Belfast Telegraph

A final salute for Ulster war hero who liberated women from death camp

By Patrice Dougan

Armagh has said goodbye to one of its heroes. War veteran and former council chairman George Macartney (92) was this week laid to rest after he passed away at a residential home in the city.

The war hero — who freed prisoners from concentration camps during World War Two — died of natural causes after a long and eventful life.

Born in 1915, Mr Macartney grew up on his parents’ farm in Armagh.

One of three boys, he left school at 16 to work on the farm, before enrolling at Armagh Technical College.

After war broke out Mr Macartney joined the Royal Irish Fusiliers in 1940.

He was dispatched to the 22nd Armoured Brigade and sent to Egypt, where he was enlisted as part of the famous Long Range Desert Group, a reconnaissance unit with responsibility for areas stretching over thousands of square miles.

Here he contracted a blood disorder, which resulted in skin problems, from the poor diet and conditions the soldiers were forced to serve under.

But it was also during this time that he served with Captain Robert ‘Blair’ Mayne, a man he once described to Pamela Rea in her book Armagh Voices: A Celebration of a Century, as “probably the most brilliant, fearless, fighting man of our time”.

Following a shrapnel injury, he was sent to join General Montgomery, where Mr Macartney was among the first to liberate the city of Brussels.

The unit also freed a women’s concentration camp in Lubeck, Germany, where they found hundreds of starving women “demented from the treatment they received”.

After the war Mr Macartney returned home and joined the Ulster Unionist Party.

When he retired from business in 1980 he was elected to local government and served three terms as Armagh council chairman.

Mr Macartney received an MBE from the Queen in 1998.

He is survived by his four daughters, Anne, Lyn, Karen and Janet, who followed him into military life by joining the Women’s Royal Naval Service, and four grandchildren.

His wife Iris died in 1995.

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