Lisnabreeny cemetery tribute to fallen US servicemen

image captionThe monument will be officially dedicated to the fallen US servicemen on Saturday

A new monument commemorating American servicemen who died and were buried in Northern Ireland during World War II is to be officially unveiled on Saturday.

It has been erected in the hills overlooking Belfast, at the former Lisnabreeny American military cemetery.

The site was used as a temporary burial ground for 148 US servicemen between 1943 and 1948.

After the war, the bodies were exhumed and either repatriated or transferred to a permanent war cemetery in England.

The fallen servicemen included personnel from the US army and US navy, but the majority were members of the army air force.

image captionThe granite sculpture is engraved with the names of all 148 US servicemen who were interred at the site

At the time, their American families were consulted before their loved ones' remains were taken to their final resting place.

When the exhumations were completed in 1948, the cemetery, on Rocky Road in the Castlereagh hills, was deactivated.

However, more than 60 years on from the end of the war, the local government authority wanted to create a lasting tribute to the American men who lost their lives thousands of miles from home.

Castlereagh Borough Council got involved in an extensive renovation project at Lisnabreeny a number of years ago.

The council commissioned a granite monument, engraved with the names and ranks of all 148 servicemen who were once interred at the cemetery.

The mayor of Castlereagh, Councillor David Drysdale said the sculpture would "provide an opportunity for the people of Castlereagh to visit the site for generations to come and learn more about these brave servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom today".

Mr Drysdale will lead a parade and wreath-laying ceremony on Saturday, to mark the official opening and dedication of the monument.

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson, representatives from the US and UK armed forces, members of the Royal British Legion and the National Trust are also expected to attend the event.

There are also plans for a fly-past tribute by a B-17 bomber, the Sally B.

media captionArchive footage by James Newell shows the Cemetery in the 1940s

Speaking ahead of the ceremony, the acting American Consul General, Gabrielle Moseley said: "We are very grateful to Castlereagh Borough Council for acknowledging the legacy of US military personnel who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the allied war effort.

"The recent restoration of the cemetery underpins our shared history and special ties of kinship, and we appreciate those involved in the ceremony."

Air Vice Marshall David Niven has been invited to lay a wreath on behalf of all three armed services at the commemoration event.

Mr Niven said: "They came from the United States to fight alongside us, in our hour of need, when the rest of Europe had been over-run by the Nazi war machine.

"The sacrifice of our American allies, commemorated in granite, and standing proud in the rolling Castlereagh hills, shall never be forgotten."

Thousands of US troops were stationed in Northern Ireland during World War II, following a defence agreement between the British and American governments in December 1941.