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Ulster woman's sad WWII tale set to be told

An Ulster woman died from a broken heart just a year after her fiance was killed during WWII, a new documentary will reveal.

The tragic tale of Lillian Forbes and Charles P Blankenship, a soldier with the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, is one of a number of stories featured in a new documentary - 'Over Here' - about the US Army presence in Ulster.

Blankenship arrived in Northern Ireland on December 9, 1943, for a three-month stay in preparation for D-Day.

He developed a close relationship with Belfast girl Lillian Forbes and the pair became engaged but decided to wait for the war to end before marrying.

Unfortunately for Lillian, Charles never returned. He was killed in action during the drop on Sainte-Mère-Église, Normandy early on the morning of D-Day.

Charles' family was notified he was missing in action after D-Day, but only learned he had been killed in action from Lillian. In her anxiousness to hear if he had been wounded or not, she read his name on a casualty list. It wasn't until August 1944 before Charles' mother heard from the War Department of his death, and during that time his effects and Purple Heart had been sent to Lillian in Belfast.

Charles' body was shipped home and buried in South Carolina, on June 5, 1948.

However, in 1945 a heartbroken Lillian had died, aged just 39. She never recovered from Charles' death, never married, and her mother speculated in a letter to the Blankenship family that the loss of Charles had contributed to her early death.

The arrival of American soldiers in Ulster during WWII is the subject of the BBC documentary and the makers have launched an appeal for local people to tell their tales.

'Over Here' is set to look into how the arrival of GIs in 1943 impacted on Northern Ireland and the people in it.

Belfast Telegraph


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