An extraordinary Life

Introducing Ted Ross, Royal Air Force

Born on 7th January 1922, Robert Edward “Ted” Ross was one of six children, five brothers (Dan, Alec, Jim, Ted and Bill) and one sister (Mary). Four of the brothers served with the RAF during the war and one was in the Navy. All were to survive the war. His mother was a widow and was left to bring her motley crew of youngsters up by herself. Ted and his siblings attended the Liverpool Blue Coat School, as Ted’s father had been a Mason. His father died of lead poisoning as he was a painter of boats and ships.
Ted had a twin, Bill (who joined the Navy and was an Able-seaman, and was sunk twice, but survived both times). Bill eventually “jumped ship” in New Zealand, where he married and remained to the end of his days.
Another brother (Alec) was already in the RAF at the start of the war and was stationed in Malta. He controlled the RADAR in Malta and was present when the Germans began to jam the British RADAR. The RAF sent a signal to London to ask what to do and were told to keep up with the RADAR. The Germans eventually gave up jamming the signal, as they thought it wasn’t working because the RAF were continuing to use the RADAR… it was working well enough but the boffins in London realised the German mentality that they would give up!
Ted was trained as an apprentice upholsterer but hated every minute of it. He had previously driven a horse and cart for a delivery company in Liverpool, where he was born. He was also a member of the Home Guard (who chased him up for his uniform whilst he was in Gibraltar with the RAF, despite him having returned it to them before he joined the RAF!)
At the outbreak of war he decided to join the RAF, hoping to become a Wireless Operator Air Gunner, as he had passed all the RAF tests. He headed off to Blackpool to start training. At Blackpool it was discovered that Ted’s left eye was not as strong as his right, so he was unable to take to the air.
He continued to train at Blackpool as a Wireless Operator. He then moved to Compton Bassett as he was being advised to train to become a DF (Direction Finder – getting aircraft bearings). Following training at this, he moved to Lynton-on-Ouse in Yorkshire, and was involved in the large night-time raids with Bomber Command (working in a small DF hut on the base, he said it was often “very busy” when the raids were heading back).

He then got ready to be stationed abroad, thinking he was going to South Africa, but being kitted out for the Middle East. Aboard the ship the Llanstephan Castle they docked at Gibraltar where six names were read out (all DF operators, Ted was one) and told that they would be getting off. The six men were told that they would be building and setting up a DF station on Gibraltar, from scratch. They joined the ordinary Signals, using the equipment set up by the Royal Navy (called “ROCK WT” and built inside the rock) until their little hut, just off the runway, could be built. They worked shifts 8am to 2pm, 2pm to 10pm then 10pm to 8am.
They were in touch at all times with the likes of Malta and all movement around Gibraltar, often coming to the aid of stricken aircrew who had to ditch in the sea, by establishing their bearing from Gibraltar to allow a rescue party to head out to pick them up.
Nearly all of their contact with London was in coded form, with at times Top Priority messages being sent as: O break A (OBKA) for Aircraft
O break U (OBKU) for general information
and very rarely both OBKA and OBKU for top secret Ultra, for example when Ted was ordered to send the message to London informing them of the death of Polish General Wladyslaw Sikorski in Gibraltar.

Ted was in the Rock when Sikorski’s plane plunged in to the sea having just taken off from Gibraltar. All on board were killed, except the British pilot. Ted was ordered to send this top secret message (which he did not know the contents of, until at least 1 hour after he sent it, when the news broke to the base). There is still a lot of controversy about the death of Sikorski, with conspiracy theories going round about Russian involvement etc, to this day. A review in 1969 found it was an accident, though the presence of Kim Philby as the head of security in Gibraltar at the time of the accident, has fanned the flames somewhat.

Ted spent 18 months in Gibraltar, and during that time he was involved, unwittingly, in Operation Mincemeat. Ted was the radio operator who received a message from “a stricken aircraft off Finistere” (in reality, the submarine HMS Seraph, carrying the body of “Major William Martin” (Glyndwyr Martin)),as it was about “to ditch in the sea”.

Ted communicated with the “aircraft” and was able to get a bearing from them. The men in the hut had previously received a message detailing how to deal with any future SOS messages. They were to respond as follows : “RRR SOS Send position, course and speed.” They filed this away. Shortly after this they received the message, actually at 0212 on the 24th April 1943.

