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British, Commonwealth and Allied Armed Forces In Northern Ireland

– Forces based in the province 1939 - 1945. – 

This page will hopefully introduce and give details of some of the Army, RAF and Royal Navy forces which were stationed in or connected with Northern Ireland during the war.

As part of the Empire it could be expected that British forces would be stationed in Northern Ireland. It was these forces that would have to defend Northern Ireland from any aggression, what ever quarter it came from!

Ground Forces Air Forces Naval Forces Auxiliary Forces
  • Londonderry Naval Base (HMS Ferret)
  • Londonderry Escort Force
  • 811 Sqn, Fleet Air Arm
  • Royal Marine Brigade

Northern Ireland District

This was the higher command structure in the province in September 1939. the province was not allotted a specific area Command as with Scotland or Wales. NID controlled all regular forces up until the formation of HQ BTNI (see below) in July 1940. There after it appears to have controlled some of the independent brigades (71st, 72nd & 148th) at various times. The function of this command was to maintain local defense measures and under certain conditions to control the 61st Division.
Commanders (Note: Exact dates to be determined)
MG Robert V Pollock (1938 - 40)
LG Ridley P Pakenham-Walsh (1940 - 41)
MG Vivian HB Majendie (1941 - 43)
G Alan G Cunningham (1943 - 44)

British Troops in Northern Ireland

Following the evacuation of Dunkirk, all forces in the UK including Northern Ireland, were placed under command of G.H.Q. Home Forces. With this in mind, the VI Corps HQ was set up at Lisburn to deal with any threat to Northern Ireland. On July 12, this HQ was reformed into HQ British troops in Ireland (BTI). However, it was quickly changed to british Troops in Northern Ireland to prevent any adverse concerns from the press and the Irish Government. It was this force that was tasked with giving assistance to the Irish Army in the event of a German invasion. Indeed, it is believed that it might also have crossed the border un-invited had the situation demanded it.
Commanders (Note: Exact dates to be determined)
MG Hubert J Huddleston (1940)
MG Henry R Pownall (1940 - 41
LG Harold E Franklyn (1941 - 43)

Ulster Home Guard - Ulster Defense Volunteers

July 1940 saw in the formation of the Local Defense Volunteers, better known by its later name of the Home Guard. This was to be a locally formed and manned force to assist the army in the event of an invasion of the British mainland.

However, the formation of a similar force in Northern Ireland caused no little concern to the Northern Ireland government. As could be expected, the government had no wishes to form an armed military force, that might allow republicans to gain access to weapons. Hence it was suggested that the Ulster Special Constabulary ('B' Special Constabulary) would be used as a basis for a Volunteer Defense Corps. Now, the "B Specials" were a reserve police auxiliary that had gained a notorious reputation for sectarian actions in support of the protestant government during the 1920's and 1030's. Thus, their use as a local defense force would mean that the Catholic or republican community would not be encouraged to join and the authorities could again claim that community was not pulling its weight. Thus in May 1940, its was agreed by the Stormont government that the USC would form the nucleus of a new force, the Ulster Defense Volunteers. The following month, Lord Craigavon, visiting London, announced that there were 12000 personnel enlisted in the UDV.

By October 1940 however some questions were being asked as to the status of the UDV. They had been recruited by the NI Government as a force to repel invasion, however they were not under military control and discipline. There was concern over the legal status of the NI government raising a military force for defense of the province as opposed to internal security forces. The local British Army command did not want at that time to assume command of the force in order to distance itself from its sectarian nature. The government claimed that the force would be transferred to the military in the event of emergency. There does not appear to have been a resolution to this problem and the force was left to the control of the NI parliament. There was much concern however, from Unionist circles however as to the constitutional status of the force and the situation the Stormont government had been left in. much was made of the force sectarian makeup. It must be said however, that catholics and republicans were prevented as much by their own community from joining any government force.

In January 1942, the UDV and parts of the USC were reorganized to bring them into line with the military organization in the province. Units were moved and renamed and placed into the Command areas. Thus the force about 38000 men was grouped as follows:

Northern Area Command
1st & 2nd Antrim, 1st, 2nd & 3rd Derry and 1st & 2nd Londonderry Battalions. (7 Battalions)
Southern Area Command
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, Armagh, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, Down, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Fermanagh and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, Tyrone Battalions. (15 Battalions)
Belfast Area Command
1 - 4 Belfast, 3rd & 4th Antrim and 1st Down Battalions. (7 Battalions)

The force thus co-operated with the military for the remainder of its life when it was disbanded on 31st December 1944.

Visit these sites for some more information on the subject of the UHG.
Ulster Home Guard
Royal Ulster Constabulary (Un-offical Site)

RAF and Commonwealth Air Force Units Based in Northern Ireland during the war.

Details of all these units and more can be found at the these two excellent links:

RAF Commands