300 people visited the War Memorial this weekend to take part in their European Heritage Open Days event.
Visitors enjoyed learning about the wartime roles of women both on the home front and in local industries.
Below are some images captured over the weekend.
Curator of the Northern Ireland War Memorial, Ciaran Elizabeth Doran, featured on the Kim Lenaghan show on Sunday 13 September.
Listen to the link below to hear what she had to say about women in wartime industries and how the War Memorial will contribute to this year’s European Open Heritage Days.
Women on the Home Front in World War Two
Hundreds of building across Northern Ireland open their doors this weekend as part of the European Heritage Open Days. Call in to learn about wartime industries in Northern Ireland and the role of women on the Home Front. Try on uniforms, listen to music and taste some wartime treats.
We have a variety of family-friendly activities including;
- Dressing up
- Craft activities
- Music from the era
- Wartime food samples
- Pathé film footage
- A display of unique material and photographs
Northern Ireland’s munitions factories had produced 75 million shells by 1945, while the linen and textile industries had also produced 200 million yards of cloth for the armed services.
Visit the War Memorial Museum to learn about wartime industries in Northern Ireland and the role of women on the Home Front during World War Two.
Find out more about the vital work carried out by local women who filled some of the openings left by men who had joined the military, taking their place on farms and in war production jobs.
Step into the shoes of men and women on the Home Front as you dress up in various uniforms to become a Land Girl, an Air Raid Warden, a munition factory worker, a textile worker or an off duty serviceman.
Watch Pathé film footage of women working in the countryside as Land Girls, and in munition and textile factories during a time of rationing, separation and loss.
Please note that the gallery of the Northern Ireland War Memorial will be closed for the Bank Holiday on Monday 31 August 2015.
The museum will reopen again as normal on Tuesday 1 September 2015 and will resume normal hours of operation from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm.
*Please also note that the gallery will be closed on Tuesday 8 September 2015
A thank you to Mr Bob Wright on the occasion of his retirement from the Northern Ireland War Memorial, after 27 years of devoted service as Senior Museum Attendant.
Bob Wright has been our Senior Museum Attendant for 27 years, I have known him for 2.5 of those years. Most of you have known him for much longer than I have, so I can only assume he has made a similar impression on you.
I first met Bob in December 2012, when I delivered my application form to the gallery for the post of Education Officer. He wished me luck with a firm handshake. It must have done the trick.
When I took up the post a month later, I really had to learn on my feet. We had a diary full of upcoming school visits and I could not disappoint. Bob helped me enormously. He guided me through the main areas of the gallery and gave me the confidence to develop the learning programmes into what they are today.
Bob Wright is one of those special people in life who take great pride in all they do. He greets every visitor to the gallery and offers to explain the exhibits, drawing on his experiences to embellish his stories of the war, the blitz on Belfast and times past.
You would often see Bob leading a tour for 50 people, climbing up a ladder to fix lights, chasing after the postman with an undeliverable letter or standing on cardboard boxes, flattening them for the recycling bins.
Last year, over 2400 children visited the museum, taking part in our half-day Primary School programme. Bob is a huge hit with the schoolchildren, telling them about his real life experiences and teaching them about what life was like during the war.
Bob was Talbot Street’s very own lollypop man as he stopped traffic to ensure the children got off their bus and safely into the War Memorial building. Primary Schools begin their visit in the foyer where I welcome them and read them the riot act. The trip continues in our education room on the second floor, and then in this gallery. Before the class comes into the gallery, I tell them that they are going to meet Bob, and that he is, as they would put it “a real life soldier!” I tell them his age (sorry Bob) and make them promise not to tell him I told them.
When we walk into the gallery, this revelation about Bob can be felt in the air, as the children look at him in awe with bucketsful of respect and a great sense of wonder. We often have to change the regular programme to allow for a questions and answers session with Bob, as they are so interested in his stories, and no longer want to listen to me.
His stories include raiding Japanese Saki stores, the comradeship he felt in Burma and Hong Kong, and the difference between a Sten gun, a Bren gun, and a Lee-Enfield rifle. He would often challenge Chinese children to count to ten in Chinese, and he took great delight in teaching them what they didn’t know. During our dressing up activity, Bob would show the children the correct way to put on a helmet (chin in first). He even fashioned a pretend rifle with an old flag pole, and the boys would fight over who got to pose with it next. When talking about rationing, dried eggs and the Dig for Victory campaign, Bob would teach the children to sing Hey Little Hen, explaining that it was a popular tune in the 1940s. Bob is 92 years young!