“Plane”: SOS SOS SOS SOS V GBAW GBAW SOS K True bearing 324 degrees from Gibraltar
Ted: SOS SOS (to alter other stations)
SOS SOS GBAW GBAW from GFG4 RRR SOS Send position, course speed.
There was a delay, and Ted thought they hadn’t heard him. He was about to call again, when up he came….
“Plane”: GFG4 from GBAW Off Finnistere, course 170 degrees, speed 170
Ted replied to acknowledge the message and the “plane” operator came back with “R” then screwed down his Morse key, sending a continuous signal, the normal procedure from an aircraft about to ditch in the sea.
The signal suddenly stopped at 0218 (the time Major Martin’s wristwatch stopped) indicating a crash in to the sea (or the operator had switched off his transmitter). Ted called the aircraft a few more times, but nothing was heard back.

Shortly after (0230) Ted heard the Gibraltar RAF Rescue boat head out to sea (he assumed to come to the aid of the “plane”, later learning from a friend (Alan Dixon) who had been the RAF Radio Operator on the launch that they had been sent out on a regular exercise. The authorities knew that Germany was listening in to all communications, so this prepared the ground well for when the body of Major Martin washed up on the Spanish shore. Ted was not to realise his part in Mincemeat until 10 years later when he watched the film “The Man Who Never Was”, and it all fell in to place. Ted checked dates of the Operation against his own dates…and they matched! (In a strange twist of irony, one of Ted’s colleagues who had been the only other person in the DF hut in Gibraltar when Ted communicated with the “Man Who Never Was”, drowned whilst out swimming, and his body washed up on a beach in Spain.)

Following his time in Gibraltar, Ted found he was to be sent to Italy, to begin work on forming the HQ of the Balkan Air Force. He travelled to Italy via North Africa (for a couple of months) before arriving in Bari. Whilst receiving and sending messages to agents in Yugoslavia, Greece and Albania, Ted was asked by Flt Sgt. Porter ( a Belfast man) if he would like to go to Yugoslavia to assist Air Liaison Officer Fl.Lt. Lawson at the other end. Ted said he would. He spent 5 days getting to know the equipment (a B2 receiver, 12 O batteries and an Onan Charging Machine) that he would use when he would be working with Major Carmel, who was in turn working with Tito’s Partisans. Ted was to go to a place called Niksic, to the HQ of the 2nd Partisan Brigade.
After a short parachute training course (a few jumps out of a balloon), Ted was ready to be dropped in to Yugoslavia. Prior to him going, he was told that he was to accompany Vice Marshall Carter on a mission to meet with Tito. Despite taking off and flying to their destination, they were unable to locate their “Eureka” landing beacons, and had to return to base. Ted was told to get a bacon sarnie and a bit of kip, before they would try again.
When Ted awoke, he was told that Air Vice Marshall Carter had gone on ahead, and taken another Radio Operator with him, a newly trained young fellow called Kenneth Law. Ted thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until after the war that Ted heard that that mission had ended with the plane crashing, and all occupants being killed.
Ted was then told that he was no longer going to be parachuted in to Yugoslavia, but instead he and a colleague (his friend) Alan Dixon were to be dropped off by a Naval Supply Ship (a landing craft with a Scottish crew and plenty of Whisky) at a small fishing village to the south of Dubrovnik, with all their equipment. They would be met by the RAF and driven to Niksic. They arrived off the boat at 3am, but there was no one there to meet them. They eventually asked a man in a hut to help them (he initially thought they were Germans and refused to speak to them, but on hearing they were English, he made a few telephone calls).
Ted and Alan had all their equipment (radios and beacons), their standard issue Smith and Wesson revolvers (which Ted said he only ever fired once whilst playing a target shooting game with his chums), their normal pack to carry and packed away in this kit, Ted’s favourite instrument, his mouth organ (which he still played brilliantly, well in to his nineties).
A big Partisan arrived with 3 mules (one of them called “Snowy”), and their equipment was packed on to them and they began their slow journey over the mountains to the base (if only they had waited another few hours, as the RAF lift arrived at 10am, by which time they were away!)
When they finally got closer to Niksic (it took an overnight stay), they were met by a jeep and a warning that Major Carmel was furious at them for getting lost and for taking so long to get to Niksic (as his jeep had been tied up for two days looking for them!)
The two of them got on to base and met Fl. Lt. Lawson, and were told that breakfast was at 8am sharp, and they had better get themselves sorted asap. Needless to say, not knowing their way about his new camp, they missed breakfast and so received a “bollocking” from (Army) Major Carmel on an empty stomach (they were later allowed to get something to eat and then realised that Major Carmel was one of the nicest men they worked with!)
Ted and Alan stayed in farm-houses whilst sending and receiving messages with the Partisans. They worked with a local (Stevioroski, called Stevie by Ted and Alan, a man who made his own Plum Raki on a still!) They had to identify DZ (drop zones) for the equipment to get to the Partisans, using giant burnt letters on the ground.
As the war proceeded Ted was called back to Bari to be informed that he was to then go further North to work for Sq. Ldr. Matthius, directing planes in on raids etc. as the Germans retreated. The locals were doing their best to seek bloody revenge on any retreating Germans.

