Red Bay Defences in WWII (3)

Bob McMullan remembers the fun loving American GIs

In villages throughout the UK,  the threat of German attack was being taken seriously. In Cushendall an Air Raid Precaution (ARP) company was formed to be of service to the community in the event of an air raid.

They trained in the skills of evacuation procedure, fire fighting, and when gas masks were made available by the government to every adult and child in the area,  they co-ordinated this and helped with sizing and fitting.

Many amusing situations are recalled. During practice,  a fire was ignited near the bridge and with unparalleled enthusiasm the canvas hose was quickly reeled out and connected to a hydrant some distance away. To the dismay of the team,  the hose was so perished that only a dribble reached the fire. For greater flexibility an essential set of equipment was a stirrup hand pump and a bucket.

An inspector named Captain Shoot came to access the expertise of two of our stalwarts in the use of the pump and having ignited a device, he was momentarily distracted. Our firefighters quickly decided there must be a more effective method,  so the flaming canister was quickly dipped in the bucket. Their ingenuity on the Captain's return was rewarded with the words 'exceptional, great time'.

It wasn’t always hilarious. Once a van arrived, into which the local members were obliged to enter and test their masks in a gas filled atmosphere. The ARP headquarters was adjoining Maginn’s chip shop which was situated in Bridge Street. Enquiries have revealed the following names as having served: Terry Lynn, Chris McMullan, Patsy McCormick, Bene O’Loan, Charlie Thompson, Gerard Newe and Jamie Connolly.

As an extra back up to the ARP volunteers, a dark green ex-army ambulance was made available to the community. It was based in Lynn’s yard (now Spar) and Joe Lynn was the regular driver.

The history of wartime in the Glens would be incomplete without reference to the small team of American soldiers who made their headquarters in the Thornlea Temperance Hotel, then owned by the Faulkner family.

Informality was the keynote and the hotel became the mecca for local girls. Unlike their English counterparts,  the Americans had access to copious supplies of luxury items. Mrs Eileen Faulkner (nee Murray) wife of the late Jim Faulkner recalls many happy events.

After they returned home, many continued to keep in contact and have since returned to renew acquaintances. The boss was George (his surname cannot be recalled) who was a 6’2’', sincere, generous individual full of devilment. His jeep was regularly used to transport fellows and girls to dances and hurling matches, since there were only a few cars locally. From time to time on his trips to Carnlough he teased the Navy by contravening the blackout regulations and they responded with salvos of tracer bullets. Of course by the time the order to shoot was given George had extinguished his lights and had moved on.

George was determined to attend an All-Ireland hurling final in Dublin at the risk of being interned in a neutral country. A local obliged him with a civilian suit and advised him not to talk so he returned safely with the Glens colleagues.

Other Yanks were Larry Keane, Joe Fernandez, Randolph Himmelberg, Lloyd Alexander (a genius at making ornaments and jewellry from seashells) and Archie Newman. Archie,  who was of Czechoslovakian stock,  was much in demand as an entertainer and his visits to concerts in the cinema as Hitler impersonator were memorable.

The buildings and extensive aerial complex situated in the sports field adjoining St.Aloysius School was part of a communication and aircraft-tracking network.
Supported by the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation