The Second World War in Northern Ireland

The Second World War in Northern Ireland

Greater Belfast Part 5

John "Jack" Agnew, 506th P.I.R., 101st Airborne, U.S. Army from Belfast.

Jack Agnew was born in Belfast on 2nd January 1922.

His family emigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when he was 5 years old.

During the Second World War he served with 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army and was in the Demolition Section of the Regimental Headquarters Company before becoming a Pathfinder.

In the early hours of D-Day, 6th June 1944 he parachuted into Normandy as part of what was known as "The Filthy 13" which was the nickname given to his Demolition Unit.

There are famous photographs of the Unit beside their aircraft immediately before leaving for Normandy and the men have Mohawk haircuts and native American war paint on their faces! - Agnew is seen on the left side of the photograph below.

On arrival in Normandy the mission was to demolish a bridge over the River Douve which was successful but at heavy loss with a number of fatalities and Agnew being wounded.

He was awarded the purple Heart and Bronze Star with Oak leaf for subsequent actions.

Later in 1944 he jumped into Holland to take the bridge at Son as part of Operation Market Garden before completing training to become a Pathfinder with whom he parachuted into the Bastogne in Belgium to be involved in the Battle of The Bulge.

During the all important first wave of the resupply mission he used an Eureka Beacon to ensure the C-47 aircraft were guided accurately to the Drop-Zone.

When the actions of his Unit came to the attention of Stars and Stripes newspaper he explained that his fellow soldiers

"weren't murderers or anything, we just didn't do everything we were supposed to do in some ways and did a whole lot more than they wanted us to do in other ways. We were always in trouble."

Having survived the war Jack went to Drexel University and was employed by Western Electric.

In 2006 he was interviewed for a Documentary called "The Filthy Thirteen: Real Stories from Behind The Lines" which was a supplement to the release on DVD of "The Dirty Dozen" film

Barbara Agnew Maloney said that her father told her that only a third of the film is factual, particularly the part about the capture of the command post during the war games.

John "Jack" Agnew died on 8th April 2010 and is buried in Forest Hills Memorial Park, Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania.

Much of Jack's Uniform and Equipment can now be seen in The Gettysburg Museum of History as shown above.

(Information and pictures from The Gettysburg Museum of History and Wikipedia)

Lance Sergeant James Napier Rice.

Lance Sergeant Rice was from Belfast and served with 1st Battalion The Dorsetshire Regiment.

He saw action in Malta, Sicily, Italy and Normandy. (Thanks very much to his Son Robert Rice-McAllister for the Information and photographs)

United States Consul General's Residence

The photograph below shows an Oak Tree which was planted at the Residence of the United States Consul General in Belfast.

It was planted to remember all the United States Forces who were stationed in Northern Ireland during the Second World War and gave their lives for Freedom.

The picture shows Ann and Roger Edmondson whose father was Staff Sergeant James C Edmondson serving with A Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division, United States Army.

Mr Edmondson tells me that of 124 Men in his Fathers Draft only his Father and two others returned home.

(Thanks to Ann and Roger Edmondson)


Cave Hill Aviation Marker

A huge rock on Cave Hill that was used to guide aircraft back home during World War Two has been painted white by an unknown person to remind walkers of the role it once played.

An inscription was also added next to the stone, which was previously covered in graffiti, reading: "The white stone has been restored in honour of the family who painted it during WW2."

Cormac Hamill, chair of the Cave Hill Conservation Campaign, said he only recently discovered that the rock was used as a marker and that a man who lived in Cave Hill Cottage was paid a small sum to keep it painted white.

"It was only recently that I discovered there was a chap who had a subvention during the war to paint the stone. It actually was a marker stone for aircraft to come in as they couldn't put the runway lights on."

"My understanding is that somebody who knew the family went up and painted it white. It's a nod to the guy who slogged his way up there regularly. It was a contribution to the war effort and it seems an appropriate time to remember it."

The huge rock is visible from the city below, but getting to it is much trickier.

"If people go to the west of McArt's Fort and drop down, they can have fun looking for it," Cormac said. "It's hidden by the slope until you are on top of it."

In 2008, Alan Caulfield told the BBC how his father Jack lived in Cave Hill Cottage, close to a well where walkers would stop for refreshment in the 1940s."I remember my father, Jack, telling me that my grandfather was paid a small sum - I think £5 - to keep a large rock at the top of Cavehill (on the forehead) painted white because it was used as a beacon during the war for pilots landing at Nutts Corner airfield during blackouts when the lights of Belfast could not be seen." (From Belfast Telegraph)

Belgian Soldiers at Cave Hill and Floral Hall

This selection of photographs were taken by  Ludovicus Verhoeven who was serving with 6th Infantry Brigade of the Belgian Army and was stationed in Northern Ireland.

Shown here are views from Cave Hill overlooking Belfast and in the picture above right you can see Belfast Castle.

******From the Private Collection of  Staf Verhoeven. Please Do Not Copy****** (Thanks very much to Staf Verhoeven for providing me with these)

Above are two more views looking towards Belfast with the picture below showing the Floral Hall at Belfast Zoo.

******From the Private Collection of  Staf Verhoeven. Please Do Not Copy****** (Thanks very much to Staf Verhoeven for providing me with these)

Belfast Zoo and Floral Hall

During the War it was decided that all the dangerous animals from the Zoo would be shot as it was feared they could escape if the zoo was bombed.

The Head Keeper accompanied by Marksmen from the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Home Guard shot around 35 animals including Lions, a tiger, a Puma, a Lynx, Racoons, Panthers, Leopards etc etc however not all were to die.

Sheila the Elephant was adored by her Keeper Denise Austin and each evening Denise brought Sheila home with her and then back to the Zoo the following morning!

From December 1940 the Floral Hall at Belfast Zoo was used to repair Barrage Balloons however it still operated as a very popular Dance Hall.

(Photograph below from Belfast Zoo)

Lance Bombardier John Mitchell from Belfast

Lance Bombardier John Mitchell, Number 1475153 was serving with 8th Belfast Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery during the war and saw action in Burma.

John had been Head Keeper at Bellevue Zoo before the war and during his service he teamed up with Regimental Mascot Blitz who was an Alsatian Dog. They are both seen together again at the Zoo above. (Thanks very much to Robert Mitchell for these fantastic pictures)

(Thanks very much to Robert Mitchell for all these fantastic pictures shown above ***PLEASE DO NOT COPY****)

Lance Bombardier John (Jackie) Anderson from Belfast.

Jackie was serving with 12 Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery when he became a Prisoner of War to the Japanese.
He was subsequently aboard the Japanese Prisoner Ship Lisboa Maru which was torpedoed by U.S.S Grouper killing approximately 800 Prisoners of War including Jackie Anderson who was the Son of John and Mary Anderson from Belfast and just 23 Years old. (Thanks very much to Shazz Anderson)

B-17 Flying Fortress Crash Site Memorial, Belfast Zoo

When you reach the top of the Hill you will find this Monument to the 10 U.S. Airmen who died when their B-17 Flying Fortress, 42-97862 crashed in bad weather at Cave Hill close to where the Monument now stands.

They had flown from Gander, Newfoundland on their way to Nutts Corner Airfield and were to join the 306th Bombardment Group of the U.S.A.A.F.


In 1991 Mr Alfred Montgomery was walking on Cave Hill when he found a gold ring which had some lettering inside and after some considerable research it was found that the ring had belonged to Staff Sergeant Lawrence Dundon, the Radio Operator on this Aircraft.

Mr Montgomery was able to trace Staff Sergeant Dundon's Widow and return the ring to her.

This story was made into the film "Closing The Ring" by Sir Richard Attenborough.

Here is a United States Army Air Force Restricted Document giving information in relation to the crash of this B-17 Flying Fortress in Belfast as well as two U.S. Army Military archive photographs of the B-17 following the crash. (From Fold 3)

Donegal Road, Belfast

There are a few information displays on Donegal Road at the Railway Bridge beside Roden Street.

The first one relates to The Belfast Blitz. It shows a Luftwaffe Bomber and some of the destruction around Belfast after the Air Raids.

This second display relates to James Joseph Magennis who won the Victoria Cross for his actions during WW2. - There is much more about Magennis V.C. on this website.

"Toc H Club", Great Victoria Street, Belfast.

Shown below are two photographs from the "Toc H" Club which was in Great Victoria Street, Belfast.

"Toc H" was the abbreviation given to Talbot House in the Belgian town of Poperinge where, in 1915 during the First World War, Army Chaplain Reverend Philip "Tubby" Clayton started a Faith based fraternal organisation.

As you can see here the wording "All Rank Abandon Ye Who Enter Here" is the same in Belfast as it was in Belgium.

On the right is Talbot House, otherwise known as "Toc-H" in Poperinge, Belgium. In the centre is "Tubby" Clayton's Chaplain's Room and on the left is a statue of Tubby.


