American Troops at Mourne Park

Troops were stationed at Mourne Park during the war. The location was ideal as it was spacious and quite private, surrounded by woodland and trees.

Mourne Park 2

US soldiers of the 40th Field Artillery 5th Division, 13 March 1944.

The buildings in the above picture would have been to the right of a broad concrete path which winds from the main Kilkeel to Rostrevor Road. This path is an obvious sign of American presence in the area as it was constructed by US Military personnel.

Below is a plan of the Mourne Park Camp which was supplied by Mrs Annley who still lives in and owns part of Mourne Park.

Mourne Park Plans

  • When going through the gates of Mourne Park two buildings are visible which were reportedly a guard room and a cinema for the troops based there.
  • Troops began to arrive in 1942, the first being the 2nd Battalion 6th Armoured Infantry and the 16th Armoured Engineer Battalion of the 1st Armoured Division.
  • In October 1943 the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery 5th Infantry Division Artillery and 19th Field Artillery (5th Infantry Division) – equipped with 105mm towed howitzers arrived. Also did the 46th and 50th Field Artillery Battalions (5th Infantry Division) who were also equipped with 105mm towed howitzers.

(The 105 mm howitzer was a standard US light field artillery, a short canon type weapon. It fired 105 mm high explosive semi-fixed ammunition and had a range of 11,270 meters.)

Apparently some of the planning for D-Day took place in Mourne Park House.

Duke of Gloustecer insepecting troops at Mourne Park

Duke of Gloustecer inspecting troops at Mourne Park

Some of the trees in Mourne Park have carved into them the names and addressess of some of the soldiers. Keep an eye out for these as they are a poignant reminder of the men who trained here.

For more information on the Second World War in Northern Ireland please visit – http://www.ww2ni.webs.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Troops and Aircraft at Greencastle Aerodrome

Soliders/Squadrons

By December 1943 the main AAF units at Greencastle were:

  • 4th Replacement and Training Squadron (Bomb)
  • 4th Gunnery and Tow Target Flight (SP)
  • 5th Airdrome Squadron
  • 8th Airforce Anti-Aircraft Machine Gunnery School
  • 65th Airdrome Squadron
  • 84th Station Completment Squadron
  • Det. A 1262nd Military Police Company (AVN)
  • Det. A. 1730th Ordnance Squadron Company (AVN)
  • Det. D1056th Q.M. Company Service Group (AVN)
  • Det. 237 18th Weather SquadronRostrevor JPEG

Photo taken in April 1944 for Life Magazine showing the 1st Platoon Company G of the 1st Infantry returning to base after a 3 day bivouac in the Mournes. This photo was taken on the Newtown Road, Rostrevor.

 

Aircraft

P-38 Lightning B-24 Liberator

A P-38 Lightening and B-24 Liberator.

Aircraft stationed and flying into Greencastle at the time of 1943 included the B-17, B-24, B-26, P-47, A-20 and A-28 aircraft. The most common type of aircraft were the B-26 Martin Mauraders…these aircraft were nicknamed the widow-makers.

B26 at Cranfield

A B-17 Flying Fortress on approach to runway no.1. Photo taken by Jim Patterson.

Construction of Greencastle Aerodrome

In 1941 rumours started to circulate about a new airfield to be built in order to support the war effort. The earth moving machinery arrived before Christmas 1941. Requisition notices began arriving telling people their property was being taken over by the Air Ministry. They were only given a week or two to leave.

Requisitions all came at different times which made it worse. The postman was not a welcome sight in the area. If a neighbour got a notice, you knew you would be next. People who had lived in the area for generations had to leave. Around 40 families were displaced. Some moved away and got jobs elsewhere and never returned. Neighbours disappeared forever.

Houses were pulled down and fences demolished every day. Where there was a house in the morning, there would be an empty space by the evening. They eventually extended out to Greencastle to store more aircraft. They just built parking spaces therefore no more houses needed to be knocked down.

Four roads were closed during the duration of the Aerodrome. You needed a permit to get past Davidson’s Corner and there was a guard placed there. People who lived in Greencastle had to be diverted and there was a new road built for them to get to their houses.

GCastleDisps2

Here is a drawing of where the dispersals at Greencastle were.

There were some buildings built in Close’s Planton (later Mournewood) under the camouflage of the trees which surrounded it. There were also offices here. There was also another building on Kitty’s Road.

This information came from Sean McManus who lived on the perimiter of the Aerodrome. His family were told to move out of there house but never did, so as a child Sean witnessed first hand the day to day goings-on of the Americans. For more detailled information on the construction see Raymond’s County Down Website for an article by John Newell: http://countydown.x10.mx/html/kilkeel17.htm

For more information on the Second World War in Northern Ireland plese visit – http://www.ww2ni.webs.com/

Greencastle Aerodrome: Facts and Figures

  • Greencastle aerodrome was known as U.S.A.A.F. 237. It was acquired by the 8th Air Force Composite Command.
  • Greencastle was home to 496 Fighter Training Group and 12 Combat Crew Replacement Centre.
  • Hundreds of acres of farmland and houses were requisitioned and turned into a massive military base.