Ted spent the rest of the war in Niksic. At the end of the war, Ted said that the mood of the Yugoslavians changed towards them. They were treating the RAF people like prisoners-of-war (even giving Ted a form to fill in to say he was a prisoner-of-war, Ted was advised by Sq Ldr Matthius not to sign it). This was most probably down to the way the Partisans had been promised the land at Trieste, but were denied it at the end of the war.
Ted eventually got out of Yugoslavia (via a Baltimore plane, Ted was in the bomb-bay, staring at the ground) and headed to RAF Valley in Anglesey for demob.

After his wartime service and with the unique skills that he had, he wasn’t long out of work. He worked at various civil airports from Liverpool to the Belfast International at Aldergrove and was instrumental in setting it up.
This is where he met his wife Ann and they were married in 1950, sadly Ann passed away in 2008.

He was offered a job in the DF station of Speak Airport in Liverpool (later to become Liverpool John Lennon), assisting the Air Traffic Controllers. During the interview for the job, Ted was asked “If I said to you what Night Effect was, what would you immediately think?” On Ted’s reply of “ Night effect can be summarized as the arrival at the receiving frame of an abnormally polarised wave with a vertical angle of incidence”, the man asked him “when can you start?” Ted was able to quote this answer verbatim until just before his death.
Ted remained at Liverpool Airport until he was posted to Nutts Corner (which just being set up as a civil airport in Northern Ireland) where he met his wife, Ann. They both took the bus to Nutts Corner from Belfast each day, and “hit it off very quickly” (Ted and Ann married in 1950 and had 58 years of happiness together, until Ann sadly passed away in 2008).

There is a bigger story to come on Ted’s amazing life soon to be unveiled at War Years Remembered some of which is hush hush at present, from working at Gilnahirk Listening Station to another near miss with death while working for GCHQ.

With failing health Ted eventually went to live in the Somme Nursing Home in 2019. There he was regularly visited by a long list of relatives and friends.
Ted passed away in his sleep on 20th March 2020 at the grand age of 98 years. He had an amazing life and cheated death many times. He is sadly missed by his relatives and many, many friends.

Sadly due to Covid19 this man did not get the send of he so rightfully deserved, no other man I know would of so rightly deserved to have a flag draped coffin, gun carriage funeral and guard of honour with thousands of mourners as he did.
Knowing Ted he would be looking down and wondering what all the fuss was about a humble quiet man, we may never know the full extent of his heroic deeds as he wasn’t one to brag, like most of our real hero’s modest till the end.
Rest assured his wartime contributions would of helped to save thousands of lives, we owe men and women like Ted a debt of gratitude that can never be paid.

On the 11th November we will be unveiling a display to his honour and remembering him and VJ veteran Jim Lennon at our annual Remembrance Service who sadly passed away during the Covid19 pandemic.


