Flying Officer Holman Gordon Stanley Kerr's remains found 71 years after bomber downed over Belgium
The fate of an RAF airman who was lost in a Second World War bombing raid has been uncovered in an aircraft excavation in Belgium 71 years later.
Flying Officer Holman Gordon Stanley Kerr, from Lurgan, was one of a crew of seven who all perished when their Lancaster aircraft was shot down in Belgium on its return from a bombing raid on Germany in March 1945.
Several bodies were recovered from the downed aircraft at the time and buried in a communal grave with seven headstones at Heverlee War Cemetery, but the remains of Flying
Officer Kerr were never identified.
Earlier this year, a special team scanned the area to identify the exact location of the Lancaster and this weekend they excavated the aircraft from the soft ground where it had crashed, under the strict guidance of the RAF, Royal Australian Air Force and the Belgian Air Force.
The team uncovered the remains of three of the crew and judging by their position in the aircraft, they were probably the Australian, Jamaican and one of the English crew members.
This throws new light on the burials carried out in 1945, suggesting that four bodies were retrieved but not identified, including that of Flying Officer Kerr.
All four were buried in Heverlee cemetery in a group grave.
The bodies recovered over the weekend will now be buried with full RAF honours in the same cemetery.
Gordon Kerr was educated at Lurgan College from September 3, 1934 until July 31, 1940.
During the war, he was stationed at RAF Waterbeach, Cambridge. On the night of March 5, 1945, the crew flew their Lancaster bomber aircraft on an operation to Gelsenkirchen, a benzol plant, and it was shot down over Belgium.
Witnesses of the crash said the plane disappeared nose down into soggy ground. But years later it was still possible to see marks in the meadow, indicating the last resting place of the huge plane, which had a length of 21 metres, height of six metres and wingspan of 31 metres.
Experts believed the wet ground may have preserved the craft over the last 70 years and the bombs it carried may still lie in the subsoil.
In the search for the craft, they used sonar technology to scan to a depth of eight metres.
The seven crew were F/O Holman Gordon Stanley Kerr, Sgt. William Marsden, F/Sgt. Sidney Smith, F/O Frank Clarke, F/Sgt. Allan Olsen, Sgt. Christopher George Hogg and Sgt. Herbert Percival Thomas.
The excavation was attended by the British and Australian ambassadors to Belgium and the excavation was carried out by Plane Hunters Recovery Team, assisted by many groups and volunteers. (This is a Belfast Telegraph article. Thank-you to Norman Devlin for bringing this to my attention)
(Thanks very much to Gavin Bamford for these photographs)
Desmond "Hawkeye" Hughes from Donaghadee and the Dornier Do-17Z
The team behind the recovery of a Dornier Do-17Z from off the coast of Kent in the English Channel believe it to be 5K + AR, from 7 Staffel, III Gruppe/KG3 (Meaning 7th Squadron of 3rd Group of Bomber Wing 3)
It had taken off from St Trond aerodrome near Brussels on the morning of Monday 26th August 1940 carrying Sixteen 33lb bombs and was one of nine German aircraft from the squadron on a mission to attack a Fighter Command airfield at Manston, Kent.
The four young men on board were the pilot, Feldwebel (equivalent to an RAF Flight Sergeant) Willi Effmert, a married 24-year-old, from Bad Salzuflen, a spa town near Hanover; observer, Unteroffizier (Sgt) Hermann Ritzel, 21, from Frankfurt am Main; wireless operator, Unteroffizier Helmut Reinhardt, 27, from Bochum; and flight engineer Gefreiter (Cpl) Heinz Huhn, 21, from Lotterfeld, then in East Prussia, now Loznik, in Poland.
As the Bomber Formation made its way across the sea it was detected by the RAF and 264 Squadron, based in Hornchurch, Essex, among other units, was sent to intercept over Herne Bay.
Pilot Officer Desmond Hughes, from Donaghadee in County Down, along with his gunner, Sgt Fred Gash were in one of the Defiant aircraft sent to intercept and this was done at 15,000 feet.
Hughes later wrote: “The specks grew into the long pencil-slim silhouettes of Dornier 17s and suddenly, there were the black crosses, insolently challenging us in our own back yard!”
During the action on that day Hughes and Gash were credited with downing two Dorniers, and the RAF Museum researchers believe one of them was the Dornier aircraft which has now been recovered.
Hughes continued “Fred Gash took as his target the second Dornier and made no mistake – his De Wilde incendiaries twinkled all over it but particularly on its engine.
"It began to fall out of the formation, the hatch was jettisoned, two parachutes streamed as little dark figures bailed out and the stricken aircraft went down increasingly steeply with its starboard engine well alight.”
