Belfast Telegraph

War veterans honoured at City Hall lunch

By Amanda Ferguson

Second World War veterans have gathered in Belfast for a special 70th anniversary commemorative event.

Belfast City Hall was lit up red last month to mark Victory over Japan Day and yesterday a VJ70 civic lunch took place.

The date was chosen to mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of a surrender document formally ending the war on the deck of the USS Missouri, now a museum ship in Tokyo Bay.

Guests, mostly in their 90s, were entertained by The Nostalgia Trio's performances of songs from the 1940s. Belfast veteran Alfie Martin (95), a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery, was among those in attendance.

"This is a very nice gesture by Belfast City Council, and one which is very much appreciated," he said.

Each of the veterans received a commemorative medallion as a keepsake at the luncheon where an exhibition of wartime documents and artefacts was showcased by the Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum.

Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast Guy Spence said it was an honour to host the commemorative lunch to acknowledge the contribution veterans have made to society.

"This anniversary is particularly poignant given the ages of the veterans who are able to be with us and be part of such an important commemoration," he added.

"We owe them a great deal.

"It is a privilege to pay tribute to those who made enormous sacrifices and showed incredible bravery to protect our freedom."

Navy man Bob Porter (93) from Gilnahirk said his war was in the North Atlantic, in the convoys.

VJ70 lunch?

"It is wonderful. I am delighted.

"If it can be remembered and never happen again I suppose that is something, some good out of a lot of bad things."

Modern conflict?

"I would tend to take a biblical view of it. It is quite clear if one looks at scripture that this was all going to happen. There is nothing new in this. There will be wars and we are right in the middle of it all. We have got all sorts of dreadful things happening. Not just war. Earthquakes and tsunamis. It seems to me we are coming to a culmination of the world's end."

Fred Hastings (94) from Belfast was an air force technician.

VJ70 lunch and commemoration?

"It's quite exciting to be here.

"There has to be days like this.

"The end of the war was to be celebrated. It has to be kept as long as possible. I think it will be."

War experience?

"I was away for three years mostly in India and Singapore and I had malaria once.

"At that time you didn't fly, you went by boat, going through the Head and all that. Coming home was quite a trip. Three weeks coming home.

"The war ended quickly in the end. It was a big relief."

Sergeant Major William McConnell (91) from north Belfast was in the Royal Ulster Rifles airborne division.

War experience?

"I landed on D-Day with gliders in France. We set off from England on gliders and we landed just outside Pegasus Bridge.

"We took over another bridge a few hundred yards above it.

"When the war finished I carried on. I did 30 years in the Army.

"I went right through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and then I went to Korea, Borneo, Cyprus."

VJ70 lunch and commemoration?

"It is a great honour to be invited to City Hall."

John Cameron (94) from Glengormley was a gunner in the artillery.

He served in France and Belgium, coming back through Dunkirk and then served in the Far East, India and Burma.

He received the Burma Star, a Victory medal and a long service medal, among other honours.

VJ70 lunch?

"Today's lunch is wonderful. I never expected all this."

Modern conflict?

"The state of the world is terrible. It is no better now than it was before. They are fighting everywhere. There is not a country they are not fighting in.

"It is terrible. War is a terrible thing, the suffering of people."

Belfast Telegraph


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