Musems Association Article


Ballyclare war museum fights closure following Covid crisis

War Years Remembered closed its doors on 10 July but is still fundraising for a new home


Francesca Collins


This military vehicle is one of tens of thousands of items in War Years Remembered's collection
This military vehicle is one of tens of thousands of items in War Years Remembered's collection War Years Remembered

War Years Remembered in Ballyclare, Northern Ireland, closed its doors for the last time on 10 July – but is still holding on to hopes that the museum might be saved through fundraising.

Following lockdowns over the last year, the volunteer-run museum has lost almost all its annual income and is under threat of permanent closure unless it can find new premises.

The museum holds tens of thousands of items related to military and social history from the first and second world wars.

The inventory has grown from founder David McCallion’s personal collection. He started collecting aged eight, when his grandfather passed on a belt and chocolate tin from his service in the first world war, and War Years Remembered became a registered charity in 1994 before physically opening in a Ballyclare commercial warehouse in 2016.

McCallion describes the collection as “of national and global importance”, with artefacts representing wartime heritage from the UK, Ireland, the US, Belgium, Germany, Poland and beyond.

Throughout the pandemic the museum has continued to support researchers, documentary makers, authors, families and veterans, as well as engaging in community projects to support mental health and those with dementia.


The museum is independent and is not Accredited, making it ineligible for much of the recovery funding that has been made available across the UK. McCallion expressed frustration at the lack of financial support for independent museums, and said that the long-term goal of the museum’s team is to find a permanent home for the collection and seek Accreditation.

Earlier in 2021 the museum’s younger volunteers created the concept for the museum’s JustGiving fundraiser, In the Footsteps of Heroes. The campaign saw the museum’s volunteers and supporters using treadmills to undertake a sponsored walk of 602 miles – the distance from Ballyclare to the beaches at Normandy, France.

The museum has now raised over £29,000 of its £50,000 goal, but is still preparing to leave its current residence. The team has begun packing up and removing the collections from the building, which McCallion says is a “highly emotional” process that could take up to five months to complete.

In a statement on the War Years Remembered website, McCallion said: “With this money we can continue our vital work in remembering our veterans and the collection will be preserved for the education of future generations.”

In July 2019 McCallion received the Points of Light award from then-prime minister Theresa May, an accolade that recognises outstanding individual volunteers who are making a change in their community.

Supporters across social media have spoken out against the museum’s closure, as has South Antrim MP Paul Girvan, who told the Belfast Telegraph that he was a supporter of the museum and its work, expressing his concern for its future and commenting that “we really need to see what can be done to keep the collection together”.

"In the Footsteps of Heroes" Fundraising Campaign



War Years Remembered is not a state-run museum. Due to the various lock-downs over the past year the museum has suffered greatly, with almost all of our annual income lost. All through lock-down the team at War Years Remembered has continued to support anyone requiring research from documentary makers and authors to families and veterans, all for free.

Our long-term goal for War Years Remembered is to find a permanent home and seek accredited museum status. Our dream is to become a major attraction that will provide an enjoyable, interesting and educational experience to all who visit.

We are fighting to survive the Covid-19 pandemic but we need your help. To survive and remain in our present location, we currently need to raise £50,000. With this money we can continue our vital work in remembering our veterans and the collection will be preserved for the education of future generations.

We were inspired by our late veteran 'Captain Tom' and our younger volunteers came up with the idea to walk 'in the footsteps of heroes'. So, over the coming weeks we will be using treadmills to walk 602 miles, the distance from our museum in Ballyclare to the beaches of Normandy, a journey undertaken by so many young men and women who fought in the Second World War. We will be posting regular updates on our progress and we hope you enjoy watching our journey.

Please give what you can, please help save War Years Remembered.


Please Click Here to be taken to the Just Giving Page






Our veterans is at the very heart off and they are in the very fabric of what is War Years Remembered.

It was started, built, grown, evolved with one purpose only to preserve protect and present our veterans stories and artefacts not just for this generation but for generations to come.

