News

The War and Me Oral History Project

At our festive reception this year we took a moment to thank long term friend and colleague of Northern Ireland War Memorial, Dr Susan Kelly. For over three years Susan has co-ordinated our oral history projects; Belfast Blitz 75 in 2016, US75 in 2017 and our ongoing project The War & Me. She has recorded over eighty interviews and in doing so has captured precious wartime memories of a fading generation, memories which otherwise would have been lost to the historians of tomorrow.

Dr Susan Kelly with NIWM Chairman Ian Wilson

These interviews are now transcribed and stored in our accredited museum collection. They are freely available to researchers, students and other members of the public interested in the many diverse stories of Northern Ireland during the Second World War.

We would like to again take this opportunity to thank Susan for all her diligent hard work over the past three years.

We also wish Good Luck to our colleague Michael Burns who will be managing the project as it continues.

If you or a friend or family member have wartime memories please do get in touch with us to organise an interview. We would love to add our story to our growing collection.

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The Festive Forties

The Festive Forties

Saturday 7th December 2019 – 10.30am to 4pm

Festive Fun was had at the Northern Ireland War Memorial on Saturday 7th December.

Visitors to the museum learned how people celebrated Christmas under the restraints of rationing while listening to some well-loved Christmas songs and sampling some ration recipe Christmas cake.

Wartime games and toys proved popular with younger visitors, with many cracking a secret Morse Code message. A great day was had by all. Thank you to everyone who stopped by!

Northern Ireland War Memorial

21 Talbot Street, Belfast, BT1 2LD

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Object of the Month – November 2019

Object of the Month – November 2019

Egilsay Bell

This brass bell belonged to HMT Egilsay (T215), an Isles-class trawler commissioned during the Second World War for duties with the Royal Naval Patrol Service (RNPS).

Egilsay was built by Cooke, Welton and Gemmell Ltd, Beverley, Yorkshire and commissioned on 8th July 1942. She saw service in home coastal waters, as well as the Mediterranean where she was used for minesweeping duties and harbour defence. After the war the ship was sold to the Italian Navy.

The RNPS was also known as ‘Harry Tate’s Navy’ or ‘Churchills Pirates’, especially by the Royal Navy as the RNPS often used poorly armed, requisitioned trawlers. However, the men of the RNPS came to proudly adopt the nickname.

The bell has been loaned to the Northern Ireland War Memorial by the Black family, whose father, Jim Black (pictured), was one of the 50 crew onboard HMT Egilsay during the Second World War. Able Seaman Jim Black was from Douglas Bridge, Co. Tyrone and he served up until 1946 after enlisting in 1941. He also served onboard MMS 64 (J564), HMS Coldstreamer (T337) and HMT Hascosay (T390) during the Second World War.

To view the bell or any other item in our evergrowing collection please get in contact to arrange an appointment, either via direct message, email or phonecall.

Northern Ireland War Memorial

21 Talbot Street, Belfast, BT1 2LD

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The Festive Forties

The Festive Forties

Free Family Event

Saturday 7th December – 10.30am to 4pm

Join us at the Northern Ireland War Memorial for Festive Fun with wartime games and toys. Learn how people celebrated Christmas under the restraints of rationing and try your hand in our lucky dip or have a go at cracking a secret Christmas message.

  • Play with wartime games and toys
  • Listen to well-loved Christmas songs and singalong
  • Sample our ration recipe Christmas Cake – made with dried eggs
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‘Petticoat Pilots: Biographies and Achievements of Irish Female Aviators, 1909-1939’ by Michael Traynor

‘Petticoat Pilots: Biographies and Achievements of Irish Female Aviators, 1909-1939’ by Michael Traynor

Monday 25th November – 7pm to 9pm

On Monday 25th November at 7pm, Michael Traynor will launch his book ‘Petticoat Pilots: Biographies and Achievements of Irish Female Aviators, 1909-1939‘ at the Northern Ireland War Memorial.

The book will be launched by Dr Wendy Austin, MBE and the evening hosted by aviation historian and author, Guy Warner.

The book is the result of eight years research and comprises 205,000 words on 650 pages divided into two volumes. The detailed index extends to 45 pages. There are 773 photographs most of them are from private family collections and never before been published. It is being offered at a special discounted price of £45 for both volumes purchased on the night. The Foreword is provided by President Michael D. Higgins.

Please see the attached leaflet for a blurb and further info.

To RSVP please email traynormichael0@gmail.com

Northern Ireland War Memorial

21 Talbot Street, Belfast, BT1 2LD

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Act of Remembrance at the Northern Ireland War Memorial

Act of Remembrance at the Northern Ireland War Memorial

Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum

On Monday 11 November the Northern Ireland War Memorial held a short ceremony to commemorate Armistice Day.

This act of remembrance was attended by veterans, trustees, council members and staff of the Northern Ireland War Memorial, which operates an accredited museum in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast.

A wreath was placed on a memorial by Mrs Maureen Lightbody, a former Wren who was based at Grey Point Fort and Bangor’s Royal Hotel during the Second World War. The granite memorial holds the museum’s Books of Remembrance for the fallen in the First and Second World War.