Greencastle Airfield

  • It was opened on 30 July 1942 and by February 1945 there was 320 aircraft on the ground.
  • The RAF occupied it for 6 months.
  • It was handed over to the Americans on the 3rd August 1943.
  • It was 350 acres in size and had four T2 hangers.
  • The main runway ran NE-SW parallel to the sea and was about 1.5 miles in length and 150 ft. wide. The concrete was no less than 6 inches thick, 9 in some places.
  • It was used as a training base, teaching new crews skills in gunnery and bombing techniques, making up replacements for crews lost in action.

AML Bombing Teacher Building

AML Bomber Teaching Unit

  • Aircraft carried out gunnery practise near Dundrum Bay, and also bombing practise and air to air firing off Annalong and Ballymartin.
  • May 1944 was Greencastle’s busiest period, with the ground-to-air gunnery school turning out 868 graduates.
  • From Greencastle (along with the other NI bases) the soldiers would leave Ireland and join squadrons in East Anglia and Norfolk.
  • It was said that there was enough concrete in the Greencastle runways to lay a road 9 feet wide between Belfast and Londonderry.
  • Eisenhower and Patton flew into Greencastle in the months leading up to D-Day to inspect troops of the US 5th Infantry Division stationed throughout County Down (their HQ was at Donard Lodge in Newcastle).

Patton at Greencastle

General Patton addressing troops at Greencastle, 30 March 1944

10th Infantry in Mournes with Patton

Gen. Patton speaks to men of the 10th Infantry Regiment in the Mournes after completing an assault demonstration near Kilkeel on 30 March 1944.

  • After D-Day Greencastle began a rundown but joined other CRCC’s in becoming storage and replacement depots for hundreds of aircraft. It finally closed in 1945.
  • In the 1960s the runways were broken up and used  by farmers to rebuild the walls.

Greencastle Today

 

World War Two and Greencastle Aerodrome: Background Information

On 3 September 1939 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany. As a result Northern Ireland was plunged into conflict with the Nazis. In 1940 Winston Churchill became Prime Minister but by this stage most of Europe was occupied by the Germans. The UK was one of the few countries still withstanding Nazi aggression. As a result the war arrived on Mourne’s doorstep.

After the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 the Americans entered the war. The first troops arrived in Belfast in January 1942. The plan was to build airfields in Northern Ireland to accommodate more troops for training as replacement crews. Around 800 people were recruited to construct a new airfield at Greencastle. It opened on 30 July 1942. It was an important stop over facility for aircraft and it became a base for the US troops where they underwent training in airplane maintenance and flying operations. American soldiers were billeted with local families and many ended up marrying local girls. Many of the men based in Mourne would go on to be part of the D-Day Landings, with many never returning.

D Day Robert Capa

One of the most famous images to emerge from the Normanday Landings by photographer Robert Capa, capturing the chaos and confusion of the attack.

Greencastle was transformed into a bustling war camp with Nissin huts popping up all over the land underneath the rumbling sounds of airplane engines. Some troops were based in Mourne Park House, the home of the Earls of Kilmorey.

In March 1944 General Patton inspected troops of the 5th Infantry Division stationed in the Mournes.

For more information on the Second World War in Northern Ireland please visit – http://www.ww2ni.webs.com/

Construction of the Silent Valley, Stage 3

1949-1958

Stage 3 was to build a 4k  tunnel through the Slieve Bignian Mountain to divert water from the Annalong River to the Silent Valley. Ben Crom Reservoir was going to be built futher upstream of the Silent Valley.

tunnel01

Working on the tunnel.

Slieve Bignian Tunnel

  • The tunnel took four years to build using power drills and chisels.
  • It can carry up to 90 million gallons of water per day to the Silent Valley.
  • It was built by Messrs. A.M Charmichael, Edinburgh.
  • Two groups worked on the tunnel, each starting at the opposite side of the mountain.
  • They met in the middle, only 5cm apart.
  • At the tunnel mouth, near the head of the Valley an electric pump ran to keep the works from being flooded.
    _38222267_slievebignian

Quotes from workers on the Bignian Tunnel

‘I remember by father left home in Ballykeel at 4.30am each morning to cycle 4 miles to the Valley gates. They were all on a day shift, so for 6 months a year the only time they saw daylight was on a Sunday.’

Robert Newell

‘About half way in we ran into flowing sand. It was unbelieveable…who’d have thought in the middle of a mountain you’d have found running sand?! That was a major set back that was to hold us up by 6 months.’

Harold McCaughan (Engineer)

Ben Crom Reservoir

In 1954, 5km upstream from the Silent Valley, work started on a new reservoir and took 3 years to complete. Unlike the Silent Valley, it had a core of mass concrete and huge boulders and was founded on solid rock. It is known as a gravity dam; it depends on its weight for stability.

bencrom_2003