We need your help to do this, with no funding since covid19 and our doors closed to the public we have no income putting this unique collection at risk.

If you would like to help us win this battle please consider donating to help us to keep this collection in the public domain.

Donate if you can by following the link below every penny counts

Thank you to those who have donated so far we can’t do this without you


Be Smart, Be Safe



With effect from Monday the 10th August 2020 in line with the Government Covid 19 Guidelines we must insist that all visitors now wear face masks or coverings.

The safety of our volunteers, their families and other visitors as well as yourselves will always come first.

Our volunteers have been wearing face masks since it was made a recommendation and as well as since reopening, and their phased return.
Some of them have been self isolating and are also are in the high risk categorie, so please be understanding of their fears.

We would also like to remind all our visitors to ensure that they adhere to the social distancing measures that we have had to put into place in the museum.
Also to use the hand sanitising stations we have installed at all key points for everyones safety especially when entering or leaving to museum, as well as when using the bathrooms.

We would like to thank you all for your kind consideration and continuing support during these uncertain times, we are all n this together.

Common sense folks, protect the vulnerable and yourself, which in turn protects your family and our NHS.

Thank you for your kind cooperation.

Be smart, be safe.


65th anniversary of the funeral of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Blair "Colonel Paddy" Mayne DSO & (3 bars)

Today the 16th December 1955 (65 years ago) Lieutenant Colonel Robert Blair Mayne DSO & 3 bars SAS was laid to rest in his hometown of Newtownards in Movilla Abbey Cemetery.

Blair's funeral was the biggest his hometown of Newtownards had ever seen. The cortege was a mile long and took an hour to travel through the town.

In the last year since we were generously gifted Blair's uniform and battle-trunk (containing both military and civilian documentsphotographs, diaries, personal items, letters and medals) the story has grown considerably with the research into the items.

We have made friendships and partnerships with organisations across the world, including family friends of those who he grew up with, went to university with, played sports with, worked with and those who he served with.

We have also interviewed and been recording oral histories of those who knew him personally, those who knew the real him, not the fiction you will read in some books, "busting" the myths and legends, preparing a new chronicle and documentary of his life story to share with the world.

The legend of Colonel Paddy is a unique one and it is quite complex. The man did suffer immensely with pain from injuries he received during his wartime service and, like many who returned from the war, was left to cope with what he had seen and had to do, as best he could, and with little or no support.

He was however a true gentleman and had the deepest respect for women. He could not tolerate any foul language around them.

As we have explored his journal, written during his expedition to the Antarctic, amongst other things you get a real sense of the man. Despite being in severe pain he pushed himself on, to the point where he simply could not continue.

We now know that he managed to reach the Antarctic, in particular Deception Island and Port Lockroy. We know this thanks to his journal and the pictures he took. We are indebted to Geoff Cooper from the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust for his help, advice and guidance, whilst researching Blair's expedition.

We have also been in contact with some of the families of those with whom he served. Once again he was always spoken of in very high esteem, with much emphasis on how much of a proper gentleman he was. Some of these families have kindly donated items belonging to their relative to the Collection, thus adding to and becoming part of Blair's story. It also allows us in the museum, the opportunity of telling their relatives' individual stories too.

Colonel Paddy’s items sit proudly in War Years Remembered Museum, shoulder to shoulder with other warriors from across the world and our isles. He was a true leader of men and there is no better place for his items to be.

I would like to highlight one man who, 65 years ago today, having been so inspired by Blair that he joined 2nd SAS in 1943, found himself to be amongst those few honoured to be chosen to carry Blair's coffin to the graveside As a mark of respect to Blair's height and stature,all the pallbearers chosen had to be over 6ft tall.

It is my humble honour to introduce Brian Ormonde Barnes, known to most as "Barney" or "B.O.B."

Barney was born in Camberly, Surrey on the 16th August 1923, to his Irish mother (from Portlaoise) and father (a serving Sergeant in the Royal Artillery during the Great War).

Sadly his mother died from TB when he was just eight years old and he went to live with his paternal grandparents. His grandfather was a Yeoman of the Guard at the Tower of London and his grandmother hailed from Londonderry.

As a boy soldier in 1937, Barney enlisted into the Royal Army Service Corps, prior to the Second World War. He went to South Africa with the 1st Army Group and in 1943 volunteered to join 2nd SAS under the command, at that time, of Brian Franks.

The only story he told his daughter was that on one of the operations he parachuted in on, he landed in a tree. Not being able to hide he had to make a run for it.

He took part in Operation Archway and was in Northern Germany on VE Day. In May of 1945 he went to Norway and was one of only twelve British soldiers to be awarded a medal from King Harold VII of Norway.

After the war he rose to the rank of SQMS. In 1950 he contracted TB and spent four years recovering in a hospital in Switzerland before returning home to the Duke of York Barracks in London and helping with the formation of the fledgling 21 SAS Regiment. He also held the post of Secretary of the Original SAS "Old Comrades Association".

We also have reason to believe that he was part of the "Nazi Hunters" (a secret group of the last few serving members of the Original SAS who, post-war and in complete secrecy, combed Europe seeking out and bringing to justice, those Germans who had perpetrated dreadful crimes against the SAS during the war). We will continue to investigate this story further.

In 1957 Barney moved to take up residence in the Falkland Islands. He had even penned a letter to his old boss suggesting that the area would be ideal for training.

In 1960 he married Sigrid Geraldine Wells Roberts, known to all as "Siggy".

Siggy's father was a Chelsea pensioner from County Mayo in 1849.

In the 1960s ex-soldiers and their families were encouraged to move to the Falkland Islands, to live there and raise their families.

In 1962 Barney and Siggy were blessed with a daughter who they named Xenia (from the Greek for "friendship shown to those far from home").

In recent discussion with Xenia, we discussed the possibility that her Dad might have been inspired to move down to the Falkland Islands by Blair’s journey to the Antarctic, as he had convalesced in the hospital at Port Stanley on his return home.

Xenia's mum often said that all the nurses in the hospital in Port Stanley were very taken with Blair and that he was always a true gentleman in their presence.

Barney first wore his medals on the Island in 1975, when commanded by the Governor of the Falkland Isles. Sadly Barney passed away on the 14th September 1979.

The men of the Original SAS rarely spoke of their time and experiences during the war, but everyone of them held Colonel Paddy in such high esteem that not one would have a bad word said about him.

The story grows day by day at War Years Remembered.

As we add to Blair’s story, we also become richer by learning of his comrades and their own stories. Through the generosity of others, we are then able to record and share these stories. Every item so generously added to the ever growing War Years Remembered Collection allows us to research, preserve and share these stories with everyone, thus producing an extensive archive not just for this generation but for generations to come.

Together We Will Remember Them.


65th anniversary of the passing Lieutenant Colonel Robert Blair "Colonel Paddy" Mayne DSO & (3 bars)

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Blair "Colonel Paddy" Mayne DSO & (3 bars)

Today, the 14th December 2020, marks the 65th anniversary of the passing of one of our island's bravest soldiers. Together we remember one of Ireland’s finest warriors Robert Blair Mayne, known to the world as "Colonel Paddy", a brave man who served during the Second World War.

He was one of the "Originals", a founding member of the Special Air Service from its inception, when it was known as “L detachment”. His exploits are legendary.

He was born on the 11th January 1915 at the family townhouse (later to become the Devonshire Arms Hotel) in Newtownards, County Down, Northern Ireland.

Colonel Paddy survived the war and went on to carry out an expedition to the Antarctic. He later became Secretary of the Law Society, and was an esteemed Free Mason.

In Novermber 2019, his family kindly gifted all his possessions to War Years Remembered Museum. This included his battle trunk containing much civilian and military documentation, photographs, pictures, plaques, presentations, medals and uniform, as well as many of his personal items.