In relation to the second Dornier which they were credited with "Downing" “Fred had been blazing away at another Dornier (which he later reported as having 'brewed up’).”
The Defiants were then attacked by German Messerschmitt Bf109s and after shaking them off, Hughes and Gash headed back to base, where they discovered six bullet holes in their aircraft.
That night, Hughes sent a telegram to his parents. It said simply: “Two up and lots to play.”
Back on board the Dornier, the gunfire had hit both engines and the cockpit, causing injuries among the crew. Ritzel lost two fingers on his left hand.
With at least one engine stopped, Effmert attempted to make a controlled landing on Goodwin Sands, six miles off the Deal coast, which can be exposed at low tide. As it came in, the stricken aircraft appears to have somersaulted and settled into the water on its back.
Two of the four Airmen, Effmert and Ritzel, were recovered however the other two died, with their bodies washing up on different sides of the North Sea. Reinhardt was buried in Ysselsteyn, Holland, while Huhn was interred in the German War Cemetery in Cannock Chase, Staffordshire.
The survivors became prisoners of war and were transported across the Atlantic to camps in Canada. At the end of the war, both returned to Germany.
Desmond Hughes became the third highest scoring RAF night fighter pilot with 18 1/2 Kills (The Half having been shared with another aircraft) when he was 25 years old and was nicknamed “Hawkeye” Hughes by the press.
One of his quirks was that he flew with his dog 'Scruffy' in the cockpit with him!
Retiring as an Air Vice Marshal Hawkeye had won the Distinguished Service Order, The Distinguished Flying Cross THREE TIMES, 1939-1945 Star, Aircrew Europe Star, Africa Star, Italy Star and Victory Medal.
He had attended Campbell College and then to Cambridge to study Law in 1938 but joined the R.A.F. on the outbreak of war in 1939.
Serving first with 26 Squadron he flew Lysander aircraft in France then the Boulton-Paul Defiant Fighters in the Battle of Britain with 264 Squadron.
Joining 125 Squadron he flew Beaufighters in the Mediterranean theatre then moved to 600 Squadron flying Mosquito aircraft in Italy, Sicily, Malta and North Africa and ended his Second World War service with the rank of Wing Commander.
(Information and photographs from Telegraph.co.uk, Shropshire Star, httpglostransporthistory, Daily Mail, The Times, R.A.F. Museum, Pembroke College, Cambridge)
Flight Lieutenant Cecil William Stead Austin from Londonderry
Flight Lieutenant Austin served with 504 Squadron at R.A.F. Ballyhalbert.
During his service he flew two of the Spitfire aircraft which had been purchased by the people of Northern Ireland through the Belfast Telegraph Spitfire fund. - These being named "Enniskillen" and "Down"
He was from Londonderry and during his active service was shot in the leg.
He appeared in a local television documentary called "Tailwind" and was the Father of local Radio Personality Wendy Austin.
Shown on the right is the 504 Squadron Crest.
(Photograph on the left from Belfast telegraph)
Mr. Neville Henshaw, Royal Sgnals, from Rostrevor.
Mr Henshaw, who is originally from Yorkshire, was serving with Royal Signals during the Second World War.
He was 18 years old when he made his way onto Gold Beach on D-Day, 6th June 1944 however rather than making his way inland as quickly as possible he was to stay there!
His job was to provide communications between the various Units who were landing on the beach and ensure that they were making their way to the correct formations before progressing inland. (Thanks very much to Louann for the portrait. Other picture shows German Gun Position in St Aubin sur Mer PLEASE DO NOT COPY)
Above left is a group photograph showing Neville Henshaw during his War Service. He is sitting second from the left in the next picture (From BBC)
John "Paddy" Gingles, 617 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
Was born in Kilwaughter, Larne in 1922 and joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1940, Service Number 176447, serving with 432 Squadron before moving to the famous 617 "Dambusters" Squadron and attaining the rank of Flying Officer. (Above photograph from Daily Mail)
The London Gazette of 10th September 1943 records the recommendation for his Distinguished Flying Medal.
GINGLES, Flight Sergeant John (RAF 1113981) - Distinguished Flying Medal - No.432 Squadron - awarded as per London Gazette dated 10 September 1943. Enlisted 1940. Air Ministry Bulletin 11391 refers.
...completed a large number of successful operational sorties, majority against heavily defended targets in Ruhr Valley. Outstanding pilot and captain of aircraft, has inspired crew with exceptional coolness, skill and devotion to duty".
