6th Cavalry

6th Cavalry, United States Army arrived in Gilford, Co. Down and Tandragee, Co. Armagh in October 1943 establishing bases in castles and surrounding areas.

An advance unit of troops from 6th Cavalry Group was on board the troopship Queen Mary when it departed New York on 20th September 1943. They arrived in Gourock, Scotland on 25th September 1943 and made their way onwards to Belfast, Co. Antrim.

In Northern Ireland, they made arrangements for the arrival of the Cavalry Group. The regiment would have bases at Tandragee Castle, Tandragee, Co. Armagh, at Bannvale House, Gilford, Co. Down, and Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down.

US Army Tank at Tandragee Castle

A tank from the US Army's 6th Cavalry Mechanised Division leaves Tandragee Castle through the gates into the town square where the war memorial now stands. Photo from Roy Vogan's Tandragee Community Photos collection. Copyright unknown. Used with permission of Roy Vogan.

Meanwhile, 1,556 enlisted men, 4 Warrant Officers, and 78 Officers carried out physical exams and received immunisations. They departed from New York on board Queen Elizabeth on 8th October 1943. The ship was so crowded, the troops split their time between bunking in cabins and sheltering on covered decks. They arrived in Gourock, Scotland on 18th October 1943 and, having remained on the ship for a day, landed in Belfast, Co. Antrim on 20th October 1943. The first journey in Ulster was by train to the rural Madden Bridge Railway Station, Tandragee, Co. Armagh.

During their time in Tandragee, Co. Armagh and Gilford, Co. Down, 6th Cavalry took part in road marches, physical and mental exercises, and firing practise. The used this time to train while waiting for the arrival of their vehicles and armoured cars. Before leaving Gilford, Co. Down, 6th Cavalry adopted a puppy born in the Commanders’ Quarters at Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down. They name the dog “Shamrock” and he remained with the unit throughout the war.

US 6th Cavalry in Tandragee

US National Archives Photo. (Part of the US Army Signal Corps Photograph Collection). Over 1,500 men of the US 6th Cavalry were based at Tandragee Castle, Bannvale House and Gilford Castle. On 11th November 1943, they observed Armistice Day at the Tandragee War Memorial.

Towards the end of 1943, reorganisation of the unit took place and the old 6th Cavalry held their last parade on 31st December 1943 in Tandragee, Co. Armagh. The regiment became 6th Mechanized Cavalry Group formed of 6th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron and 28th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron.

General George S Patton visited Northern Ireland to inspect troops during 6th Cavalry’s time in Tandragee, Co. Armagh. He was guest of honour at a dance in Tandragee Castle where 6th Cavalry Band provided the entertainment. They would later become 61st Army Ground Forces Band.

Within the new organisation, training continued with drills, courses, exercises, and mounted and dismounted marches. At the end of May 1944, 6th Mechanized Cavalry Group rolled out of Northern Ireland to their next staging post in England. From there, they went on to Normandy, landing on Utah Beach on D-Day +33 – 9th July 1944.

Madden Bridge Railway Station, Tandragee, Co. Armagh

Madden Bridge Railway Station, Tandragee, Co. Armagh

120 Madden Road, Tandragee, Co. Armagh

Madden Bridge Railway Station between Tandragee, Co. Armagh and Gilford, Co. Down saw the arrival of thousands of troops into the area during World War Two.

Bases in Northern Ireland

Start DateEnd DateUnitLocation
September 1943May 1944Advance Detachment, 6th CavalryGilford Orange Hall, Gilford, Co. Down
22nd October 1943May 1944Advance Detachment, 6th CavalryStramore Farm, Gilford, Co. Down
21st October 1943May 1944Headquarters Troop, 6th CavalryTandragee Castle, Tandragee, Co. Armagh
22nd October 1943May 1944Troop A, 1st Squadron, 6th CavalryGilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down
22nd October 1943May 1944Troop B, 1st Squadron, 6th CavalryGilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down
22nd October 1943May 1944Troop E, 1st Squadron, 6th CavalryGilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down
22nd October 1943May 1944Medical Detachment, 1st Squadron, 6th CavalryGilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down
22nd October 1943May 1944Headquarters Detachment, 2nd Squadron, 6th CavalryBannvale House, Gilford, Co. Down
22nd October 1943May 1944Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 6th CavalryBannvale House, Gilford, Co. Down
22nd October 1943May 1944Troop D, 2nd Squadron, 6th CavalryBannvale House, Gilford, Co. Down
22nd October 1943May 1944Medical Detachment, 2nd Squadron, 6th CavalryBannvale House, Gilford, Co. Down
Map showing Bannvale House, Gilford, Co. Down

Bannvale House, Gilford, Co. Down

10 Moyallan Road, Gilford, Co. Down

Bannvale House, Gilford, Co. Down hosted elements of 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry, United States Army as they entered the European Theatre of Operations.

Map showing Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down

Gilford Castle, Gilford, Co. Down

Banbridge Road, Gilford, Co. Down

In 1945, troops of the 4th (Steenstraete) Infantry Brigade of the Belgian Army occupied the grounds of Gilford Castle as they reformed in Northern Ireland.

Map showing Gilford Masonic Hall, Gilford, Co. Down

Gilford Masonic Hall, Gilford, Co. Down

138 Stramore Road, Gilford, Co. Down

During the Second World War, troops from the United States Army's 6th Cavalry had a base in the Gilford Masonic Hall on Stramore Road, Gilford, Co. Down.

Map showing Gilford Orange Hall, Gilford, Co. Down

Gilford Orange Hall, Gilford, Co. Down

45 Stramore Road, Gilford, Co. Down

Gilford Orange Hall on Stramore Road, Gilford, Co. Down saw the arrival of an Advance Detachment of 6th Cavalry, US Army in 1943 before the unit's arrival.

Map showing Gilford Royal British Legion Hall, Gilford, Co. Down

Gilford Royal British Legion Hall, Gilford, Co. Down

Mill Street, Gilford, Co. Down

During World War Two, troops from the United States Army's 6th Cavalry had a base in the Gilford Royal British Legion Hall, Mill Street, Gilford, Co. Down.

Map showing Madden Bridge Railway Station, Tandragee, Co. Armagh

Madden Bridge Railway Station, Tandragee, Co. Armagh

120 Madden Road, Tandragee, Co. Armagh

Madden Bridge Railway Station between Tandragee, Co. Armagh and Gilford, Co. Down saw the arrival of thousands of troops into the area during World War Two.

Map showing Stramore Farm, Gilford, Co. Down

Stramore Farm, Gilford, Co. Down

Gilford, Co. Down

In 1943, an Advance Detachment of African American GIs of 6th Cavalry arrived at Stramore Farm, Gilford, Co. Down taking over the former British REME base.

Map showing Tandragee Castle, Tandragee, Co. Armagh

Tandragee Castle, Tandragee, Co. Armagh

The Square, Tandragee, Co. Armagh

The site of Tandragee Castle has been a stronghold overlooking the town since the days of the O'Hanlon clan of Ulster who fought in the 1641 rebellion. In 1943, the US Army set up camp there.