A history of the Northern Ireland War Memorial, titled Lest We Forget, has been published to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the original building in Waring Street, Belfast by the Queen Mother on 29 October 1963.
In her speech the Queen Mother said: ‘the debt owed to the men and women of all ranks who had sacrificed their lives in the service of their country, in the cause of freedom, must never be forgotten’.
The war memorial moved to its present location in Talbot Street in 2007. This year museum achieved accredited status, a prestigious award for the museum.
The 110 page history covers the period of occupation in both buildings. The author is Catherine Charley, who also wrote the history of Bryson House. The design is by Professor John McMillan.
The book was launched in the gallery before an audience of 60 friends and supporters of the museum, including Gregory D Burton, the US Consul-General.
Commenting on the publication, Lieutenant Colonel C T Hogg, Chairman of the board of trustees, said: ‘This evening’s launch of the history of the War Memorial can be viewed as honouring the commitment given by the Queen Mother half a century ago’. The book may be purchased or ordered from the gallery, price £10.
In his review of the book, the distinguished historian, Dr Jonathan Bardon, has commented that Rudyard Kipling’s words, Lest We Forget, are especially appropriate for the Northern Ireland War Memorial – the protracted violence and destruction of the Troubles did tend to push back the memory of the experience of the people here during the most terrible conflict in history. Recalled in this building, each name carefully recorded, are those service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in two world wars, also the names of over a thousand citizens who died during the air raids of 1941.
This authoritative and handsome book vividly brings back to view the war years in Northern Ireland for the benefit of fresh generations born long after VE Day and VJ Day. The distinguished writer Catherine Charley, with the sensitive collaboration of the designer of the gallery, John McMillan, open one fascinating window after another to demonstrate what life was like on the Home Front – the privation, the terror, the willingness to meet the domestic challenges of total war, and the determination to live life to the full and have fun (particularly during the time that American GIs formed almost one tenth of Northern Ireland’s population).
Meticulously researched, Lest We Forget is also, thanks to the lucid writing, a thoroughly good read. This sumptuously illustrated book is surely at the cutting edge of twenty-first century design, subtly recalling the styles of war time in the most modern way. The volume is divided into neat and easily digestible short sections making quick reference particularly straightforward. There is no doubt that this book will be eagerly read and consulted for many decades to come.