NOTE: DHist file 181.009 D.5557 (RG.24 Volume 20668) has recommendation dated 21 July 1943 when he had flown 37 sorties (207 hours), 7 September 1941 to 8 April 1942 and 25 May to 13 July 1943. The sortie list describes a particularly adventurous first tour (one sortie as captain; all others as 2nd pilot) - but it also describes 30 trips on first tour and twelve on second for a total of 42 trips. Of these, however, five are listed as "DNCO" (Duty Not Carried Out) which is probably how the 37 sorties are tallied. His raids included a low level attack on Schipol airfield, 20 January 1942 (400 feet, one enemy aircraft destroyed, searchlight shot out, gunner awarded DFM), attack on German warships at sea (12 February 1942) and a daylight raid on Essen, 31 March 1942 (captain awarded DFC); on second tour (all sorties as 2nd pilot) his aircraft was shot up by a Lancaster, 3 July 1943.
This Non-Commissioned Officer has completed 37 successful trips, the majority of them over heavily defended targets in the Ruhr Valley. He has proven himself an outstanding pilot, and has inspired his crew with his coolness and his dogged determination. For his fine record of achievement, his exceptional coolness and skill, and his devotion to duty, he is strongly recommended for the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal.
Paddy was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
My photographs above show the Cupola at Wizernes which was to provide a constant stream of V2 Rockets being fires at England as shown in the model bottom right
(*****PLEASE DO NOT COPY*****)
One of his Crew was George Riley who was from Manchester.
Towards the end of 1943 George was at home because of the death of his father when he was informed that his Crew had been killed on a mission to Hanover.
Not knowing what to do he telephoned Leonard Cheshire who was Commander of 617 Squadron and was told to join them!
He was crewed with Paddy Gingles becoming great friends and getting involved in some mischief including smuggling Squadron Cook, Sergeant Arthur Rowsell aboard their Lancaster and taking him on the raid to drop a 12,000 Tallboy Bomb on the V2 Rocket site at Wizernes in France! - This Site is Shown Above.
617 Squadron attacked the Wizernes site on 20th, 22nd and 24th June 1944. The nearby Eperlecque V2 Bunker was also attacked by 617 Squadron on 19th June 1944.
They also took part in an Air Cadets Parade to get in to Maine Road to watch an England Football International from the touchline because they had not got tickets.
On another occasion the pair were trying to board a packed train and were invited by the Engine Driver to join him in his cab where Riley stoked and Gingles drove and they arrived in Manchester covered in soot. (From "To Hell and Back" by Mel Rolfe)
My photographs above and below here show the V2 Bunker Complex at Eperlecque. (******PLEASE DO NOT COPY******)
The photograph below right shows a V2 Rocket inside the Bunker with the picture on the left showing some Bomb Damage. (******PLEASE DO NOT COPY******)
On 15th September, 29th October and 14th November 1944 the German Bismarck Class Battleship Tirpitz was attacked by 617 Squadron as she was moored in Kaafjord, Norway with Paddy taking part in each of these raids. He survived the war.
Staff Sergeant Alexander Heasley from Lisburn
Staff Sergeant Alexander (Sandy) Heasley, Service Number 7011739, was serving with 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers.
He was Killed in Action on 17th December 1943 in the area of a German Defensive Line across Italy which was known as 'The Gustav Line'.
It is believed that Sergeant Heasley, who had served with the Royal Ulster Rifles before being attached to Royal Scots Fusiliers, had been accompanying an Officer in carrying out a reconnaissance when the Officer stood on a mine which exploded killing both men.
Staff Sergeant Heasley is buried in Sangro River War Cemetery on the East Coast of Italy South of Pescara.
His Headstone is Located at XIV. A. 25.
John Cumming - My School Teacher and his Wartime Secret.
My Primary 7 Teacher was known to me as simply Mr Cumming.
I knew nothing else about him until years after I had left school when I learned that he had served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.
He never talked about his wartime experiences however now I have the amazing story.
John Cumming was 18 years old when he joined the Royal Navy in 1940, signing up for seven years and five on Reserve.
John was involved in Convoy Escort duties across the Atlantic from Liverpool to and from Canada and the United States as well as the Arctic Convoys to Northern Russia.
His first Arctic Convoy, codename “Dervish” was to arrive in Archangel on 31st August 1941
His duty was to use the ASDIC system to identify, follow and hopefully Depth Charge U-Boats.
On D-Day John was aboard a Dutch Naval Cruiser HNLMS Sumatra which was subsequently scuttled off Ouistreham to become part of a “Gooseberry” Pier - With the men still aboard!!
John said that they simply climbed as high as they could on the upper deck.