Ted Ross and his family
and a close friend Peter Forbes


Operation Mincemeat
Operation Husky
Polish Second World War
Yugoslavia Partisans
Royal Air Force

Film The Man Who Never Was

A story to be remembered

Introducing Sydney Cowan 22nd Battery 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery

Sydney was born on the 19th of June 1914 to Alexander Scarlet Cowan and Eleanor May Cowan. They lived in 134 Roden Street, Belfast and Sydney’s parents worked in a linen mill. Sydney had two siblings: a sister named Iris and a brother called Fred, who was also a gunner in the Royal Artillery. Sydney worked for the Belfast Corporation (now Belfast City Council) before he enlisted with the 8th (Belfast) Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (Supplementary Reserve) on the 11th of May 1939 as a gunner along with many other men from Belfast. He was also in the 8th Belfast H.A.A Regt. Band.

The Regiment was initially mobilised to defend the city of Belfast in the following months before the United Kingdom officially declared war on Nazi Germany on September 3, 1939. Sydney served with the regiment throughout his army career, the regiment joined the BEF in France before Christmas 1939. Sydney’s battery (22nd) was deployed in the defence of Port Le Havre and was later evacuated from St. Malo in 1940. On the 3rd of July 1940 Sydney married Miss Isabella Mooney daughter of Mr and Mrs Mooney from Doagh, Co. Antrim, in a military wedding at Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church, Belfast, with his brother Fred Cowan as his best man.
After the regiment returned from France it was deployed across England during the Blitz and the Battle of Britain. Sydney’s father Alexander died shortly after, on the 7th of December 1940.
The Regiment then served in India and Burma in 1942, where it earned the nickname the “Twelve Mile Snipers” as they fired effectively against the Japanese air force and against ground targets at long range and with incredible accuracy. Sydney would finish the war with the rank of lance-bombardier.

After the war Sydney returned to work for the Belfast Corporation as a gas inspector and lived for a while at his wife’s residence: Springvale House in the village of Doagh, Co. Antrim. He later moved to 1 Sandhill Parade, Belfast where he lived until his death on the 2nd of June 1978. He was buried at Dundonald Cemetery

An Exemplary Soldier

Introducing Gunner James Reid


James was born on the 24th of October 1914 at Canmore street. Son of James
Reid Senior and Mary Jane Reid (née Cunningham). His father was originally
from Larne and worked as a stager in the shipyard, his mother was a spinner
and came originally from Scotland.
James was married to Eileen Rebecca Mitchell in 1934 at St. Matthew's Church
of Ireland on the Shankill and had two daughters and resided at Ottawa
James Reid followed in his father's footsteps into service and enlisted on
the 1st May 1939, with the 8th [Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment Royal
Artillery {Supplementary Reserve}.
James Reid senior who served throughout the 'Great War' and then with the
Ulster Home Guard during The Second World War.
James brother Thomas had served with the 2nd Battalion the Royal
Inniskilling Fusiliers and was Killed in Action in July 1943 during
Operation Husky during the Sicily landings.
James himself enlisted with the 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment
Royal Artillery and served with the 23rd Battery. They went to France in
1940 and were stationed at Hanfleur under 79th HAA Regiment, after France
fell they arrived back in England and helped defend the UK during the Blitz
until late 1942 when the whole of the 8th Regiment were sent out to Calcutta
onboard the Belfast built ship RMS Britannic and placed under the command of
1st Indian A.A. Brigade.
The 8th was ordered out to Comilla and the 23rd Battery were sent onto
Agartala to deploy by 16th of October. The Regiment were the first to take
large calibre guns across the Brahmaputra Pass.
When it was time to return home, they returned to Belfast, coincidentally
another Belfast built ship the RMS Stirling Castle.
At the end of his wartime service, James stayed on with the Royal Artillery
reserves until 1954, when he was discharged for "His services are no longer
required on re-enlistment into the Territorial Army". His military conduct
was “Exemplary”.

War Years Remembered Archive
Forces War Records




What a life to have lived

Meet Bombardier James Alexander (Jim) Brennan who celebrated his 100th birthday back in February and is the last surviving Second World War member of Whitehouse Presbyterian Church.

James Alexander Brennan was born on the 12th of February 1920, along with his twin sister at Whitehouse, near Belfast, in County Antrim. His father was also called James Alexander and his mother was called Annie Elizabeth Brennan (née Moore). The family consisted of eight girls, and three boys, this total of thirteen lived in a small, two bed-roomed terrace house at Whitehouse. The eleven children slept head to toe each night in the two tiny upstairs bedrooms, while their parents slept in a little parlour room downstairs.

