Soldiers


Detachments of soldiers from a number of armies – British, American and Belgian – were a regular sight during the war. P. J. O’Donnell pointed out that soldiers were billeted in the Royal and Royal George Hotels in Whitehead, while many of the private houses took in officers as lodgers.

There were various opportunities for soldiers and locals to mix. P. J. remembers the Belgian soldiers at Ballycarry who would visit Whitehead. He describes them as ‘lovely people’. A strong friendship developed with one particular soldier who would call with P. J.’s father and mother. He returned to Whitehead and P. J. drove him up to Derry to see the walls. Dr John Wilson’s mother-in-law, Mrs McDowell, ran a fish and chip shop in Whitehead which was very popular with the troops. He remembers being told that Belgian soldiers would arrive in their lorries to eat there. The Rinkha, near Whitehead, was also popular with soldiers.

Derek Lorimer remembers some of the soldiers based at Ballyhamage coming up to their farm to help with gathering potatoes. For the soldiers it was a welcome opportunity to get out and about. Derek remembers three of them in particular – Ken Silvester from Liverpool, Bob Corry from Aberdeen, and Private Hobday from Manchester who was known as ‘Flash’ as he was never that quick at doing anything. James McAdam also remembers the soldiers at Ballyhamage and a shooting range used by them at the Moiley Bridge; a red flag would be flown from the bridge to alert people to when shooting practice was taking place.



Wilma McVittie remembered talking to the overseas troops along the road and that they were ‘nice fellows’. One of Brian McKenna’s earliest memories of Whitehead was of the American soldiers giving out chewing gum to the children. John Cushinan recalls a very narrow shave with a lorry transporting American soldiers. He had been going along the road in a horse and cart to sow fertiliser when the lorry came up behind him very quickly. This startled the horse which headed for the hedge. The lorry never slowed down and cut off part of the rear end of the cart – ‘a near miss’, as he remembers, for if it had hit the axle it would have resulted in serious injury or even death.



South Antrim Living Memories Project wishes to acknowledge the assistance of: