Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Search on for Belfast Blitz children: Orphans 'adopted' by US workers at Lockheed during Second World War

Belfast blitz orphans with their suitcases at Lockheed
Belfast blitz orphans with their suitcases at Lockheed

Aircraft historian Ernie Cromie has launched a search for 16 children, victims of the Blitz on Belfast and other Second World War bomb attacks in Northern Ireland.

It all began when the photograph above dropped through the letterbox of the man who is an inspiring force in the Ulster Aviation Society.

It was taken back in 1943 and shows 15 of the 16 homeless children on the stage of the theatre in the Langford Lodge American Air Depot, which played an important role in winning the war.

The little ones with their suitcases in their hands were 'adopted' by American civilian workers of the Lockheed Overseas Corporation at Langford on the Lough Neagh shore after learning that the youngsters had lost their parents during enemy raids.

The workers collected $6,500 – worth considerably more today – and lodged it in a trust fund for the children until they were 18 years old.

The poignant photo was sent to Mr Cromie by Anneliese Ogden, whose father Henry Ogden was the general manager of the Langford Lodge Air Depot from 1942 until 1944.

He was the man supervising the vital task of repairing American aircraft damaged in air battles and getting them back into the conflict.

New roads and even a railway line were laid to make it practical for the planes to be transported 20 miles from the docks in Belfast when they arrived in the province.

Henry, a former pilot who died several years ago, and his staff, including engineer George Russell, who is also in the shot along with other Lockheed men, were determined to help the children when they heard their stories of parents killed during the Blitz.

"I've already met one of the little girls, who lives in Ballymena," said Mr Cromie. "Her name is Joyce and her father was killed in action, but when I spoke to her she preferred not to talk about her childhood experience."

Ernie didn't know the photograph existed until it arrived with him from Anneliese back in California.

"Some of these little folk must have been orphans and I am determined to find out whatever happened to them," he declares.

"It really is an intriguing story – a few could have gone to America to live. The survivors will be in their eighties now and I want to hear from them."

The Lockheed company still exists in California today, known as the Martin Lockheed Aircraft Corporation.

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