Jim was first educated at Whitehouse, Presbyterian Church Day School, where he later qualified for transfer to senior high school. Upon completion of his studies, he began his employment in a Belfast car business, named Johnston’s, and joined a local army cadet unit. This led eventually to him being recruited into the British Army just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, all the men in the Regiment were volunteers. Jim’s father had served well in the British Army during the Great War and suffered a hand wound under enemy fire. His son James was later to serve, and survived throughout the Second World War too, having joined the 22nd Battery, 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft, Royal Artillery in which he served throughout the duration of the war. All the men in the Regiment had been recruited during the Spring of 1939 and were each from the city and district of Belfast. In October 1939, they were posted to Cornwall, and from there they embarked for France, where their first engagement of German Forces took place. However due to overwhelming rapid German advance at that time, all British forces were immediately ordered to make a retreat to Dunkirk and prepare for evacuation back to Britain. Strict headquarter orders were issued, for all forces to destroy all weaponry, vehicles, ammunition etc, upon arrival at Dunkirk thus blocking their use later by the enemy. During that very hasty retreat the 8th (Belfast) HAA under their Belfast Commander, Colonel James Cunningham, were required to make a forced diversion towards Le Havre, due to a dramatic earlier incident which was as follows.

While endeavouring to escape through one French town, their lead vehicle arrived at the town square just as some German Advance Motorcycle Troops entered the square on the opposite side. Quickly observing this dilemma, Colonel Cunningham in the leading Belfast 8th vehicle, ordered his driver to turn sharply left out of the square, and the complete regiment in their vehicles etc, followed along completely behind. The German advance troops did not pursue the retreating Regiment, but remained in the square, where they apparently had been instructed to secure it until the main German Forces arrived. Meanwhile, the Belfast 8th sped quickly onwards, to escape on a course towards Le Havre, and from there made post-haste on the route for Cherbourg. Upon safely reaching that port, they quickly observed a massive British ship berthed nearby, and the 22nd Battery made immediate contact with its crew. Agreement was immediately reached with the ship's officers to have the 22nd Battery's Heavy Guns and their specialised equipment urgently taken aboard along with all the Battalion's Troops, for shipment back to the British mainland. They had therefore now disobeyed the original strict order; ' To destroy all weaponry etc, upon reaching the French coast. The astounding consequences of that decision resulted in them being the only British Troops to arrive back in Britain with both men and weapons intact. What a most breath-taking achievement that was, which resulted in all those men and heavy weapons etc. being next engaged to defend Britain during the Battle of Britainand the London area during the London Blitz period. While one London air-raid was in progress, Jim was caught out on a London Bridge due to being ordered across London to deliver a dispatch, but now found himself dangerously exposed while incendiary bombs 'fell all around him like hail stones', is how he described that hair raising experience, yet he miraculously escaped without injury.
High flying German reconnaissance planes were often observed photographing over the 8th Belfast Heavy Gun positions around London and the south of England so when it was estimated that those planes had finally gone back to their base, all guns, equipment, and their crews were transferred to entirely new positions in a 'cat and mouse' game, as preparation for the appearance of the expected German Bombers and their fighter escorts.

One serious problem for the Belfast 8th was trying to avoid shooting down R.A.F.,aircraft during these fierce air battles as at certain high altitudes some planes on both sides looked quite similar, so 'friendly fire' was a distinct hazard then too, as it still is today in current world conflicts.
The next major engagement for the Belfast 8th began in 1942, when they with their heavy weapons etc., embarked in the Belfast-built liner R.M.S Britannic for service in Burma against the Japanese, under the command of the 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma. They became known as the 'Forgotten Army' at one stage, but colour film shot during the conflict by the Regiment’s Colonel Harry Porter today provides a tremendous insight into the atrocious and difficult fighting conditions faced by all those brave men, who often did not receive an adequate amount of supplies while carrying on the war against the ferocious Japanese.

Before sailing for Burma, Colonel Porter had equipped himself with a cine camera and some reels of colour film, which accompanied him during that phase of the war. Ironically, this had resulted once more in an Ulsterman disobeying orders, as at war's end, all the film material he had recorded was confiscated by the Forces Censorship Personnel, and Cameraman Porter was threatened with court martial proceedings. However, the Ulsterman forcefully pleaded with them not to destroy all his precious films, but to delete anything that may have caused a security issue, then return what remained. Thankfully, this request was finally agreed to, resulting today in a copy of that 35-minute amazing film record being available in an accompanying disc for viewing by using a disc player/television link. The court-martial threat was also grudgingly cancelled.

Both James Brennan and his future brother-in-law, Jack Price, who was also in the Regiment appear in that approximate 35-minute film record, which is entitled; 'The Twelve Mile Snipers'. The Regiment had admiringly earned this title due to the extreme accuracy displayed by them over a twelve-mile range in the use of their heavy guns.

The film record includes a wide variety of topics in relation to the Regiment's involvement during that period of the war. One amazing highlight is of a spectacular 1945 pre 'Home-Coming' parade held in Madras, to celebrate both the victory over Germany and Japan, combined with a special 12th of July 1690 anniversary celebration of the much earlier, historical, King William of Orange victory at the Battle of the Boyne.

During those Second World War years, some men of the Belfast 8th had earlier obtained a few sets of bagpipes from their Indian friends and this eventually resulted in the development of a complete pipe band being formed, with an additional two more, including one flute band introduced later over time. The recorded film of the 1945 parade shows their flute and pipe bands for that occasion leading the parade. This is followed by the Regiment marching along in their very own specially made Orange sashes. These had been produced by the native Indian Dorsi Wallah Female Stitchers using the canvas material cut from the Regiment's now obsolete ammunition chandeliers and dyed orange. Previously those ladies had been engaged in carrying out all the necessary repairs of the men's uniforms and clothes during the Regiment’s complete army service in the Burma Campaign. In addition, the troops and stitchers also produced special war-made banners, and all the above mentioned items appear in the colour film of that most unique parade, in which Jews and Roman Catholics as well, all happily participated in.

There are also photographic records of the soldiers, each clad in their unique Orange sashes, and one large photo accompanying this written record shows James A. Brennan and his future brother-in-law standing proudly in that group. The sash he was wearing and a copy of the large photograph are now displayed in the Belfast Orange Museum. (On loan) A second photo is included, showing James in 2007 wearing his special sash, along with his war medals, but he is referred to as 'Sergeant' in inverted commas, and that is for a very valid reason as Jim had once challenged the conduct of a somewhat arrogant female officer in her doings with a group of female British Army personnel. He considered her to be displaying a most abusive attitude towards the girls under her command, so Jim clearly expressed his objection to her behaviour. As a result, that arrogant lady used her authority in every way possible and succeeded in blocking Jim's pending promotion to Sergeant, on the grounds of insubordination. He had recently been recommended for the promotion, but that was now withdrawn. Like a true Ulsterman and honourable soldier, Jim 'stuck to his guns' and forfeited his promotion.

At the war’s end, the Belfast 8th embarked at Madras as a complete unit on the Belfast built ship, R.M.S. Sterling Castle, which sailed to Liverpool, and from there they journeyed by sea to the Larne port of Northern Ireland, where a large 'welcome home' crowd had assembled for their arrival back. From there, a special train had been arranged for transporting them back to Belfast, where a hero's welcome awaited them as they marched proudly but in a somewhat sombre atmosphere, through the city centre streets of their beloved, war damaged Belfast while remembering with sadness their fallen comrades in far off foreign fields.

Again, all those happenings were recorded in colour film by Colonel Harry Porter, and are now available for viewing on the 8th Belfast's video disc.
Belfast city had suffered severely while they were absent due to the devastating German Air-Raids on that city earlier in the war, and one of those raids during Easter was second only to London in relation to its casualties, when almost 1000 people had been killed in the bombing and massive destruction had been inflicted upon that great industrial city, which had played such a major role in the war effort during all those devastating war years.

Soon after arriving home from the war, James returned to civilian life, and was welcomed back to his previous workplace at Johnston’s car business in Belfast. All his complete army service earnings received during those war years had been faithfully invested by his parents in a bank account for him, so when an old friend named Jack Barron (who was an Elder in the Presbyterian Church) approached James with a proposal for them both to consider entering into a business partnership in relation to various types of motorized vehicle, caravan products, components and accessories etc., James was most interested. After full discussion and research, this was considered an excellent idea, so their company was found under the title of Barron and Brennan, which later became a limited company.

Referring back in later life to their momentous decision, Jim remarked with a great sense of humour that he had been under the impression his friend Jack Barron knew all about business, but soon became aware that neither of them knew anything whatsoever about business. This realization only made James even more determined to succeed, so he set out to do everything necessary for developing a successful business and did eventually accomplish this after years of extremely hard work and dedication. He later took over full control of that business, when his Barron partner decided to emigrate in line with some other of his closely related Barron family members, who had done so earlier and he too now wished to be living abroad with them as well.

Jim’s next major step was taken on the 9th of August 1974, when he married Elizabeth G. McAuley, who was then private secretary to Sir Graham Larmour, a man who was referred to as: ‘ The Knight of the Linen Industry’ in Northern Ireland.

James and Elizabeth first met in the late 1940’s, when their families became neighbours at Whitehouse, and eventually the couple became members of Whitehouse Presbyterian Church, having both decided to dedicate their lives to the service of Christ, which due to their commitment and determination, was to provide outstanding benefits for all the Church’s outreach in many fields, including financially and personally, supporting Missionaries; Missionary Bodies; Registered Charities; Church Organisations, and much more. They both took up leadership in many areas of Church life. Meanwhile their business interests continued to grow from strength to strength.

Their loving generosity and thoughtfulness, can be revealed through one touching example, when at each Christmas season they arranged for the children of their nearest relations to be transported to one of the Belfast Christmas pantomimes, followed by a Christmas Party in their beautiful home along with a presentation of gifts to each of the boys and girls.
There were eventually three business premises in various parts of Belfast City, plus a large warehouse type business building at the Pennybridge Industrial Estate in Ballymena. On three occasions during the Northern Ireland Troubles, I.R.A. Terrorists bombed the Belfast Premises, which resulted in James requiring temporary emergency premises to store salvaged stock and materials. A kind friend offered Jim one of his available empty stores, but ironically a few weeks later, a severe storm blew part of that building down, thus causing further destruction to Jim’s previously rescued stock and materials. Undeterred, James determinedly worked relentlessly at restoring all his business interests back to their former state, as well as continuing to develop and expand his company.

After the first bomb attack on his property a most brave and determined Jim breathtakingly equipped himself with a long coil of rope, which he planned to attach to any further bombs that may again be planted inside his premises. His intention was to carefully exit the building, while holding the other rope end, and allow the full long coil to extend to its full length behind him. Then at what he considered a safe distance, he would attempt to extract the bomb from the building out into the open and away from the building, by continuing to keep walking onwards while pulling on the rope. If successful the intention was for the plan to greatly reduce destruction overall, should the bomb detonate, but involved an extremely hazardous and uncertain procedure.

This planned operation was put into action a short time later, when a further bomb was placed inside the newly restored building, but when Jim quickly entered equipped with his rope after the bombers withdrew, he immediately became aware that it would be impossible to pull the lethal object outside as planned, due to it being cunningly placed in a position completely surrounded by fixed obstacles. Fortunately Jim quickly withdrew from his threatened building, and moved swiftly away to a considered safe distance, from where he soon witnessed the complete destruction of his property once more, but thankfully everyone had survived yet another heart-breaking, cruel set back.

Jim’s recreational life greatly involved both him and his wife, in their deep passion for playing the game of golf, in addition to indoor and outdoor bowling, mainly linked to their own Church bowling group. They both enjoyed fully the fellowship and friendly competition these most popular sports provided, and they frequently were in line for top awards, due to their skilful abilities. Also being prolific readers, they greatly treasured their wide collection of books and accumulations of literature, held within a large library at home. Each had their own car for use in their home and business activities but also used to transport those who genuinely required transport to the various church functions and meetings etc. One example being the transportation of disabled people back and forth from their Disabled Christian Fellowship meetings.

Both developed the desire for collecting a substantial amount of widely varying articles, and over the years many of those items were obtained during their annual holidays or other trips abroad, while at their home residence both enjoyed cultivating and maintaining quite a large flower and vegetable garden, plus a conservatory.