The work is continuing behind the scenes at War Years Remembered, cataloguing, preserving, conserving and digitally archiving this unique collection for the benefit of all.

It covers his family life, sporting life (not just at national but international level). This includes rugby, boxing, cricket, golf and shooting - he was a natural all rounder.

In future posts we will also be able to show his vocational career, his interest in poetry and share his love of gardening and his plans for the amazing gardens at Mount Pleasant, his family home.

We covered a brief introduction to his Antarctic expedition earlier this month, and it has proved to be of interest to members of the UK Antarctic Historical Society, as well as the British Antarctic Society, and will be covered in depth in future articles by Geoff Cooper. Geoff has been working very closely with us on the identification of many of Blair's unseen photographs of the expedition and the translation of the journal he kept, another very important piece of his life’s journey.

We have also started working on chronicling a documentary on his life story, to "bust" the myths and legends, and dispel some of the injustices done to him after his death.

It is clear by what we are discovering and learning from talking to the people who actually knew him (and recording these conversations for future use) that it tells us a truer story than has been portrayed in some books.

He was admired by all who knew the real him. The admiration that the men of L Detachment and the SAS held him in, still reverberates to this day.

We have also met with family members of his close friends and have been in contact sharing each others' "Families at War" stories, involving such people as Eoin Christopher McGonigal Ted Griffith, Stanley Martin and Brian Ormonde Barnes (who subsequently was one of Blair’s pallbearers at his funeral).

All this information and more will form a true record of the man, a "Chronicle" of his life which we will take great pleasure in sharing with you all in the future, in one form or another.

We have all learned so much in the last year since his items first went out on display (being the first opportunity for some to see his possessions since his death in 1955) and look forward to sharing it all with you.

Since the items first joined the War Years Remembered Collection and went on display in the Museum, we have received his death certificate and Official Military Service Records. These have been added to the collection and join other amazing items of his that people have kindly donated. We would like to extend our thanks to them for allowing the items to be put on display, being vital additions to his fascinating story.


Sadly 65 years ago to the day, the 14th December 1955, at Mill Street Newtownards returning from Bangor, Blair met his untimely death in the early hours around 4am .

His red Riley sports car (which some called the "Red Rocket" or "Big Fire Engine", collided with a stationary truck resulting in a fracture at the base of his skull.

Blair's funeral was the biggest his hometown of Newtownards had ever seen. The cortege was a mile long and took an hour to travel through the town. He is buried in Movilla Abbey Cemetery.

We have so much still to learn about this man and also to share with the world. We have nothing but admiration for his achievements in his short life and what he achieved at such a young age. His story is slowly revealing itself and is growing day by day.

The man was a true legend, in the proper sense - the bravest man not to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

My sincere thanks go to Blair's family - Fiona & Norman Ferguson, Douglas Ferguson and the entire Mayne family. It was wonderful having 3 generations at the unveiling back in November 2019.

A special thanks to Lord Ashcroft, Andrew Alderson and Julian Simmonds for involving us in his wonderful article.

On-going research is being helped by Geoff Cooper, Eoin and Patrick McGonigal, Xenia Barnes, Jeanette Maria Griffith, David Wilson, John Martin, David Robson, Roy Magowan, Gary Hull and Peter Forbes.

I am indebted to Bruce Crompton and author Damien Lewis for their continued and constant support as we endeavour to unlock the truth about this most courageous man.

Please forgive me if I have overlooked anyone here - friendships and partnerships have and are creating a fascinating archive for this generation and the generations to come.

Together We Will Remember Them.

Lord Ashcroft's article on the bravest man not to receive the VC

Now it is out there folks.

We can breath out as myself the volunteers and others involved in this project have been sitting on the story, so as not to spoil the launch.

