Lord's fond memories of Bishop's Court training
Film legend Lord Richard Attenborough, in town for the premiere of the film, Closing the Ring, talked today about his first time in Northern Ireland as a 20-year-old during the war training to be an RAF air gunner.
"I was based at the old Bishop's Court station," 84-year-old 'Dickie' recalled.
"And my real job was going to be as a cameraman, but I had to train as a gunner first of all.
" Cameramen were looked on as spies by the enemy so I had to have another occupation in case my plane got shot down and I was taken prisoner.
"I had a splendid time training at Bishop's Court - and I can reveal now that my pals and I did our share of smuggling food across the Irish border. We always had someone keeping watch while the rest of us brought in supplies of ham and eggs.
"We were not being greedy - food on the base was just so bad.
"However, I never forgot the serious business of being a cameraman in the RAF Film Unit which was an essential job in wartime aboard a Lancaster bomber.
"And tonight at the premiere of this film about American airmen and a horrific crash, my thoughts will be turning to a wonderfully brave Pole called Zani who gave his life in the fight to preserve our freedom.
"Zani came to the UK as a member of the Polish Free Air Force and was my pilot, but one day he was killed on a flight and paid the supreme sacrifice. I'll never forget him."
Lord Attenborough, whose films include The League of Gentlemen, Young Winston, The Angry Silence and Whistle Down the Wind, is now working on a new movie called The Silver Ghost about Rolls Royce.
He revealed that the script of Closing the Ring had a huge impact on him when he first read it six years ago.
"I don't fit into the category of modern filmmakers and I abhor violence, but I was fascinated by this story of a wedding ring found on a hillside outside Belfast at the scene of where a B17 Flying Fortress crashed, killing everyone aboard.
" I totally believed in this story of the ring being taken to America to the widow. It made me feel so grateful that I was born in the heyday of the cinema when I'm allowed to convey a great tale of human emotion to the screen for people to absorb."
And talking about the warmth of his welcome here, he said: "It's great to be back in a place where I did such vital training in the RAF as a very young man and where my future as a cameraman was shaped."