All those activities continued unhindered for several decades of their married life until eventually they reached the stage when retirement required consideration. James and Elizabeth, never having had any family of their own, previously decided much earlier to appoint a third partner into the business. Eventually that partner was approached for the purpose of discussing all matters relating to their necessary future business arrangements, in preparation for James and Elizabeth’s planned retirement.
The eventual outcome resulted in a date being agreed for the retirement of James and his wife, while their third partner agreed satisfactory terms in relation to taking over the business. James also gave him firm assurance that he would continue to monitor, assist, and advise the new owner part-time until everyone was completely confident and fully satisfied regarding future operation of the business. At that point James would withdraw finally from all future involvement. This agreed procedure was put into operation and when all requirements necessary were achieved, James and his wife withdrew completely from the business.

During the final phase the newly retired couple had been planning to go on an extensive celebration world tour, so when relations and friends living abroad became aware of their intentions, several invitations were offered to James and Elizabeth indicating they were welcome to arrange visits and stopovers with those friends and relations where possible during their extensive planned tour. This in one case resulted in them spending a period of time with Jim’s brother David and his family in Australia, due to them having earlier emigrated there. Before doing so, David had worked with his brother at Barron and Brennan Ltd.

In another case, a further period was spent with relations in Canada, so this pattern frequently continued throughout the entire world tour, which involved many countries throughout the world. Some were friends who lived in countries where James had served in during his war service, and two of those countries were India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).
The many years of retirement following that grand world tour, provided James and his wife with endless opportunities, to engage fully in and expand their involvement in all the many interests and activities which they had participated in and developed during their earlier years plus the following business years.

The impact which all that amazing service and dedication has had on so many lives, is nigh well impossible to measure.
However the reality is that the passing years ‘took their toll’, and Jim’s war service in the Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Regiment had eventually been very damaging to his hearing, so that with each passing year a gradual deterioration in his range of hearing became more noticeable, until today even with the use of two hearing aids he has to shout loudly and even then it is difficult for James to finally grasp the message. People often resort to writing down questions for him to read and answer. He was greatly amused recently when his sister-in-law paid him a visit and soon noticed he was wearing only one hearing aid, when she enquired loudly as to why he was not wearing his other hearing aid, James replied that he was keeping it in reserve just in case the other one failed. His sister-in-law quickly responded with a most hilarious and appropriate remark; “are you keeping it intact for your old age”?

Otherwise over his lifetime James was greatly blessed with excellent health. Only on one occasion did he require hospitalisation for back surgery, but after recovery from that, he never had any further problems. This was the case until the year 2012, when suddenly he developed a nasty infection, and was admitted to hospital for emergency investigation and treatment. When he had recovered sufficiently, the hospital recommended a period of respite care, aimed towards full recovery in a care home.
Meanwhile his wife Elizabeth had lived alone at home during this period, but due to a severe disability she no longer was able to care for her husband at home. Several years previously, she had been diagnosed with osteoporosis, and now because of the deterioration suffered through this, her husband James still resided in the care home. Elizabeth too then suddenly required an emergency admission to hospital in early 2014, in relation to her osteoporosis, and while carrying out their standard admission medical tests revealed Elizabeth was also suffering from advanced breast cancer, which she had not been aware of up until that unexpected and now devastating diagnosis.

When her medical condition had stabilized sufficiently, the hospital now transferred Elizabeth into respite care, but this very quickly extended into full time care for both James and his wife due to all their changed circumstances.
Just some two and a half years later on 11th of July 2016, Elizabeth died suddenly due to a severe infection, and today James still remains in full time care, where he has been residing since early 2012, but has adjusted amazingly well through all those heart-breaking trials, both past and present. His profound deafness is a major frustration for him, and has resulted in him having some memory problems in recent times, due to being cut off for so long from all the general conversation etc, but he is completely aware of that fact, and now just ‘soldiers on’ by reading his way through books and various papers every day, while using the bible as his main guide. After all a good soldier aims for 100% while living his life to the full, and James has certainly achieved that goal of 100 in every way.

One Verse for Life
“There are mountains in life we all have to climb.
But we can remove them, with one step at a time.
Have faith to move mountains, with God at your side.
Just keep climbing upwards. Let Him be your guide.”





This post has a personal sentiment as it relates to one of our volunteer’s families.
War Years Remembered Collection