He then joined H.M.S. Volunteer in Chatham
In 1945 John was in the Far East minesweeping for Japanese Mines. He was in Singapore when Allied Prisoners of War were being released and has never forgotten evidence of the cruelty of the Japanese which he witnessed.
(Photographs above from Belfast Newsletter. Information from Nearness of Ice. Photograph below shows HNLMS Sumatra having been scuttled. Public domain picture)
Sergeant John Herbert O'Farrell, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Killed in Action 31st July 1943
Sergeant John Herbert O’Farrell was from Dundrum, County Down.
He was serving with 75 (New Zealand) Squadron, Royal Air Force and on the night of 30th / 31st July 1943 he was aboard Short Stirling Mk III BF458, JN-A.
The target was Remscheid which is Northeast of Cologne in Germany and it was intended that thirteen aircraft would drop Incendiary Bombs however the number was reduced to 12 when one aircraft returned to base with an unserviceable rear turret.
The Raid was a success with a large concentrated fires and some explosions being seen in the Target Area.
Anti-Aircraft Fire and Searchlight belts were encountered as well as an attack by an Enemy Aircraft however with good weather it was hoped that all aircraft would return to base safely however unfortunately this was not to be the case.
Two Stirling Aircraft were reported missing - One of these being BF458 which was subsequently found to have been shot down Southwest of Duisburg to the North of Krefeld.
The Navigator,Sergeant Hector Alisdair ‘Paddy’ Stewart and Wireless Operator Sergeant R.H. Boxell both survived the crash and became Prisoners of War.
Pilot Sergeant Alfred John Thomas,
Flight Engineer, Sergeant John William Gale and Mid-Upper Gunner John Hubert O’Farrell were buried in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.
Pilot, Sergeant Alfred John Thomas, Air Bomber Flight Sergeant Frederick William Raukawa Cumpsty and Rear Gunner Sergeant Ernest Frank Henry are all commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
(My Sincere thanks to Lyn Vaughan Nee Stewart for contacting me regarding this)
Two Royal Marines Killed on H.M.S. Barnham
Shown above are Royal Marines Joe Berry from Laurencetown and Joe Smylie from Magheragall who served together on H.M.S. Barnham.
They were both killed on H.M.S. Barham - The details of the attack are given below:-
On the afternoon of 25 November 1941 H.M.S. Barnham left Alexandria along with a Convoy and on the following morning the German submarine U-331, commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Diedrich von Tiesenhausen, detected the faint engine noises of Barnham along with other British ships and moved to intercept.
An ASDIC operator aboard H.M.S. Jervis, which was with Barnham, detected a submarine at 16:18 at an estimated range of 900–1,100 yards however tragically the contact was disregarded permitting U-331 to pass through the Convoy screen and was only in a position to fire her torpedoes after the leading ship, Queen Elizabeth, had passed her by and the second ship, Barham, was closing rapidly.
Von Tiesenhausen ordered all four bow torpedo tubes fired at a range of 410 yds at 16:25. Possibly due to her closeness to Valiant's bow wave and discharging the torpedoes, the U-boat's conning tower broached the surface and was engaged by one of the battleship's "pom-pom"s at a range of about 30 yards.
The U-boat dived out of control reaching an indicated depth of 869 ft, well below her design depth of 490 ft, before stabilising without any damage.
There was no time for evasive action, and three of the four torpedoes struck amidships so closely together as to throw up a single massive water column. Barham quickly capsized to port and was lying on her side when a massive magazine explosion occurred aft about four minutes after she was torpedoed and sank her with the loss of 862 men. - The Photograph below is a still from a film taken from a nearby ship of the destruction.
The two photographs above show the Letter from R.M. Barracks, Portsmouth reporting Marine Berry Missing Presumed Killed and then a heart-breaking Letter from the Smylie Family to the Berry Family regarding the loss of their Sons. (Sincere Thank-you to Clive Higginson)
Alfie Martin DFC
Alfie was born in Finaghy in 1920 and went to Friends' School in Lisburn before becoming a junior clerk with the Liverpool & London & Globe Insurance Company in Belfast's Wellington Place.
In January 1939 he joined a Territorial Army Company of the Royal Engineers and was stationed at Kilroot Fort where he maintained the coastal searchlights when the war began.
He subsequently joined the Royal Air Force and served with 102 Squadron.
In April 1943 he was in a Halifax Bomber flown by Squadron Leader Wally Lashbrook which had been on a mission to Pilsen in Czechoslovakia however while on the return leg his aircraft was attacked and riddled with gunfire killing one of the crew -22-year-old Flying Officer George Williams.