Besides work, Bob and I just became great friends. As you all know, Bob shares great stories and gives sound advice on life. Prior to his 27 years at the NIWM, Bob held a similar role in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, where I also teach, so we have lots in common, and plenty of people to talk about. Bob would give Kerry and me at least one chocolate bar a week, so we’ll miss that too!
I will really miss Bob, his support and his stories. There are too many stories to retell now, but I will share this funny one. I remember his story about when he returned to Northern Ireland and was demobbed in Victoria Barracks (in 1950 or thereabouts). Bob had to take off his uniform and find civilian clothes to fit him, from a limited wardrobe in the barracks. Apparently the only thing that fitted was an obnoxious striped suit. Bob told me he was so embarrassed wearing this suit, that he ran up the back alley to his house on Hunter Street (Sandy Row), snuck into the house, raced upstairs to change, and then came downstairs to present himself to his mother. He told me the striped suit made him look like radio comedian Charlie Chester. I laughed politely, but I admit, I had to go upstairs to do a Google search for Charlie Chester. Then I laughed again.
Bob, it has been an honour to work with you, and I would now like to read a few thank you letters we have received from Primary School children recently.
Commemoration of 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan (VJ) Day at the Northern Ireland War Memorial
Victory over Japan (VJ) day, celebrated on 15 August 1945, officially announced the end of WW2. The Northern Ireland War Memorial will be hosting a commemorative event to remember VJ day, which will include a two minutes silence at 12.00 pm. Flowers will be placed on a memorial sculpture by Carolyn Mulholland in the gallery.
The commemoration will include a tribute to Mr. Bob Wright BEM, who has at the age of 92, decided to retire from his role as Senior Gallery Attendant after 27 years in service. As a Sergeant Major in the Army Commandoes, Bob saw action against the Japanese, and in one fierce encounter even came to the aid of the 8thBelfast Heavy AA Battery. The tribute to Bob will be especially poignant on this the 70 Anniversary of VJ Day, as countless visitors to the Northern Ireland War Memorial have been enthralled by his personal stories and knowledge he so willingly gave.
As we commemorate VJ Day this morning, we will also be paying a very special tribute to Mr. Bob Wright BEM, who has at the age of 92, decided to retire from his role as Senior Gallery Attendant after 27 years in service.
As a Sergeant Major in the Army Commandos, Bob saw action against the Japanese, and in one fierce encounter even came to the aid of the 8th Belfast Heavy AA Battery.
The tribute to Bob will be especially poignant on this the 70 Anniversary of VJ Day, as countless visitors to the Northern Ireland War Memorial have been enthralled by his personal stories and knowledge which he so willingly gave.
The date 15 August 1945, the surrender of Japan, following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was celebrated round the world as the end of World War Two – although the surrender document was not signed till 2 September. This date is sometimes quoted as the official end of the war. The Japanese Emperor, Hirohito, warned that atomic warfare would see the end of civilisation, but did not mention that Japan had earlier received an ultimatum to surrender. Two-day holidays were declared in the USA, UK and Australia, and cheering crowds filled the streets and public places, like VE Day the previous May. At midnight on 15 August, Prime Minister Clement Attlee (who had shortly before replaced wartime leader Winston Churchill) broadcast to the UK, and King George VI later addressed the country. Atlee declared ‘the last of our enemies is laid low’. However, it was well into 1946 before all the servicemen who had been in the Far East returned home, as well, of course, as the POWs, some 13,000 of whom had died in Japanese captivity.
The wartime scrapbook of Mrs Betty Porter will be on display in the gallery of the Northern Ireland War Memorial throughout its commemoration of VJ Day. This scrapbook allows its readers to see VJ Day through the eyes of a young girl who witnessed the end of war celebrations in Ulster first-hand. A replica will be available to handle.
The Scrapbook includes newspaper clippings and images of Japanese Prisoners Of War being released on VJ Day, and soldiers returning to their families. In one newspaper clipping entitled ‘World at Peace’ Clement Attlee makes the statement that the Japanese have surrendered, proclaiming peace at 12pm on Tuesday 14th August 1945.
In a handwritten note Betty Porter writes about her personal experience of VJ Day:
‘VJ day was greeted with flags, and happy holiday makers. Once again two days holidays were granted. On VJ Day the fellowship went to Castle Espie on Strangford Lough. We had a lovely day. Home in time for the King’s broadcast, and then we all met and went around town. We just went wild with everyone else and followed bands etc. We had a light in our garden for decoration. Once again there were bonfires, and many parties, dancing in the open air.’