The future of what is believed to be Northern Ireland’s biggest collection of war memorabilia is under threat.
A priceless hoard of items from both world wars — including anti-aircraft guns, jeeps, uniforms and telegrams from the frontline — are at risk of being sold to collectors on the other side of the world because of a lack of funding.
War Years Remembered was set up five years ago and has since staged exhibitions throughout Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK and the Republic. David McCallion (45) who runs the body, said thousands of school children from across the political divide have benefited from gaining a hands-on insight into what he said is Northern Ireland’s shared history in the First and Second World Wars.
A collector of war memorabilia since the age of eight, Mr McCallion said he faces the possibility of having to auction off some of the treasured items in order to simply sustain War Years Remembered.
The non-profit-making organisation relies solely on grants and donations from the public. Before Christmas he said he had arranged a four day-long exhibition but when a grant he was relying on fell through he was left more than £7,000 out of pocket.
He added he is heartbroken at the possibility of having to auction off any of the memorabilia, most of which was donated by the families of war veterans, and has called on government and the general public to help preserve the artifacts.
“A lot of people aren’t aware of the different aspects of our shared history in Northern Ireland,” the Ballyclare man told the Belfast Telegraph.
“The items tell the story of the impact of the wars on all of the people. The bombs which were dropped in Belfast didn’t discriminate on religion.”
Mr McCallion said he has already had an offer from Australia of £25,000 for three items.
“I feel if I have to let anything go I would be letting a lot of people down, including the veterans. I’m not in this to make money,” he added.
Whats in the collection
- Machine guns and rifles used by both sides during both world wars.
- Everyday items used by the people of Northern Ireland during the global conflicts and the stories of those who were caught up in them.
- Over 200 uniforms worn by Allied soldiers and members of Hitler’s notorious SS.
- Anti-aircraft weapons and jeeps.