The order "Bail Out!" was given and Alfie parachuted out of the now burning aircraft landing in a field on the French-Belgian border.
After wandering for days Alfie was found by a 12-year-old boy whose family fed him. He later hid in a barn for six weeks before making contact with the Resistance and crossing France and Spain to Gibraltar complete his escape.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions.You can read about is experiences as written by him in "Bale Out"
Ambrose Joseph and Eoin Christopher McGonigle, Special Air Service
Brothers Ambrose Joseph and Eoin Christopher McGonigle both served with the Special Air Service.
Eoin was born in Eire and later lived in Belfast.
He had been educated at Clongowes College in County Kildare and then Queens University, Belfast.
A firm friend of Paddy Mayne he had joined the Royal Ulster rifles in 1939 being attached to the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) the following year.
In 1940 / 41 he served with 11 Commando, 7 Troop and was posted to the Special Air Service and died of wounds received in action on 20th November 1941 when he was 20 years old.
(Photograph of Eoin is from gallery.commandoveterans.org)
Photograph on left - Top row, left to right: SM Brodison DCM, Lt Ambrose McGonigle MC, L-Cpl Howells. Bottom row, left to right: Cpl Nash MM, Lt Ian Smith MC, RFM Coleman.
Sir Ambrose Joseph McGonigle was educated at Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare and Queens University, Belfast.
Having joined the Royal Ulster Rifles he was attached to 12 Commando with whom he was awarded the Military Cross.
He then went to S Detachment Special Boat Squadron in August 1944 being promoted from Lieutenant to Captain and became Major with L Squadron Special Boat Squadron in 1945. He died in 1979.
Ian Smith died in his nineties after a long and eventful life, one in which he fought Nazis, Greek Communists and Italian Fascists.
Smith was well known in Limavady for his book ‘A Happy Amateur’, which gives an interesting and vivid account of his time in the army, both as a member of the newly established Parachute Regiment and as a recruit to the Commandos.
He recounts a childhood visit to 1930s Germany, where Hitler and his Nazi party had been in power a few years but before the onset of war.
He was among the first members of the Parachute Regiment and the SAS, but eventually joined the Commandos.
He was posted to Norway where, disguised, he kept watch on German shipping movements. He recalls one photograph where he was pictured in costume standing under a swastika in Norway. As for the invasion of Nazi-occupied France, Smith writes with fluency and gives a highly personal account of the battles fought as part of what colleagues described as “some hush, hush thing to do with the commandos.” He writes: “I have forgotten exactly how many raids we made on the French Coast, mostly unsuccessful, it must have been eight or nine, but I will tell in detail of but two, because in the haze of time I am unable to identify one similar op from another. I remember thinking at the time that we were in what was a singularly unique position. Stalin and others who should have known better were calling for the immediate launching of the Second Front ie the invasion of Europe, and here were we answering this demand. We were on our way to Europe, all seven of us, so look out Mr Hitler.”
After detailing the ensuing action, he also recounts an incredible tale of his time in Yugoslavia, assisting communist partisans in their fight against the Nazis. Among the stories of fighting in the fierce Eastern European nation, he summarised his time there: “Life amongst the Partisans was very different, they on the whole occupied the mountains and anywhere the Germans were not. One immediate difference was the lack of food. Whatever the variety of my way so far, and my experiences were pretty unique, there was always enough to eat, particularly when we were fed by the Navy – it was certainly a rare event to go hungry.” He added: “Generally we got one meal every other day, this was made up of meat from oxen which had been killed that morning, boiled and eaten in the afternoon, it was so tough that the chewing took several hours and so passed the time and eased the hunger pains.”
Smith also has many tales of war involving Crete and Greece, Lake Comachio in Italy and a host of locations throughout Europe in the worst war ever fought in human history, as well as colourful, humorous and interesting stories of life in the army.
Read more at: https://www.londonderrysentinel.co.uk/news/commando-who-fought-the-nazis-is-laid-to-rest-1-3855808
Sergeant / Air Gunner Austin Finnerty.
Austin was the Son of Augustine and Rose Finnerty from Newry.
He was serving with 49 Squadron, Royal Air Force and on the night of 16th / 17th March 1945 he was aboard Avro Lancaster NG352, EA-J and taking part in an Air Raid on Wurzburg, Germany.
NG352 was being flown by Flying Officer John Gibson and the aircraft was shot down in the Wurzburg area.
Of the Crew Flying Officer John Gibson along with Flight Engineer G.Peter Roberts, Navigator D. Edwards, Bomb Aimer R.M.Henderson and Air Gunner J. Evans were all able to escape the aircraft and parachute safely to the ground where they became Prisoners of War.
