- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Dr. Liam Bradley
- Location of story:
- Warrenpoint, County Down, Northern Ireland
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 18 May 2004
These details were supplied by Dr. Liam Bradley during an informal interview with staff from Newry and Mourne Museum.
“ Some in Warrenpoint were engaged in smuggling during the war. There were of course shortages caused by rationing and so on but in Omeath, just across the border, there was always plenty! Trains would come to Warrenpoint every weekend. There would be so many of them that that orderly queues stretched from the docks right back to the station. They would go to Omeath on the Red Star Ferry service. On the way home the men may have staggered a bit. But one thing I do remember was that there were a lot of women coming back looking very heavily pregnant! The customs would be very interested and they wisely provided a female searcher, who would lead the women gently to the search area. When they came out all the bulk had been removed.
American troops built special huts at Roger Hall’s castle in Warrenpoint. They used up any empty buildings in the town itself, but there was also a huge concentration of them at Mourne Park (now Kilkeel Golf Club).
If you were a fella of nineteen or twenty, the American troops were most unwanted for obvious reasons – they impressed the girls too much! They were always very snazzily dressed compared to the British troops, for their pants were acutely pressed and their jackets were very attractive. The contents in their pockets were also very attractive as they had quite a lot of money. Some of the girls in Warrenpoint began to associate with the American soldiers – it was not welcomed among young lads at all. In fact, some of the young lassies did not find themselves a husband afterwards. Many were fortunate and married some of the soldiers and then went to live in America. Unfortunately the vast majority of these soldiers were then placed in Normandy and those who escaped - well, the number was very small.
The children loved the American GIs, for they had biscuits and chocolate and often distributed them. They always made sure there was a big party at Christmas time, with ice cream and everything. They got many cheers from the children!
Although it was thought to be highly unlikely, it was feared that there was a possibility that Warrenpoint might be bombed. Four air raid shelters were therefore established – one at the bottom of Charlotte Street, one in the Square, one at the park and one down by the boats. Thankfully, Warrenpoint was never bombed and the shelters were eventually taken down.
The government was short of materials during the war and they took all the ralings from the parks and private housing around Warrenpoint. Only the railings around the churches were excluded. As far as we are aware, the railings were never used and were simply stored somewhere. Many years after the war, compensation was given to Warrenpount Urban District Council for those things which had been removed. There had been two very beautiful gates at the entrance to the shore. The council was given £100 compensation, which was hardly enough to pay for the paint for new gates!
Like most places, Warrenpoint had a 'Wings for Victory' campaign, where people were encouraged to give their scrap metal and so on, to reach a certain target, to buy a Spitfire, for example. Although at the time there wouldn't have been much war support in Warrenpoint, the target reached was actually double that which was set.
I remember a kind of Celebration Day sometime in 1944 - a day to popularize the war, or something of that nature. I was living three miles outside Warrenpoint and I remember on this day hearing an enormous crash. I wasn't sure what it was. When I went down on my bike later that evening, I discovered that two 'planes had collided in Warrenpoint, over the Square. One 'plane landed in the sea at the baths and another in Cunningham's back garden. Cunningham's was one of the main public houses in the area. The pilots were killed of course - they were Royal Air Force. They had misjudged the distance between them. I remember talking to the curate who was along with us - he'd found it an awful, very unpleasant task to deal with.
From about 1943, Warrenpoint was engaged in building landing craft, which was very successful. It even won an award for the fastest construction of landing craft. There were perhaps about 1000 people working there at a time. They came from all over to work in Warrenpoint and the wages were excellent there. It was a very prosperous time. Unfortunately this was not matched after the war."
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