Galwally House

At the beginning of the war a precautionary measure by the Government was to have 100 Royal Ulster Constabulary officers moved to Galwally House in the event that Belfast was bombed so that these Officers could be put into bombed areas to prevent looting.

16 Kings Road, Knock. - Lt. Colonel William John English V.C. 

Lt. Colonel William John English was born in Cork in the Republic of Ireland and after living in England he attended Campbell College for a year before joining the British Army where he worked his way through the ranks before becoming Commissioned in 1901.

He won the Victoria Cross during the Boer War before serving in both the First and Second World Wars.

On 4th July 1941 he was serving with the Royal Ulster Rifles when he died on board a ship near Egypt and is buried in Maala Cemetery, Yemen.

William John English is shown here having received his Victoria Cross.

All of his Medals are now part of the Lord Ashcroft Collection and are shown above including a brief description of his actions to win the V.C.

(These two photographs and much more information can be seen at http://www.victoriacrossonline.co.uk/william-j-english-vc/4586633338 )

Air Raid Shelter off Kings Road

This Air raid Shelter can be seen in the Front Garden of a house at Kings Park, Belfast.

The Shelter may have been overgrown and has since been cleared.


There are steps leading down into the Shelter and the brickwork and concrete roof of the structure are visible.


It is rather unusual to find an Air Raid Shelter at the front of a House however perhaps this was the only ground which was available / suitable.

Jewish Synagogue, Annesley Street.

Here we see Service Men and Women at the old Jewish Synagogue in Annesley Street, Belfast along with a comparison of how the same building looks now. 

The picture on the left shows U.S. Army Chaplain, Herman Dicker conducting a religious service in Belfast on 20th May 1944.

(If you would like more information then please visit the following website :-https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/belfast)

Here we see Service Men and Women at the old Jewish Synagogue in Annesley Street, Belfast along with a comparison of how the same building looks now. 

The picture on the left shows U.S. Army Chaplain, Herman Dicker conducting a religious service in Belfast on 20th May 1944.

If you would like more information then please visit the following website :-https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/belfast

The items shown above were on display at an Exhibition called "Jews and World War Two" held in North Down Museum 2019.

Carnmoney Jewish Cemetery

There are four headstones in the Carnmoney Jewish Cemetery relating to the Second World War. 

Shown here is the headstone of Wireless Operator / Air Gunner Flight Sergeant Bernard Edwin Samuels who was killed on 31st January 1943 when Wellington HX430, in which he was a Crew Member, crashed on landing at Limavady Airfield.

***Please see also Sergeant Berger Headstone in County Londonderry Part 2 Section Cristchurch, Limavady***

Pilot Naftali Hirsz Pawel Kuflik  was a Polish Air Force Pilot serving with 304 Squadron.

His Wellington XIV of Coastal Command was returning from a patrol of the Bay of Biscay looking for U-Boats when the crew found themselves caught in a Snowstorm resulting in the Aircraft crashing in neutral Eire (Republic of Ireland).

Other Servicemen remembered are:-

Private Norman Apfelbaum, Pioneer Corps

He was born in 1913 to Jane and Isidore Apfelbaum. Isidore had emigrated from Cracow and married English born Jane Kenner. Isidore imported bentwood chairs, grand pianos and later became a diamond merchant. 

They had 6 children, Mark (Arnold), Basil, Sadie (Pollock), Lily (Brunert), Bertha (Abel) and Norman. Sadie’s daughter is Doreen Kershner, a member of Stenecourt. 

The family lived in Fenney St and then moved to a big old house in Wellington Street before the war. 

Norman, the youngest son, joined the Pioneer Corps and was sent to guard enemy aliens who had been interned in the Isle of Man. 

In the summer of 1940 it was decided to ship groups of these internees to Canada and Norman was to guard them on board ship. 

He was one of 200 officers and men of the British army on board. 

The SS Arandora Star set sail from Liverpool on 30 June 1940 without escort or convoy. 

She carried 712 Italians and 478 Germans as well as the soldiers and 174 crew. 

On the 1st July, she was pursued and on 2 July she was hit by a torpedo below the waterline and sank at 7.40am. 10 of the 14 lifeboats managed to save some of the passengers but the ship sank with many still on board. 

In total 586 were saved out of 1,216. Norman was not one of them. He was one of the 37 army guards who died. He was buried in Carnmoney Jewish Cemetery in Belfast.