Austin Finnerty died in the aircraft which had been struck by cannon shells and was enveloped in flames.
Flight Sergeant Don Hughes, who was the Wireless Operator / Air Gunner was able to parachute from the aircraft but was subsequently Murdered by the S.S..
The details in the following account come from a newspaper cutting supplied by Peter Roberts, a fellow crew member of F/Sgt Hughes:
A third member of F/O Gibson's crew, F/Sgt Don Hughes, managed to escape from the burning aircraft successfully by parachute, landing by the banks of the River Main. In the morning he was found by two clergymen hiding in the church sacristy of Elbelstadt. He was handed over to a doctor who in turn took him to the Town Hall where he was interrogated.
At 07.30 on Sunday 18th March, after two days in the Police cells, Don was removed from the cells by SS Kriminal-Sekretar Joseph Axt of the Würzburg Criminal Police and Obersekretar Johann Weber. He was then marched to the river, where Axt shot him in the back before throwing his body in the river; his body was recovered from the river next morning.
'Axt and Weber were charged before a military court at Iserlohn on June 11th, 1946, and both were convicted. Axt was sentenced to death by shooting, and Weber to 20 years imprisonment. (Information and pictures from http://www.49squadron.co.uk/personnel_index/detail/Finnerty_A )
Sergeant Pilot Stanley Allen Fenemore from Whitewell, County Antrim
Sergeant Stanley Allen Fenemore was from Whitewell, Co Antrim.
Stationed at RAF Kenley he was flying Hurricane Mark I SD-V and was shot down during combat with enemy fighters over Redhill, Surrey (Immediately South of London) on the morning of 15th October 1940.
This was only 8 Days after his first Operational Sortie with 501 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
He was laid to rest at Allerton Cemetery, Liverpool. (Information from Chris Grove and Aircraft Photograph from Flypast)
Captain Harry Edward Arthars, U.S.Army
Shown here is the Marrage of Miss Patricia Loentia McGovern and Captain Harry Edward Arthars who was serving with the United States Army and was from Chicago, Illinois.
I believe that Harry stayed in the Army through the Second World War as well as Korea and the Vietnam War and retired as a Colonel.
(Newspaper Cutting is from John Stewart Old Pictures and Video of Newry)
(The photograph of his Headstone shown here is from www.billiongraves.com)
William McBride - The Shankill Road Sailor
William was from the Shankill Road in Belfast and was 16 years old when he joined the Merchant Navy during the Second World War.
William sailed in a number of Convoys and on occasions he helplessly watched as ships were sunk.
He started his career as a Deck Boy and worked his way up through Able Seaman to Captain.
On one occasion his ship was being escorted by 2 Icebreakers into the White Sea on the way to Archangel when they were bombed by German aircraft. With these two ships damaged William found himself stuck until the ice thawed!
One of the ships that William served on was the Kenbane Head which he was fortunate to escape from when it was sunk on 5th November 1940 by the German Battleship Admiral Scheer.
He served in various theatres supporting the Armed Forces in North Africa, during the Anzio Landings and in the Far East.
During “Action Stations” he was an Anti-Aircraft Gunner on one of the guns to either side of the ships Bridge.
William was awarded the following medals :-
1949 - 1945 Star
Africa Star and Bar
1939 - 1945 War Medal
The Russian Ushakov Medal.
(Information from "Nearness of Ice" Public Domain photograph)
Air Mechanic Fred Mitchell from Lurgan
Air Mechanic Fred Mitchell is shown cleaning out the Gun Barrels of a Hellcat Fighter on board H.M.S. Indomitable.
This photograph was taken during a Raid on Padang by the Fleet Air Arm on 23rd / 24th August 1944. (IWM Photograph)
Fusilier John Matthews
John Matthews was serving with 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers when he was Killed in Action on 8th August 1943
John had been born in Portaferry however he spent much of his time in Dromara where he attended Primary School before going to Lisburn Technical College and working on the family farm.
He joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in July 1940 when he was 20 years old, doing his Basic Training at the Inniskillings Depot at St Lucia Barracks in Omagh.
The pictures above show John in uniform in Portaferry and on the farm when on Leave in August / September 1941 (Thanks very much to his family for these photographs)
During his service John became a Tank Driver and it is worthy of note that when the Royal Ulster Rifles were advancing on the Djebel Guernat in North Africa they were supported by tanks of the North Irish Horse.
One of their Churchill Tanks was called “Lily from Portaferry” which it is believed refers to John’s sister Mary Elizabeth (Lily) who was born on 9th August 1921.
