Belfast Telegraph

Berlin-bound bomb disposal boys a mystery

Help sought to identify brave trio who put their lives on line

It was the autumn of 1945 and Berlin was a wrecked and dangerous place as a kind of peace returned at the end of the Second World War. These three young soldiers from the Royal Engineers were about to fly in from RAF Aldergrove as part of a bomb disposal team.

Memorabilia collector Gary Campbell is putting the story behind this photograph together slowly, but right now has come up against a brick wall.

The picture arrived with Gary in a tattered old album found in a house clearance in Lurgan, without a name or a clue to the identities of the trio.

"My research, so far, leads me to believe that the soldier wearing the stripes of a sergeant was a young chap called Cushing from Portadown," said Gary.

"At first I thought the men were wearing RAF uniforms. But with the help of a Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham I have established that the men were in a bomb disposal squad.

"The clue is in the hard-to-spot grenade symbol the sergeant is wearing above his stripes."

Gary, from Templepatrick, is intrigued by the photo, which he thinks was snapped at Langford Lodge on the Lough Neagh shore before the men went to Aldergrove en route to Berlin.

The US Army, which used Langford as a base for servicing aircraft, moved out in 1945 and the British Army moved in to use it as a training centre.

It was at Langford that bomb disposal teams polished their dangerous art. One of the casualties of all this activity was once-spectacular Langford Lodge itself, where stars like Charlie Chaplin were once entertained at lavish parties by the aristocratic Pakenham family.

The grand old mansion was in a bad state of repair anyway, and was blown up.

One relic of the war that remains at Langford is the pedal organ, presented to Gartree Parish Church, that is inside.

It was played on a fleeting visit by band leader Glenn Miller months before he died after his plane went down in the English Channel in 1944.

But getting back to Gary Campbell and his photographic detective work, he stressed: "Northern Ireland folk see bomb disposal units out on the roads regularly even yet.

"What we have to remember is that, way back during the Second World War and immediately afterwards, squads of brave young men were risking their lives to make cities like Berlin safe again.

"And, of course, they were also clearing many English beaches which had been mined and barricaded."

However, he is still hot on the trail of a clue as to why the picture turned up in Lurgan.

"The obvious answer is that one or all of the soldiers in the shot were local men. I need help in establishing their names."

Belfast Telegraph

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