Tomorrow and in a special supplement in the Sunday Telegraph

We were approached earlier in the year on behalf of Lord Ashcroft who wished to highlight the story of the bravest man not to be awarded the Victoria Cross, our very own Lieutenant Colonel Robert Blair Mayne DSO (3bars).

As we are now the custodians or keepers of Paddy’s battle trunk, records, paperwork, uniform, medals and many other personal items.

We were happy to get involved and share the story, a long with close friends and supporters of the museum.

Anything to highlight the unique story of our bravest war hero not to receive the VC and create an interest in his life’s story as well as what is housed here at the War Years Remembered Museum.

This in turn putting our wee country on the map creating visitors and footfall not just to the museum but to the Blair Mayne Trail that we have been working on and it will be published in time for his birthday.

I want to personally thank on behalf of myself and the volunteers

Lord Ashcroft, Andrew and Julian for involving us in this project and look forward to seeing you all again after COVID-19.

Not forgetting Fiona Ferguson, Norman and the Blair Mayne family for their generosity and support.

Together We Will Remember Them.

Click here to view to Lord Ashcroft's Telegraph Article


The Antarctic Journal of Paddy Mayne

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Blair Mayne DSO (3bars)

Adventure Explorer and Surveyor

A story not many people will know and the importance of what is here.

The Antarctic Journal of Paddy Mayne

At the height of the Second World War the British Government conducted a wartime expedition to Antarctica called Operation Tabarin. Whilst under the guise of monitoring enemy shipping in the Antarctic, the reality was that Operation Tabarin was focused upon establishing manned British bases in the Antarctic region to counter the territorial claims of Argentina and Chile.

With the cessation of hostilities, the operation of the bases was transferred to the newly formed Falkland Island Dependencies Survey (FIDS). The already established survey and science programmes were further expanded with the establishment of more bases, further strengthening the British claim to these Antarctic territories. In this immediate post-war period it is not surprising that many ex-service personnel were interested in conducting this work and three ex-SAS members joined the first FIDS expedition leaving the UK at the end of 1945. Whilst the expedition was led by the Naval Surgeon Commander Bingham, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Blair “Paddy” Mayne DSO, the famed leader of 1 SAS was the second in command. He was joined on this expedition by his ex-SAS colleagues Major John Tonkin and Major Mike Sadler. The expedition was charged with relieving the original Operation Tabarin personnel and establishing a new survey orientated bases including one at Stonington Island in Marguerite Bay, much further south on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Like most FIDS, Mayne kept a journal detailing his experiences and he took many photographs capturing both the places he visited and the men he was with including his ex-SAS colleagues. Following his untimely death in a traffic accident in December 1955, his journal, together with the associated photographs, were kept by the Mayne family together with a collection of records and artefacts relating to his military service.

Blair Mayne’s association with Antarctica has to date been little known and documented. Hamish Ross’s biography Paddy Mayne references Mayne’s Antarctic diary and through following up on this source I discovered that the collection of artefacts pertaining to his military service had been donated by the Mayne family to the War Years Remembered Museum in Ballyclare, Northern Ireland. On contacting David McCallion, the curator of the museum, it became clear that he was unaware of the diary’s existence as the collection was still in the process of being catalogued. Thanks to David these important Antarctic artefacts are now available for research and evaluation.

We are lucky in that many FIDS Antarctic diaries still exist and they are a very valuable source of detailed information about the exploration of this relatively unknown region but they often start when the author is either on the ship heading south from the Falkland Islands or has actually arrived in Antarctica. However, Mayne’s diary is unique amongst these journals in that it starts whilst in transit from the UK and so provides valuable information about the complex logistics of moving equipment and personnel in these immediate post war months and in doing so fills the many of the gaps our knowledge. Reading the pages today, Paddy Mayne’s voice rings out clear as he describes his journey South and his experiences in the Antarctic.

