ARP helmet

A is for ARP

The government set up a national ARP organisation, encouraging ordinary members of the public to volunteer. ARP stood for Air Raid Precautions. Men and women were encouraged to become Air Raid Wardens, members of the Auxiliary Fire Service and the Civil Defence Nursing Service, Red Cross and St. John’s Ambulance.

There were around 1.4 million ARP wardens in Britain during World War 2, mostly unpaid with day time jobs. Their uniform consisted of overalls, an armlet and a steel helmet with ARP or A written across the helmet .It was a an extremely important job and some were awarded the George Cross.

Air Raid Wardens were allocated blocks of streets. Their tasks were to direct people into the shelters when the air raid warning sounded, making sure that no outside lights were showing and rescuing people trapped in collapsed buildings. Thirty four wardens, both men and women were killed in the Belfast raids.

The ARP helmet that we have selected as our object of the month for February 2013 was worn during the Belfast Blitz. It will be on display later in March at the Northern Ireland War Memorial in a small temporary display in the gallery of our Recent Acquisitions.

Photo: courtesy of Bryan Ruledge.

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NIWM re-opens in New Year

The NIWM Gallery and Office re-opened on Tuesday 1st January 2013 and is now operating as normal. We look forward to welcoming new and return visitors throughout 2013.

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NIWM Gallery Christmas closure

The NIWM Gallery and Office will be closed on the following dates over the Christmas period

Monday 24th December – Tuesday 1st January 2013

The Gallery and office will re open at 10.30 on Wednesday 2nd January 2013 at 10.00
We thank all our visitors for their support over this busy year, and we look forward to welcoming you again in 2013.
Should you have any enquiries please send then to and they will be dealt with on our return

Thank you and good wishes from us all for Christmas and the New Year


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NIWM Job Vacancies

The following vacancies have now been filled.

The Northern Ireland War Memorial is currently inviting applications for two job vacancies.

Part time Education Officer – Northern Ireland War Memorial, Belfast

Purpose of post:  The post-holder will be responsible for:
o        Developing the education programme aimed at P4-P7 (Key Stage 2)
o        Developing and marketing outreach programmes
o        Supporting marketing initiatives to raise the profile of the NIWM.

Hours:  100 hours per month
Rate of pay:  £1200 per month, rising by £100 increments to £1500 per month after 3 years

Download an application form

The closing date is Tuesday 4 December at 4pm.


Part time Museum Administrator – Northern Ireland War Memorial, Belfast

Purpose of post:  The post-holder will be responsible for:
o        Managing the office
o        Managing the website and all IT/AV equipment
o        Supporting the Curator in managing the archive.

Hours:  10 hours per week
Rate of pay:  £9.38 per hour

Download an application form

The closing date is Tuesday 4 December at 4pm.

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Remembrance 2012

Image by Nick Coombs –

Armistice day has been marked by ceremonies at war memorials throughout the country on 11th November since 1919.

A wreath will be laid at the Northern Ireland War Memorial in the gallery on Friday 9th November.

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QA Nurses Cape


Please note, this artefact is no longer on display.

This cape belonged to Molly Lea who served as a QA Nurse during the Second World War.  The badges on the inside of the cape are a selection of badges and insignia given to her by grateful patients.


The cape has kindly been lent to the War Memorial Gallery by Rene Lea, a niece of Molly Lea’s.  It will be on display in the War Memorial Gallery throughout November.

Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) provided nurses during the war from 1939 – 1945.

The history of QA Nurses can be traced backed to Florence Nightingale and the Crimean War when the Secretary of State for war, Sidney Herbert, identified the need to recruit nurses to tend to the injured soldiers. Nightingale took 38 women to work as nurses from 1854 – 56.  By 1897 the Army Nursing Reserve was formed which was then replaced by the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service in 1902.

During the First World War QA’s tended to the wounded in field hospitals, aboard ambulance trains, hospital ships and barges and casualty clearing stations.

At the start of World War Two QA’s travelled to France as part of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) and by the summer of 1940 1300 QA nurses were evacuated with the BEF at Dunkirk.

The QA nurses were famed for their scarlet and grey capes although they found that it was more practical to wear battledress and khaki rather than their ward dresses and veils while working in dressing stations and field hospotals.

In Millions Like Us author Virginia Nicholson tells the story of one matron who did not want her nurses to be confused with the ATS (Auxillary Teritorial Service) so insisted that here nurses still wear their scarlet caps over their khaki uniforms.

Throughout WW2 the QA nurses served in every campaign and in 1949 they became Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC) which still forms part of the Army Medical Services today.


Find out more here and here.

NIWM is not responsible for the content of external sites.

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Northern Irish Art and Artists in WW2

Thursday 15th November 2012 7.30pm

Places are now available attend an introductory talk on the local art and artists active during WW2.  The talk will be given by Alison Mitchelson BA (Hons) MA Freelance Curator and lecturer on the Open Learning Programme in History of Art at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Admission is free but places must be booked in advance.

I you would like to book a place please contact Ciaran Doran – or 028 90320 392 option 3 by 1st November to secure your place.

This will be the first of a series of talks on related subjects to NIWM

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Culture Night Belfast

Jazz and dance will again be featured at the war memorial gallery,21 Talbot Street, on culture night on September 21.


Throughout the evening jazz will be played by the Siobhan Pettit jazz quartet.  Siobhan will sing as the group plays songs and tunes from the 1940s.


The Belle Hoppers dance troupe of three will perform a variety of dances from the 1930s and the war time era.  Members of the public will be able to learn the steps.  No booking required and everyone will be encouraged to join in and have a go.  People are welcome to wear 1940s outfits.


The evening of jazz is one of the gallery’s events to mark the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the US Forces who came to train for the war inNorth Africa andEurope.

The live performances will take place from 7 to 10pm

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September Object of the Month

Our September object of the month is this lovely box of soap.

It was brought over to Northern Ireland by a US serviceman in 1942 and given to a young lady here as a Christmas present.  In fact during the war soap was one of the most popular Christmas gifts.

Soap was rationed from the 9th February 1942 and remained on the ration until September 1950.

You would be allocated coupons in your ration book to use on soap – this would include hard soap, toilet soap, liquid soap, soft soap, soap flakes and soap powder, some of which you would be using to clean yourself and some for cleaning your clothes.

Very few people would have had a shower and not everybody would have had a bath in a bathroom – using a tin bath placed in front of the fire instead.  Bath water was also limited to a maximum of 5 inches (12.5 cm) which could be measured out by painting a black line round the edge of the bath and then only filling to that amount.


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European Heritage Open Days

It’s all go here at the War Memorial as the final preparations are being put in place for this weekend’s European Heritage Open Days.  We’ll have members from the Wartime Living History Association showing us what life was like for the US GIs who were based here during the Second World War, they have a display of what a soldiers living quarters would have looked like and will be giving three talks on different themes related to the US Forces in Northern Ireland.

On top of that you’ll be able to buy very tasty US themed food from the Fabulous Food Factory, try your hand at making your own patriotic pin badges, watch the excellent Brian Desmond Hurst film A Letter from Ulster filmed in 1942 and on Sunday you’ll be able to hear some lunch time jazz from the Siobhann Petitt Jazz trio.

We’ll be open on both Saturday and Sunday (8th and 9th September) from 10am – 4.30pm.

Hope you can make it!

Here is the programme of events so you can see all the great things we’ve got going on…

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