Pilot Officer Leslie Mark Sharp, 96 Squadron, Royal Air Force was killed on 28th December 1940 when his Hurricane P3899 crashed into the sea.

Also remembered is Sergeant Pilot Albert Goldstone who was Lost in Action Hamburg 1942.

***Those wishing to attend this Cemetery should telephone "Robert Hart Memorials" at 0800 833206 to arrange access as the Cemetery is kept locked.

The keys are held at these premises on O'Neill Road and the Man I was speaking with was very helpful.***

H.M.S. Furious in Belfast During Blitz

H.M.S. Furious was docked at Victoria Wharf in Belfast when the city was subjected to a major Luftwaffe raid.

Crewmen on Furious opened fire on the Bombers and the ship sustained some damage during the raid as shown below and there was one fatality - Chief Yeoman of Signals, Edwin Stone who is buried in Bootle Cemetery in Lancashire.

H.M.S. Pursuer in Belfast Lough

This impressive artwork is by Stephen Bone and shows H.M.S. Pursuer in Belfast Lough.

Views show the Sickbay and on the hangar Deck as well as the outside of the ship.

(Pictures are from Imperial war Museum and the National Maritime Museum.)

Abbeydene House

Abbeydene House was the home of Sir Crawford McCullagh who was the Mayor of Belfast and had bestowed the Freedom of the City of Belfast on General Dwight D Eisenhower on 24th August 1945. 

Following the ceremony McCullagh provided Lunch for Eisenhower at this House. (Belfast Telegraph)

Sir Crawford McCullagh is pictured with the staff from the American Embassy, Charles Lord Londonderry, Daisy Henderson, Lionel Henderson and other members of the family . The plaque shown here can be seen at the front of Abbeydene House which is now a B&B and can be contacted at www.abbeydene.co.uk

(Thanks to Susie Cunningham for this information)

Neills Lane Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Battery

Shown in the photograph on the left is a Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Battery which was positioned at Neills Lane.

The photograph on the right shows the same position today where the Gun Position has now become an All Weather Pitch at Belfast High School (Google)

Hazelbank Park Observation Turret

The turret in Hazelbank Part was used as an Observation Post during the Second World War.

Greenisland Anti-Aircraft Gun Position

The comparrison photographs above show Neills Lane and part of Belfast High School.

During the Second World War there was an Anti-Aircraft Gun Battery on this site - You can see it in the bottom right corner of the first photograph and on looking at the current comparrison thisposition is now replaced by an All-Weather Pitch / Track. (Thanks very much to Peter Kirk for all his assistance)

Knockbracken Air Raid Decoy Site

Located at Knockbracken Road to the southeast of the City.

When it was realised that an Air raid was to take place the personel who attended this location set a number of fires in the area with the intention of confusing the bomber crews into thinking that this was the bombing target rather than the true position of the City of Belfast which would have been in blackout.

This was a particularly dangerous activity as the intention was for the Germans to bomb this site and so the 2 Air raid shelters are particularly well protected with thick walls and large coverings of earth.

The two shelters are shown above while the extent of the protection around one of the shelters can be seen on the left.

Donegal Pass Air Raid Shelter

This is at the junction of Donegal Pass and Packenham Street. It is in the back yard of the old R.U.C. Station and directly beside the gateway.

Sadly very few of these are left.

*****THIS BUILDING HAS NOW BEEN DESTROYED. IT IS CURRENTLY BEING USED AS 2 PERIMETER WALLS FOR THIS PROPERTY*****

Shown above is a Card from the Belfast Scouts Messenger Service which gived a number of locations including Donegal Pass Police Barracks.

Below are two photographs of the A.R.P. Post at Donegal Pass Police Barracks.(Both of these are from Donegal Pass Memories Facebook page)

Cecil Henderson Mannagh from Frenchpark Street, Belfast.

Cecil Henderson Mannagh was from Frenchpark Street, Belfast.


He was with an Assault Party of London Irish Rifles who captured a strongly fortified Enemy Position at Casa Tamagnin in the Apennine Mountains, Italy.

This action took place in daylight whilst a Company Attack a few nights previous had failed.


The Assault Party consisted of One Officer and Six Men who gained entry via a low door in the building and found their access to another section was partially blocked with beams and straw.
The sound of someone moving in the straw beside the entrance resulted in the Officer throwing two Incendiary Grenades into the room.
With flames engulfing the building twenty-five Germans dashed out with most coming through a window and they were engaged by Rifleman Mannagh and his fellow Soldiers.
The Germans made for a gully where they were mortared before the action ended.
(Thanks very much to Brenda Mannagh McMeekin for information and photograph)

Windsor Park, Belfast

Linfield Football Club play at Windsor Park in South Belfast.

