolled the Rosetta Area of Belfast.

The cap badge on one uniform was from the RUC and the other was from the Royal Ulster Rifles.
(Thanks to Mark Purdon & Jeff Hobson for the excellent colouring)

Irish Guards Billy Logan and Hamilton Saunders from Belfast.

William Logan, known as Billy, is shown here with his close friend Hamilton Saunders.
Both men were from Belfast with Billy being from the Newtownards Road area.
They joined the Irish Guards in early 1945 to join Irish guards and served in Germany and Palestine.
(Thanks to Christine Tyrrell)

Elsie & Walter Mc Gimpsey.

Elsie & Walter Mc Gimpsey lived on Prestwick Drive, Belfast.
Elsie served H.M.S. Caroline and Walter served on HMS Victorious.
(Thanks very much to Kevin T Meally)

Car and U.S. Army Lorry Crash Kills Two