He served in Madagascar, India, Iraq, Persia and Egypt before being Killed in Action during The Battle for The Monte Hills in Sicily.
An assault on Tremonte, which was a Strong Point held by Enemy Forces near Pedara on the slope of the Mount Etna volcano, had been carried out with some success however more was required for the advance to proceed.
General, later Field Marshall Montgomery visited the Battalion and having praised their success to date he told them that if another Battalion attack was unsuccessful then a Brigade would be called into action.
At 03.30 on that day the Officer Commanding D Company received Orders from Command of 2 Skins.
Intelligence had been obtained during the previous night by Reconnaissance Patrols and an advance was to take place with Bren Gun Carriers moving forward to battle along with Infantry and Tanks.
The attack began at 06.00 however within 10 minutes the Soldiers came under Enemy machine-fire from 3 hills along with mortars.
With 18 Platoon pinned down and 17 Platoon advancing slowly orders were given to 16 Platoon to move forward in support of both before taking over the 17 Platoon position.
Having wiped-out a machine-gun post 18 Platoon continued to advance up hill under enemy fire finally reaching the top with 18 Soldiers at 08.15 however they were then Counter-attacked with machine-guns and grenades.
It is believed that it was at this time when John Matthews was killed.
Number 1 Section had moved to clear an area of trees to the left with Number 2 Section as Fire Support and Number 3 Section moving forward and slightly right where they over-ran an Enemy Post and captured 2 Prisoners.
Numbers 2 and 3 Sections beat off the Attack with 3 moving forward again however a single survivor from Number 1 Section reported that the Section had been Wiped Out.
18 Platoon now consisted of only about 9 men and were counter-attacked yet again before being ordered to withdraw with this being covered by grenades.
At 08.40 all 3 Platoons had gathered in a lane and were under intense fire making any movement impossible.
With harassing fire from Artillery, Mortars and Tanks the Skins began to take control and at 15.30 the Commanding Officer ordered that the troops were to withdraw under a smoke and artillery barrage at 17.00 - this was completed by 17.35
(Thanks very much to Brian Smyth and the Smyth family as well as Barry Niblock )
Dunkirk Veterans Association Ulster Branch Pilgrimage 1979
The Gentleman on the right is my Grandad - He served from the First Day until the last Day!
Bobby Taylor, Royal Navy
Bobby Taylor was from County Armagh and served in the Royal Navy during which he took part in the perilous Arctic Convoys on board H.M.S. Kent. (Thanks very much to the Brownlow Museum for this information and photographs)
Reverend James McMurray-Taylor, Padre to 1st Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles on D-Day
James McMurray-Taylor was born on 17th May 1916 in Ballymena.
He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and joined the Church of Ireland in 1939.
When war was declared he enlisted and became Padre of 1st Battalion the Royal Ulster Rifles. – He was 23 years old.
On the morning of 6th June 1944, D-Day, McMurray-Taylor conducted a Service which was attended by every man of the Battalion before thoughts moved to the matter in hand.
McMurray-Taylor was to go into battle in a glider.
8th June 1944
A temporary burial ground had been established on the lawn behind a house which had become the Battalion Headquarters.
Shallow graves were dug by men from the Pioneer Corps and, although vulnerable to mortar attack, McMurray-Taylor carried out a brief service for the dead from both sides.
13th June 1944
In the centre of Breville village was once a village green however it was now covered in German dead.
A small bulldozer was used to dig a long trench and after some hours of work the German bodies, which had been wrapped in blankets, were laid to rest with a brief burial service and Cross positioned to mark the location.
It is important to note that in each case McMurray-Taylor went through the pockets of every one to recover personal belongings as well as the soldiers Identity Disc and all of these were individually bagged and labelled for them to be returned to relatives.
Years later whilst on Holiday with his family in Normandy McMurray-Taylor learned of the death of Arlette Gondree, (of Café Gondree at Pegasus Bridge) and he attended the Funeral and read the Lord’s Prayer in French.
(Thanks very much to Mr Roger Edmondson for this information)
General Sir Richard Worsley
Richard Edward Worsley was born at Ballywalter, County Down on 29th May 1923.
He enlisted in 1940 and, in 1942, was commissioned into the Rifle Brigade and posted to 2nd Rifle Brigade in the Western Desert.
After North Africa, he fought as adjutant during the battles up Italy.
In the fierce battle for the hilltop town of Tossignano, near Bologna, his battalion took such heavy casualties that it had to be amalgamated with 10th Rifle Brigade and at that time he was mentioned in dispatches.