Former Wren, Maureen Lightbody, places a wreath on the memorial at the Northern Ireland War Memorial.

The museum tells the story of how Northern Ireland was affected by and contributed to the Second World War. It has a growing collection and offers a range of family events and workshops for schools and community groups. Wren Maureen Lightbody née Oughton, and other veterans in attendance including Major Victor Clarke and Flight Lieutenant Bill Eames have recently contributed to the museum’s ongoing oral history project, The War and Me, which seeks to capture wartime memories of Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum

21 Talbot Street, Belfast, BT1 2LD

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Object of the Month – October 2019

Object of the Month – October 2019

Object of the month October 2019 is a page taken from one of many scrapbooks held by NIWM that were created by our former curator, John Potter, during his school days.

The Northern Ireland War Memorial is fortunate to hold his scrapbooks right from the build up and eventual outbreak of war in the late summer of 1939 through to the end of the war in 1945.

We have chosen this particular page (from NIWM:2015.2111.2) as it shows that despite the recent outbreak of war, Remembrance Day was still marked annually. John thoughtfully collected and included in his scrapbook a British Legion poppy alongside a rather poignant poem by Gerald Sanger entitled ‘Remembrance 1939’.

The Royal British Legion pop up shop is currently at NIWM 09.30-16.00 Mon-Friday until Friday 8th November.

Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum

21 Talbot Street, Belfast, BT1 2LD

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Royal British Legion Poppy Shop at NIWM

On Monday 28th October, The Royal British Legion will open their annual poppy shop in the gallery as part of the Northern Ireland Poppy Appeal.

The poppy shop will be located in the main gallery of NIWM and will run until Friday 8th November.

The shop will be open Monday – Friday from 9.30am to 4.00pm.

Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum, 21 Talbot Street, Belfast, BT1 2LD

Opening Hours: Monday- Friday from 10am to 4.30pm and on the first Saturday of every month from 12pm to 4pm.

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Object of the Month – September 2019

Object of the Month – September 2019

25th September marks the end of Operation Market Garden. The plan was to use airborne forces to seize and hold strategic bridges near the Dutch-German border to allow armoured ground units to advance and create a route into Germany.

NIWM’s Object of the Month for September 2019 is this Flying Log Book (NIWM:2018.2193) that belonged to Leading aircraftman Robert Lowry Thompson who served with No. 271 Squadron. From the images you can see that he was involved in towing gliders to a landing zone (L.Z.) near Arnhem, resupply missions and also the evacuation of casualties.

Ultimately, Operation Market Garden failed to secure a bridgehead across the Rhine and into Germany.

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Trustees of the Northern Ireland War Memorial travel to Bushmills to celebrate local artist James McKendry

Trustees of the Northern Ireland War Memorial travel to Bushmills to celebrate local artist James McKendry

Trustees and Staff of NIWM meet with James and Norri McKendry at the Bushmills Inn.

Staff and Trustees of the NIWM travelled to Bushmills on Thursday 5th September for their annual off-site board meeting, this year in the Bushmills Inn Hotel. They seized this opportunity to meet local artist, James McKendry, who was commissioned by the NIWM back in 1960 to create two large copper friezes for the original War Memorial building which opened on Waring Street Belfast in 1963. The copper friezes are 30 feet in length each and they are on display in the museum which relocated to Talbot Street in 2008. They are admired by approximately 11,000 visitors to the NIWM every year.

Copper frieze by James McKendry

The upper frieze records the presence of the United States military in Northern Ireland from 1942 to 1944.  US soldiers are shown training in the countryside in Northern Ireland under a 48-star US flag. The artist depicts airfields, the Causeway headlands, Port Moon Bay, a traditional Ulster five-bar farm gate and an Antrim round tower. The troops are shown progressing from left to right, disciplined and ordered, equipped with weapons and armaments, ready to embark for the Normandy landings. 

The lower frieze illustrates the war effort of men and women on the home front. Depicted left to right are farmers gathering flax and corn, a woman weaving, stone masons rebuilding Belfast after the air raids, a barrage balloon tethered above a linen mill, a fishing boat, a shipbuilding crane, heavy engineering, a welder at work and a countryside scene which includes ‘the steeple’ in Antrim.

James and Norri McKendry with NIWM Chairman Ian Wilson

McKendry’s internationally acclaimed work can be found in corporate and private collections around the world, including that of the Duke of Edinburgh.  McKendry has executed many commissioned murals and sculptures for churches and public buildings in Ireland and abroad. McKendry is now retired and lives in Bushmills with his wife Norri.

In 2018 the NIWM interviewed James McKendry about the artwork he created and how the commission came about in 1960. This was done as part of the NIWM’s ongoing The War and Me oral history project which aims to interview people with wartime memories. James’s interview has now been transcribed and is available to researchers. James remains very proud of the friezes he made for the NIWM, which are to this day his largest works. He was honoured to attend this special event to celebrate his work.

Robert Quigg VC Memorial, Bushmills

Staff and Trustees of the NIWM were also joined by Leonard Quigg BEM and local historian Keith Beattie as they visited the Robert Quigg VC Memorial, which the NIWM gave grant assistance to in 2016.

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