Mayne is often a larger than life character and many myths and stories have been written about his life, particularly about his distinguished service record with the SAS resulting in his DSO with 3 bars and a recommendation for a Victoria Cross. In addition to this he was also a famous sportsman representing Ireland on many occasions and following his short period of service with FIDS he was a successful solicitor. The journal and photographs dispel a previously held belief that Mayne only made it as far south as the Falkland Islands, before he had to be invalided home prematurely due to a recurring war time injury to his back. The reality is that Mayne clearly planned to fully support the exploration and survey elements of the FIDS expedition and that he did make it to Deception Island as well as Port Lockroy in Antarctica before prematurely having to head back to Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands where he was hospitalized prior to returning home to Ireland to convalesce.

By Geoff Cooper Heritage Projects

Photograph captions

Photo 83 – The repacking of supplies and provisions for the British Antarctic bases at Deception Island, January 1946.

Photo 71 – Re-asserting the British claim to sovereignty over the Antarctic Territories - The Union Flag flying over Base A,Port Lockroy in January 1946.

Photo 57 – The A stenciled on the packing cases denotes supplies destined for Base A, Port Lockroy.

Photo 53 – An improvised sledge made from a Base A packing crate

The story grows day by day at War Years Remembered, through partnerships with some unique people and organisations.



War Department Film Club

The early days of the War Department Film Club

This is one of our favourite photographs of some of our members,

talk about nights at the movies this was one the best I have ever had.

Left to right The boyo from the museum. Mr wine gums Peter Forbes,

Sadly Ted Ross who we lost this year during Covid19 and an amazing artist Alan O’Neill.

That night was a full house as we all sat down to the war film

“The Man Who Never Was” about “Operation Mincemeat”

We covered it this week in the video tribute to Ted we posted on our page earlier as part of our Act of Remembrance.

Ted played a key role in the deception plan and its success by sending the messages ref the May Day call to what was believed to be the downed aircraft and we now know was a submarine carrying the body of Major William Martin.

After Peter had presented Ted with the morse code key painted by Alan we all watched in awe as Ted tapped out the very message he sent from Gibraltar which helped “Operation Husky” to be the success it was.

He was a gentleman in every sense of the word and he is sadly missed by all that knew him.

We will in the future be dedicating a part of the museum to his memory and telling his story.

If you would like to learn more, see the earlier post titled Remembering Ted Ross.

Again we replayed the movie as a tribute to an absent friend see you in Valhalla Sir.



Lord Ashcroft’s video presentation on Lt Colonel Robert Blair Mayne DSO (3bars)

The long anticipated Lord Ashcroft’s video presentation on Lt Colonel Robert Blair Mayne DSO (3bars).

One of the benefits of volunteering at War Years Remembered, is the work that David has done to bring together one of the most unique collections of militaria for us all to learn from. I had the privelage of being here when the collection first arrived and seen the work that went into creating and designing the display and the research that has painstakingly been done to tell the real story. I was helping David put the final touches to this wonderful display, when he asked me to reach in Colonel Paddy’s German war time binoculars. I asked David why did he have German binoculars and he said that the Germans had the best optics in the world zeiss optics and then David jokingly said, “The German had no use for them anymore.” The crowning moment was when David allowed me to look through the binoculars as an avid Blair Mayne fan, this is something I will never forget till my dying day. I was also privelaged to be here when this filming took place and I am glad to see images that are on display here being used in the filming, my personal favourite Lt Col Blair Mayne ID card from his time in Egypt and it’s highlighted that it’s from here the War Years Remembered collection, as so many items that you would not find in any other museum, seeing is believing. People don’t realise the importance of this collection and the work and the cost that David and other volounteers give to keep all these memories alive, so if you can please help by donating through the website, so that myself and others can carry on getting the experience and knowledge, so that we can pass it on to future generations. Please donate via the link

"I am humbled and honoured to have been a small part of telling this great mans story and the stories behind all the other photographs, artefacts and uniforms here at the collection."

Joshua Willey - Volunteer at War Years Remembered

Click link to Lord Ashcroft's Video Presentation Lt. Col. Robert Blair "Paddy" Mayne DSO (3 Bars)