The end of the war found him in Austria and then, for a period of six weeks, his company managed a jail in Hamburg. It was full of war criminals and, on one occasion, having learned that a breakout was being planned, he ordered the Bren Gun platoon to fire four magazines down the length of a corridor. There was no more trouble.
Worsley continued to serve in the British Army long after WW2 and retired as a General.
General Sir Richard Worsley, born May 29 1923, died February 23 2013
United States Army Soldiers in Enniskillen
Shown here are a selection of photographs of U.S. Army Soldiers who were in Enniskillen during WW2.
On the left is Art Vreeland who was from Michigan. He was at Technician Fourth Grade with Technician Fifth Grade Fred Harriger is on the right.
It is pleasing to say survived the War and became a minister on leaving the army.
Harry Gibson who was from Enniskillen served in the United States Army and is top right in this group picture.
A young Fergus McCabe is shown sitting on the knee of an American Soldier.
(Thanks very much to Clara McCabe and all those at Old Enniskillen)
Act of Remembrance on Portrush Beach.
The Act of Remembrance shown here took place on Portrush Beach on 6th September 2015.
The Standard Bearers were joined by members of the Irish Guards and as part of the Ceremony a Huey Helicopter dropped Poppies.
"We Will Remember Them"
Able Seaman Henry Murphy
Shown here is Able Seaman Henry Murphy C / JX 363276 photographed in Belfast City Hall on the 70th Anniversary of V.E. Day 8th May 2014.
Henry is showing a letter which was sent to his Mother to tell her that he had been Killed In Action on 26th December 1944!
Bob Wright, Royal Marine Commando
Bob would have been best known to those visiting the Northern Ireland War Memorial Building in Talbot Street where he was an Attendant for 27 years.
He was born in the Sandy Row area of South Belfast and joined the Army when he was just 15 years old in 1938.
His initial service was with the Welch Regiment during which he was part of the British Expeditionary Force sent to France but soon to find themselves being pushed back and subsequently evacuated from the beaches around Dunkirk in 1940.
In 1941 he volunteered to join the Commandoes.
Bob saw action with the Special Boat Squadron in Norway during Operation Claymore before going to Number 5 Commando in Burma and Malaya where many of the Operations he took part in were behind Enemy Lines.
He served in the far East until the Japanese surrender in August 1945.
When war ended he stayed in Hong Kong until finally being discharged in 1950 after 12 years service.
On 16th June 2012 he was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to Museums.
He died in November 2015 aged 93. (Picture above left from Commando Veterans Association showing Bob as a C.S.M. with 602 Royal Army Service Corps at Victoria Barracks, Belfast in 1948)
Bob is shown here speaking with U.S. Army Veteran Teddy Dixon from Belfast.
Able Seaman Francis Cassells
Was on Motor Torpedo Boat HMMTB 710 and whilst on route to an Offensive Patrol of Arsa Channel in the Adriatic the Boat struck a mine on 10th April 1945 killing 2 Officers and 15 Men including Able Seaman Cassells who is names on the Lurgan War Memorial.
American Red Cross Workers in Northern Ireland
This photograph shows an American Red Cross Mobile Canteen in Northern Ireland on 27th May 1942.
The Uniformed Red Cross Worker is Miss Louisa Farrand from New York City and whilst most of the Servicemen are Americans it is a British Soldier holding the door.
Unfortunately I do not have a precise location as to where this picture was taken.
(Picture from http://flashbak.com/mobile-canteens-of-world-war-2)
Brigadier General Edmund W. Hill
Here is Brigadier General Edmund W. Hill, Commanding Officer of the United States 8th Air Force, is presenting a Medal to Technical Sergeant Dennis Kelemen from Cumberland, Kentucky.
The Ceremony is taking place in Northern Ireland on 23rd June 1943 although the precise location is unknown.
(Photograph from https://www.fold3.com/)
Mr. Peter Gaylor
(Thanks to Seamus Breslin and the Derry of the Past Facebook Page)
As you can see the first one shown here was sent to the "Portadown News" Office in Thomas Street, Portadown "From the Lads of Portadown" who were serving in India Command and thinking on all the folks back home.
On the right is a more personal message from Aircraftsman Billy Martin who was stationed in India and sending his Easter Message to a loved one in Ardoyne, Belfast.
The final message is sent from Barry to Sister Irene Restalltans at the Military Hospital at Campbell College, Belfast.
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Italy
Shown below are soldiers of 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on St Patricks Day, 17th March 1944.
They are at the Beachhead at Anzio, Italy and are reading the Belfast Telegraph "Ireland's Saturday Night" newspaper! (Picture from Histomil)
(The above picture is from "Fold 3")