The history of Northern Ireland during the Second World War is full of wonderful stories, daring escapades, and momentous events. Each of these in turn features the people and places of Ulster, and the hundreds of thousands of military personnel who passed through in wartime. There is much to learn about wartime Northern Ireland, and I would love to help your group discover more.
I have delivered the following talks to community groups, festival goers, ex-service personnel, and the general public. Your group could be next.
During the Second World War, the Belfast shipyard of Harland and Wolff Ltd. was one of the largest in the world and one of the most prolific. Workers in Northern Ireland built vessels such as H.M.S. Belfast, H.M.S. Penelope, and H.M.S. Formidable amongst others. Due to its contribution to the war effort, the shipyard was a prime target during the Luftwaffe raids of 1941. Bombs burned the Belfast site but the ships kept on sailing.
In June 1942, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Northern Ireland. They inspected troops, visited factories and other sites contributing to the war effort, and thrilled local crowds in Belfast and beyond. Ulster received several other royal visits during the Second World War. Though conducted in top-secret, crowds would eventually gather to welcome The Princess Royal, The Duke of Kent, and other high-profile visitors.
In April and May 1941, Luftwaffe bombs rained down on the city of Belfast. The north and east of the city were particularly affected, even more so the homes and businesses of the working class. The raids were well documented. Among the writers were women such as Moya Woodside, Doreen Bates, and nurse Emma Duffin. Others such as Denise Austin and Delia Murphy played their part in four nights if tragedy for the city.
In the years during and after the Second World War, hundreds of young Jewish refugees from across occupied Europe found a safe haven in Ulster. A farm on the outskirts of the coastal Co. Down town of Millisle became a kibbutz, where young Jews worked the land, and lived a life free from persecution at the hands of the Nazis. Many of those who lived on the Millisle Kinderfarm fondly told stories of their time there.
There are many more topics to cover when looking at the Second World War in Northern Ireland. Among the new talks on offer from WartimeNI are: