The Northern Ireland War Memorial would like to record how the people of Northern Ireland were affected by the Second World War.
Your memories are incredibly important to us and will be added to our museum collection.
While face to face interviewing has been temporarily suspended due to Covid-19, Michael, our Oral History Project Coordinator, can conduct an oral history interview over the phone or online.
If you or someone you know like to share their story, please call Michael on 075 8863 4847 or 028 9032 0392. Or you can email email@example.com for more information.
As an accredited museum, we welcome the donation of photographs, objects, and written stories relating to the Second World War in Northern Ireland. Please get in touch if you have something you would like to donate to our growing collection.
Following further guidelines from the NI Executive, we will close from Wednesday 23rd December for a planned six week period. We wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year, and look forward to welcoming you back again soon.
This month we’re highlighting some Christmas memories from our oral history collection.
Times were certainly tough for families at Christmas time, yet many of our interviewees who were children at the time fondly recall small and meaningful presents, especially if they were homemade. Alice McChesney told us that ‘father made beautiful gifts, once he made us a beautiful butterfly which floated up and down, and a dolls house with all the furniture that made out of boxes and paper from the tobacco packets my father used to smoke in his pipes. I of course questioned why the furniture had the same covering as father’s pipe tobacco, but my parents must have given a satisfactory answer to an inquisitive little child.’ Another popular homemade gift was a doll such as those made by Betty’s grandmother, ‘the only dolls I had were the dolls my granny made and she would have made a doll for me at Christmas… soft body and a wee face on it and she would have made a dress for it, every Christmas I would have got a new doll from her’.
For many of our interviewees the other standout memory of Christmas was food. Bertie Thompson grew up on a farm and remembered that ‘when it was coming up to Christmas, they’d have said, “Now which one of them hens or roosters are gonna be for Christmas”, and we’d have picked them and my father would have just wrung its neck and handed it to us to pluck”. Eamonn McGinn’s parents raised turkey’s at Christmas; ‘my mother and father would have reared maybe twenty or thirty turkeys for the Christmas Market, but we never got turkey at Christmas, they were all sold. The fowl man came round and he weighed them and you waited until you got the right price and then it came near Christmas and you had to get rid of them because they were no good to you. When they were all sold, then we’d have got a roast beef or something like that, and it was lovely, it was absolutely brilliant.’
Not everyone in Northern Ireland had the comforts of being home at Christmas with many American servicemen spending Christmas without their families. Sadie Lineker recalled an American soldier her family was friendly with arriving with friends at Christmas ‘about four or five of them arrived at our door and they said “We just wanted to come to a house that had an open fire, so we could just sit down there and open our parcels that we got from home at Christmas”… They just sat round the fire and we put carols on the gramophone and just had an ordinary family Christmas while they opened their parcels and surprise surprise they had a lipstick for my sister and one for me!’. Harry Williamson also remembered being joined by Americans for Christmas; ‘we had happened to say prior to Christmas that on Christmas Day we’d be expecting to hear the King speaking his Christmas message, I don’t know how the chaps got hold of the idea but they said “Oh yes, Roosevelt will be giving a Christmas message too”… So come Christmas Day the two soldiers arrived with a whole load of friends and our living room was packed with American soldiers and they wanted to hear this radio speech. They listened to the King and they were greatly disappointed when we finally got it through to them that they wouldn’t hear Roosevelt speaking as America was too far away for our wee radio to reach”.
Do you remember celebrating Christmas during the Second World War? Perhaps you had some American visitors or can remember a special gift you were given? If you’d like to share your wartime Christmas memories with us, feel free to get in touch with our oral history coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us this Saturday 19th December 2020 between 12pm-4pm for a festive themed Saturday Opening, with FREE family tours taking place every half hour. Learn how people celebrated Christmas under the restraints of rationing while listening to some well-loved Christmas songs including our wartime version of the 12 Days of (Wartime) Christmas!
Collect your FREE Christmas themed Craft To Go pack, with lots of fun and learning including our usual learning resources as well as some new Christmas activities including:
Make Your Own Christmas Tree Card
Sweet Treats for a Wartime Christmas Recipe Book
Wartime Word Search
You’ll even get a wartime themed Christmas present at the end of your visit!
We are delighted to be open to the public once again.
We are open Monday – Friday from 10am to 4pm and it’s always free to visit. There is no need to book in advance as our Museum Assistants will be monitoring numbers at any one time.
You can read all about our safety measures here: http://www.niwarmemorial.org/visitors/.
Watch this space for updates about our special Christmas event happening this Saturday 19th December 2020 from 12pm – 4pm. Numbers will be limited and pre-booking will be necessary. More information coming soon.
We will remain open until Wednesday 23rd December 2020 when we will close for Christmas at 4pm.