They have a proud history which dates back to 1886 and    throughout the years many members of the Club have served their country in the Armed Forces with some giving their lives.

The Second World War Fatalities are as follows :-

Bombardier Archibald Jackson Grant of 21st Battery, 8 Anti-Aircraft Regiment Royal Artillery who died on 21st February 1942 and is buried at Dundonald Cemetry in East Belfast.

Lieutenant John Malcolmson Gibson of 5th Battery 45 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment Royal Artillery who died on 20th June 1942 and is buried at Knightsbridge War Cemetry, Acroma, Libya.

Frederick William Fisher, Royal Air Force died in May 1945 in Barnsley.


Fifteen members of Linfield gave their lives durig the First World War with Private Arthur James of the 1st battalion Royal Irish Rifles having been killed on 23rd March 1900 at Ladysmith, Natal in South Africa during the Boer War.

Interestingly when Distillery Football Club played Linfield at Grosvenor Park, Belfast on 10th December 1945 Leading Seaman Jimmy Magennis V.C. kicked off the game!

Here we see some U.S. Military personel playing baseball in a packed Windsor Park. Only the chimneys of the houses are now visible from the new Stadium.

American Football and Baseball at Ravenhill

(These photographs are from Western Maryland Regional Library which is available to EVERYONE at www.whilbr.org )

Here The Duke of Abercorn is meeting the U.S. Army 34th Infantry Division's "Midwest Giants" Players before a Game at Ravenhill on 4th July 1942. The Duke is then shown throwing the First Ball. (For more information see the link below)

An American Football game was played at Ravenhill on 14th November 1942 with proceeds going to both the Royal Victoria Hospital and S.S.A.F.A. 

The Programme included a description of the game as well as the names of the Players, Plan of the Pitch and Score Sheet.

The Baseball Match had been played a few months earlier on 25th July 1942 with proceeds from the game going to the Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and the Ulster Hospital for Children and Women.

(For more information visit see:- http://www.chippewavalleyww2.org/Stories/AmericanFootball and for Baseball visit http://www.baseballinwartime.com/eto.htm)

American Football being played at Ravenhill Stadium on 14th November 1942. (Both from Belfast Telegraph)

Sinclair Seamans Church

War Memorial Window to the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and Army.


Major Arthur Patrick Spencer Chichester, Son of Colonel Arthur Claud Spencer Chichester, 4th Baron Templemore, K.C.V.O., D.S.O., O.B.E., and of Lady Templemore (nee Wingfield), of Alresford, Hampshire.

He was serving with 2nd Battalion The Coldstream Guards when he was killed in action and is buried at Medjez-El-Bab War Cemetery in Tunisia.


The flag of the Ulster Branch of the now disbanded Dunkirk Veterans Association can be seen in Sinclair Seamans Church in Central Belfast along with the flag of the Belfast Branch of the Royal Naval Association.

Samuel Currie Jnr. From Belfast.

Samuel Currie was the Captain of the tanker SS Inverlane on a voyage from Abadan to Invergordon.
Whilst under way in the North Sea, her reported position was 55°05'00"N - 01°07'00"W, when a huge explosion, thought to be caused by a German mine, ripped through her hull.
Four of the crew were killed with many more injured.
The ship was abandoned and was expected to sink however she drifted like a ghost ship through stormy seas for 36 hours, to eventually appear on the shore at Seaburn!

The Sunderland Echo newspaper had a front page article saying "Ghost ship at dawn in sandy bay on the north east coast!”
She burned for five days and was used as a marker by German bombers searching for the entrance to the River Tyne.
When a salvage team got aboard, as the stern had settled on a sandy bottom, it was decided that the fore section (over 300ft) could be refloated. This was done and it was first taken to South Shields and then to Blyth to be converted into a blockship. Over 3,000 tons of rubble and stone were put into the hull, which was then towed up to Scapa Flow to be sunk in Burra Sound, where she lies to this day.

The stern section lies, off Seaburn in 10 metres of water, with parts of her awash at low spring tides.

Captain Samuel Currie Jnr was saved and even though he had sustained 3rd degree burns he had recovered sufficiently to re-joined the Merchant Navy serving out the war on merchant ships sailing to and fro across the Atlantic!!
Amazing heroism. (Thanks very much to Mike Currie for information and photographs)