On 21st April 1941, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester arrived at R.A.F. Aldergrove, Co. Antrim to begin an official visit to Northern Ireland. The Duke inspected various battalions of the British Army across Ulster, while the Duchess made visits to hospitals and First Aid Posts. She also inspected some military units in her role as an Air Commandant in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force.
On their arrival in Northern Ireland, one of the first stops was the capital city of Belfast. There, the royal couple witnessed first-hand the destruction caused in some areas by the Easter Raid of the Belfast Blitz. As well as visiting affected areas, the royals met with residents and inspected members of the Auxiliary Fire Service and Air Raid Precautions.
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester arrived at R.A.F. Aldergrove, Co. Antrim on 21st April 1941. On hand was War Office photographer Lieutenant J.R. Bainbridge to capture the moment. Lieutenant General Sir Henry Royds Pownall K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O., M.C. (General Officer Commanding British Troops in Northern Ireland) greeted His Royal Highness. The royal couple then talked and shook hands with officers of both the Royal Air Force and Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Before departing Aldergrove, the Duke of Gloucester accompanied Air Commodore Charles Roderick Carr C.B.E., D.F.C., A.F.C. (Air Officer Commanding) on a tour of inspection.
On 22nd April 1941, much of the Duke’s visit centred around the Mountains of Mourne, Co. Down. Lieutenant General Sir Henry Pownall K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O., M.C., A.O.C. (General Officer Commanding British Troops in Northern Ireland) accompanied His Royal Highness. A cavalcade of official cars and red-capped Military Police motorcyclists made their way through the stunning landscape. The Duke took some time to walk about a mile in the countryside, taking in the beautiful scenery of the Mournes.
At a stop along the way, near Yellow Water River, he met with prominent British Army Officers including Colonel Jasper Gray Frere D.S.O., M.C., Colonel C.B. Stephenson,, Major General Bevil Thomson Wilson D.S.O. (General Officer Commanding 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division) and Lieutenant Colonel Hewitt M.C. (1/5th Battalion, The Welsh Regiment) before inspecting training exercises by elements of 1/5th Battalion The Welch Regiment.
Before leaving Co. Down, the Duke of Gloucester inspected a ride past of 81st Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. The cavalcade at Mourne Park near Kilkeel, Co. Down included lorries, Universal Carriers, and towed guns. In attendance were Lieutenant General Sir Henry Royds Pownall K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O., M.C. (General Officer Commanding British Troops in Northern Ireland), and Major General Bevil Thomson Wilson D.S.O. (General Officer Commanding 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division).
The Duke’s next stop was at an ingeniously camouflaged gun emplacement, where he watched with interest while artillerymen handled the guns and expressed his admiration of their efficiency.
In Newcastle, Co. Down, word spread of the royal visit, and crowds began to form, cheering loudly and waving flags. From a small platform next to a petrol station, the Duke along with Brigadier James Gerald Bruxner-Randall (Officer Commanding 159th Infantry Brigade) took the salute from 4th Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.
The day of 22nd April 1941 ended for the Duke of Gloucester with a visit to Ballykinler, Co. Down alongside Lieutenant General Pownall to inspect members of a Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers under Lieutenant Colonel Allen and North Irish Horse.
Along with Brigadier C.M. Christie and Major General Bevil Thomson Wilson D.S.O. (General Officer Commanding 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division), the Duke also watched soldiers perform on a shooting range.
Also on 22nd April 1941, the Duke of Gloucester along with Lieutenant General Sir Henry Royds Pownall K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O., M.C. (General Officer Commanding British Troops in Northern Ireland) and Major General Ridley Packenham Packenham-Walshe (General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland District) inspected 9th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment under Brigadier G.F. Watson D.S.O. at Victoria Park, Belfast.
On 23rd April 1941, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Gloucester inspected elements of 7th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment at Castledawson, Co. Londonderry alongside Major General Charles St. Quentin Outen Fullbrook-Leggatt (Officer Commanding 184th Infantry Brigade, 61st Infantry Division), Brigadier Drew and other officers. He inspected quarters, vehicles, and soldiers.
While touring Mid-Ulster, His Royal Highness inspected soldiers and vehicles of 10th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment at Cookstown, Co. Tyrone. The soldiers, part of 61st IUnfantry Division lined up with a display of Universal Carriers before the Duke.
Every effort was made to have the exercises as realistic as possible, and one of the highlights of the tour was the spectacle of men of a famous English unit advancing to the attack under a barrage…
The tour embraced a large area of Mid-Ulster, and at every town to which fleeting visits were made, the news of the royal visitors’ presence spread like wildfire, and large crowds gave him an enthusiastic reception.
In the nearby town of Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, the Duke of Gloucester along with Captain Basil Ernest West Aldwell, Major Thomas Patrick David Scott, and Lieutenant Colonel J. Cheyney, Major General Horatio Pettus Mackintosh Berney-Ficklin M.C., Captain A.W. Stansfeld, and Lieutenant Colonel D.C. Tennant continued a whistle-stop tour of inspections.
The Duke of Gloucester’s visit to Mid-Ulster continued into Co. Armagh where he visited the historic city of Armagh. Military vehicles and soldiers of 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers formed up for inspection in the streets.
In Lisburn, Co. Antrim, His Royal Highness inspected soldiers of 6 Corps, greeted by Major G.H. King M.C. (Camp Commandant, British Troops in Northern Ireland) at Thiepval Barracks. This brought to an end the official duties for His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester before his return to Great Britain.
Back Row L-R: Major M.S. Adshed M.C., Major Howard Kerr C.M.G., M.V.O., O.B.E., Second Lieutenant M. Montgomery, Major T.P.D. Scott, Captain E.U.O’B. Oyler, Reverend F.P.W. Alexander O.B.E., Lieutenant Colonel J.N. Cheney. Front Row L-R: Brigadier C.C. Gowlland, Brigadier E.C. Beddows M.C., Lieutenant General Sir H.R. Pownall K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O., M.C., His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester K.G., K.T., K.P., G.C.M.G.G.C.V.O., Brigadier P.G.S. Gregson-Ellis O.B.E., Colonel E.J. Murphy.