Our Outreach Officer Michael has been busy creating a new Reminiscence video called Memories at the Museum to help staff in care homes and folds facilitate reminiscence sessions with their residents. It can also be used in other settings where reminiscence activities are being held for groups of older people.
The video features objects relating to the Second World War which act as triggers to stimulate enjoyable conversations in a reminiscence session. Following each object there are also some Times to Chat with some suggested discussion topics during which we hope you’ll pause the video and take some time to share your memories.
We’re proud to be a Nursery Rhyme Ambassador for World Nursery Rhyme Week 2020. This exciting initiative helps to support important literacy and language development amongst our younger children.
We are currently preparing for the next Playful Museums Festival in February 2021. Many of the under 5s who have visited the museum before may recognise Jeanie the Hen in the picture below. While you can’t visit us, we’re looking forward to bringing Jeanie to you at home or in preschool.
You can also download your own World Nursery Rhyme Week Parent’s pack and take part in many more activities with your children at home. To register and download your free resources visit: www.worldnurseryrhymeweek.com.
Remembrance has been very different this year. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us will find ourselves unable to attend Acts of Remembrance as we normally would have done.
Remembrance is very important for us at the Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum. On the morning of Wednesday 11th November 2020 at 11am a member of staff will lay a wreath on a memorial in the museum to commemorate local lives lost in the First and Second World War.
In order to allow people to share in this Act of Remembrance, we have created a short video which can watched at home this Armistice Day.
The video features Bugler Andrew Carlisle of Hillsborough Fort Guard sounding the Last Post followed by one minutes’ silence. Rolls of Honour listing the names of the fallen and various memorials in the museum are also featured. The video concludes with the sounding of Reveille and the Kohima Epitaph.
We hope that this video will allow you to meaningfully connect with Remembrance and join with others in remembering together on Armistice Day.
Every month we highlight one of our interviewees and their wartime memories. Eileen Pollock was born in 1925 and was interviewed in September 2018.
Eileen was 16 during the Belfast Blitz and recalled vividly the Easter Tuesday raid of 1941. Eileen stayed with her family in their house off the Old Lodge Road, ‘we were all sitting, and the bombs were coming down. My father, he was in the First World War and he was saying “This is terrible, you can do nothing”, we were just sitting waiting’. ‘My sister at 17 and I thought we would go under the stairs and then such a bang came and the back door shook and you never seen two sisters jumping out of a place as quick in all your life and we went back to sit with everyone else. Anyway, next thing an incendiary device landed on the window ledge and my sister “Oh the house is on fire! The house is on fire!”, but our neighbour’s three sons were out on the street knocking them off window ledges and putting them out and that.’ Thankfully, all Eileen’s family were fine, and the house was luckily undamaged. On the same night Eileen recalled that a local building occupied by soldiers was hit and destroyed, as was Percy Street Shelter just a few streets away off the Shankill Road.
When Eileen was 17 she married her boyfriend Thomas, who had joined up and was serving with the Royal Ulster Rifles. She remembered that because of the war there wasn’t any fuss or reception, saying ‘it wasn’t hard because there was nothing to organise, you just went to the church and you got married and that was it… I just wore a coat and a thing that my sister had bought me for her wedding the previous July’. Then in May 1943 Eileen received a telegram (pictured) informing her that her husband had been seriously injured. ‘He was training to go to Burma and a grenade blew up… his left leg was paralysed, shrapnel in the head and all that’. When the telegram arrived Eileen was staying with her sister ‘on the Donegall Road and my mother brought it over, then the Red Cross paid our way, his mother and I to go over and see him on the Isle of Wight… we were about ten days on the Isle of Wight and then he was moved to a head injury hospital in Oxford’. It was September before Eileen’s husband was invalided out of the army. Eileen recalled, ‘September 16th, out of the army and you know the great pension he got was £2 7s 6d… that was what you had to live on for a full year… but he was great, very independent he was’. Thankfully Thomas managed to get a job working for the switchboard despite his injuries.
Yet times were very tough for her family and Eileen recalled that ‘money was very very tight’, particularly with wartime rationing. They survived on ‘mostly soup… vegetable soup, stew or hash as we called it, corned beef hash… with your tea you only got two ounces so you boiled the tea up in the morning and you didn’t rinse the teapot and at dinner time you’d have put an extra thing of tea leaves in, you kept it going all day… I mean we all struggled through, but everyone helped each other then’. That community spirit was evident in the VE day street parties at the end of the war, Eileen remembered ‘they had the big tables outside and all the children were all round and everything, it was always more for the kids… anyway you went and got a cup of tea you enjoyed… you had music playing and that, then they would have had a wee singsong’.
Do you like Eileen remember the Easter Tuesday raid on Belfast? Or perhaps you can remember the VE Day street parties and celebrations where you lived? Please get in touch with us via email at email@example.com or you can give us a call on 07588634847.