MY research into a group of children who lost their parents in World War II – some of them orphaned – is gathering weight today with the discovery of this unique vintage picture of some of the young victims of the war.
This hitherto unpublished photograph was taken towards the end of the hostilities, on board a C47 transport aircraft – a Dakota – and shows the children just before take-off at Langford Lodge, the base on the Lough Neagh shore in south Antrim where the American engineering Lockheed company had set up a base to repair aircraft damaged by German fighters and get them quickly back into the air.
Military historian Ernie Cromie and I tracked down the family of one of the children, 10-year-old Albert Green who passed away in his 70s.
The boy Albert is pictured here third from the left, side on to the photographer.
He was just one of the children who lost their parents in the Blitz on Belfast and elsewhere in the province during the war.
They were taken under the wing of civilian Lockheed staff at Langford who introduced them to sweets and chocolates – and even a banana or two, which were unobtainable in Northern Ireland during the war.
The Lockheed staff set up a trust fund for the young victims of the war which didn't expire until they reached the age of 18, by which time a few of them had made up their minds to emigrate to the USA.
In the picture the Dakota, which had previously flown through dangerous areas, bringing vital tools and equipment to Langford, is about to take the children on a joyride over Lough Neagh, Slemish and up to Portrush and then back to base.
On the extreme right is Miss Neta Heslip from Belfast Council of Social Welfare who was in charge of the party. The BCS was the forerunner of Bryson House.
There is a Jean in the picture and an Annie.
What Ernie and I need now is the names of all the children on the Dakota. Hopefully they are all mature adults today.
And whatever happened to Miss Heslip?