Northern Ireland

D-Day remembered - Local stories of Normandy invasion to be told in Belfast to mark 80th anniversary

The free lectures are being co-hosted by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland War Memorial

D-Day fleet assembled in Bangor Bay. Reproduced courtesy of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland PRONI.jpg
D-Day fleet assembled in Bangor Bay. PICTURE: PRONI

Local stories of how Northern Ireland contributed to the historic events at Normandy in June 1944 are to be recalled to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

The free lectures, which begin on June 6 on the anniversary of the landings, will include a talk that reveals first-hand accounts of the courage, triumph and tragedy on the Normandy beaches.

Author and war historian Mark Scott will deliver the first in the series of commemorative talks, which are being co-hosted by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) and Northern Ireland War Memorial (NIWM).

Mr Scott was given access to 20 hours of interviews from a documentary directed by Brian Henry Martin, which featured the last surviving D-Day veterans of the Royal Ulster Rifles.

He has written a book We fought on D-Day, which will be launched at the event.

Another lecture on June 13 will see John McCann speak on The All Americans in Northern Ireland – the 82nd Airborne Division Story.

The Airborne Division were based in Northern Ireland during the winter of 1943/44.

Using the memories of many troopers, Mr McCann explores their experiences and the relationship that developed between them and the people of Northern Ireland.

The final talk, So vast an Armada - from Belfast Lough to D-Day, by Ian Wilson, takes place on June 20.

D-Day saw the biggest amphibious operation ever staged. In Northern Ireland the Allied bombardment fleet gathered in Belfast Lough before sailing in secrecy to open up on German positions.

No-one living around the lough ever forgot the sight of the great American battleships Texas, Arkansas and Nevada and the accompanying armada of British, Free French and Polish warships.

Don Bigger, chairman of NIWM, said: “We’re anticipating that the talks will be popular, as we have three outstanding and popular speakers focusing on themes that have strong relevance to Northern Ireland’s wartime history.”

David Huddleston, acting director of PRONI, said: “The voices of those who participated in the liberation of Europe are as relevant today as they were 80 years ago.

“PRONI is the home for many of those stories and we would encourage anybody with an interest in D-Day to visit us and take the opportunity to explore the archives.

“Northern Ireland made a significant contribution to the preparations for D-Day and this is represented in the records that are available for everyone to discover.”

Admission to the talks, which will be held at PRONI, is free but booking is essential at the PRONI Eventbrite page.

For further information, visit the NIWM website or telephone 028 9032 0392.