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"When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today"

8th Belfast H.A.A. Regt.

aka   'The Twelve Mile Snipers'
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WW1 Soldiers database               8th Index               WW2 Soldiers database

Street Directories Menu

The Men

Sergeant William Adrain - Diary and Biography

D. J. Bailie - War Diary and Photographs

Colonel Wm. N. Brann

Sgt. Thomas Herbert Coulter (Herbie)

Jimmy Cunningham's Private Army Comes Home

L/Sgt. Bertie Goodwin

Gunner Harry Grist

2/Lt. William George Hales

Gunner Herbert Hanley

Ken Heath

Bdr. William (Buttons) Hunter

Irvine Brothers 23rd Battery

Bdr. J. C. Irvine 23rd Battery

Bdr. Thomas Henderson Kane

Tommy and Albert Kinnon 21st and 23rd Bty.

 Gnr. Jim Lennon's War Records - Photos

Sgt. Joseph Harold Lynn (aka Harry-Joe)

Matchett Brothers 23rd Battery

L/Bdr. Harry Joseph Mawhinney 22nd Battery

Gunner Thomas Mercer 21st Battery

 Jimmy McKittrick

Bdr. Thomas McLaughlin

Colonel Harry Porter

Sgt. Billy Wilson 23rd Battery

Sidney Ernest Wright - Diary & Photographs


N-O-K- Dec'd Personnel 21/22/23 Hy.A.A.

Posted/Repatriated from 23 Hy.A.A.

List of Additional Soldiers

List of names, no addresses 23rd Bty.

Memorial Service Book (list of names) B Troop

22nd Bty. Memorial Brochure  names, addresses

23rd Bty. Memorial Brochure  names, addresses

RHQ/REME Memorial Brochure, addresses

Nominal Roll 21st Bty. all ranks

Nominal Roll 22nd Bty. all ranks

Nominal Roll 23rd Bty. all ranks

8th Belfast HAA Nominal Roll 21st Battery

8th Belfast HAA Nominal Roll 22nd Battery

8th Belfast HAA Nominal Roll 23rd Battery

Alterations & Additions to Nom. Rolls 23rd

RHQ / REME Nominal Rolls







Newspaper Clippings

Assorted Clippings 1

Assorted Clippings 2


SEAC March 1944



Sport & Small Groups

8th Belfast Band

Individuals & Friends

Large Group Pictures

Donated Photos

8th Belfast Band items

Documents  *  Items


Old Comrades Section

Burma Star Luncheon 2009

St. Annes and Lansdowne Court Hotel Laying-up of Burma Star Standard 3rd October 2010



Obituaries  *  Memorials  Changi Prison Chapel

8th Belfast HAA History
by Colonel Murray Barnes, OBE , TD.

A short History of The 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment Royal Artillery (Supplementary Reserve)
by Harry Porter


Dean Houston McKelvey's Sermon
3rd October 2010

Extract from Coralie Kinahan's book
'Behind Every Great Man'
"Robin's War"


Video Page

Harry Porters film of the Twelve Mile Snipers
(in 3 parts)

Burma Star Luncheon

The Last Parade

and more....


other WW2 stories

Cpl. William F. Davison

Belfast Telegraph Tuesday June, 6, 1944 Invasion


Newspaper Clippings 2  -  Newspaper Clippings 1

8th A.A. Regiment in Training - Roll Call Parade of 23rd Battery at Dunmore Park, Belfast

On 1st April 1986 the regiment was formed having previously been an 'Ulster and Scottish' regiment.  On formation it was decided that an old tradition which had died, should be adopted in the Ulster Badge which incorporates the red hand of Ulster on a blue edged shield on a khaki ground.  The badge was first worn by officers and men of the 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regt. R.A. (SR) which was recruited in Spring 1939. They served in France, England, India and Burma, and it was in Burma that the regiment finished its war.
At Easter on Saturday 31st March 1945 a memorial tablet was unveiled by Brigadier L. A. Harris, D.S.O., M.C., C.C.R.A., of 15 Indian Corps in St. Mark's Church, Akyab.  The church damaged during the war had been refurbished by men of the regiment.  The tablet bears the names of members of the regiment who died in the Arakan campaigns, and on the tablet is inscribed the badge now worn by the Territorials of 102 Regiment. These details were kindly forwarded by Col. H. J. Porter, O.B.E., T.D., J.P., D.L.

The Northern Whig, September 7th, 1939
Ulstermen in Camp 1939 (Jim Lennon X)

The Northern Whig, September 8th, 1939
Ulstermen in Camp 1939 (Jim Lennon X)
Another picture of Ulstermen in Camp - The goat is a great ? with the Troops
[ the man with his hands on the shoulders of the man 2nd from right at front is John Blair thank you to his great-granddaughter Amy Gibson for contacting me]

Pack up your troubles..... Royal Artillery Men, leaving to complete their training, smilingly, acclaim the Duke of Abercorn at a Railway Station

Belfast Telegraph Friday, October 12, 1945
The 8th (Belfast) Heavy A.A. Regiment leaving the LMS Station, Belfast, for Coventry.

The Northern Whig, September 8th, 1939
Ulstermen in Camp, The Dancer (Jim Lennon X)
The Dancer - A gunner of the R.A. (stationed somewhere in Ulster,_ who is an accomplished eccentric dancer, provides a little diversion for the troops during "stand-easy,"
and (right) some of the staff at the same camp.

The Northern Whig (1939?)
A camp with a Battery of the Ulster S.R. Royal Artillery - This photograph, taken just before dinner-time, shows a very happy and contented community.
The Camp Kitchen - Stewed prunes and custard happened to be on the menu when the photographer called (much to his surprise, as in the first war biscuits and "bully" seemed to be the mainstay).
The Advance of the Orderlies when "Come to the cookhouse door" sounds in an Ulster Camp.

Spectator Newspaper, Bangor, 4th July 1996

       Mr. James Lennon, whose father-in-law and uncle both fought at the Somme in 1916, saw battle there himself in 1940 as a member of the Royal Artillery. The French Government awarded Mr. Lennon a Somme medal exactly 50 years later to the day.

A family campaign

       For the Lennon family of Bangor, the Somme commands a special significance. Two generations of the family fought there, in both the First and Second World Wars.
Mr. James Lennon holds the Somme Medal, awarded to him by the French government for his service during the 1940 battle there. But the former Royal Artillery soldier, who served in the 8th Belfast Heavy Ack-Ack in the Second World War, is in no doubt as to which of the Somme battles was the most punishing.
       "There is no comparison with the 1914-1918 war," he says. "They were poisoned by gas, lived in trenches........it went on for months."
       On Sunday, Mr. Lennon, father of North Down councillor Austen Lennon, wore his own Somme medal as he attended a service at Bangor cenotaph to mark the 80th anniversary of the original Somme in which thousands fought - among them his own forebears. It was whilst fighting at the Somme that his father-in-law, Julius Kinghan (Keenan) Wylie, was promoted from sergeant to 2nd Lieutenant in the field, in the race to replace the huge numbers of officers killed or wounded in action. Miraculously he survived The Great War, despite injury and being captured, only to escape and return directly to the battle lines. Infantry relied on more than their wits and training - fate and superstition too featured greatly.
        Mr(s). Lennon recalls; "There was a superstition that if you used your matches to light the cigarettes of three people, a sniper would get you. My father had a special silver matchbox he got when he was over there which had two compartments, one which carried the matches and the other which was empty. So id a soldier asked for the third time for a light for his cigarette, my grandfather (father) would show him the empty compartment to get out of lighting it." explains Mr(s). Lennon.
       An uncle of Mr. Jim Lennon's also fought in the Somme - and paid for it with his life 20 years later after finally succumbing to the effects of gas poisoning suffered which in the trenches. Hopefully, the Lennon family's military history could be brought to a wider audience. The Ulster Museum has expressed an interest in exhibiting the family's extensive collection of regimental memorabilia - among it First World War relics such as Ulster Volunteer Force armbands and an official UVF car badge.


Not a girl to trifle with: Dora, the largest gun in World War II, shows off the size of her punch.
Roll out the mighty barrel
It's statistics are staggering. It could hurl a seven-ton concrete-busting shell 23 miles or a 4.75-ton high explosive shell up to 29 miles. The gun was mounted on a gigantic double railway trolley which occupied parallel lines of reinforced track, laid in a curve for the gun to be aimed. The whole assembly weighed 1,328 tons. The gun travelled in pieces and took three weeks to be assembled by a crew of 1,420 men. But weapons of this size were terribly vulnerable to attack from the air, and all three 'Dora' guns seem to have been destroyed by Allied bombing in Germany late in the war. Nothing tangible of them was ever found beyond a few rounds of ammunition.

Tale of French Treachery   by Philip Kerr
The French behaved disgracefully during the Second World War and it continues to astonish many, myself included, that France was allowed to pose as one of the four victorious powers after the defeat of Germany. What most people fail to realise is that the Germans needed a force of a little more than 3,000 men - half the size of the Paris police force - to garrison the whole of France during the Occupation. The reality of the situation was that most Frenchmen were willing collaborationists and enthusiastic racists. Petain's regime introduced anti-Jewish regulations in France without any prompting from the Germans. Resistance to the Occupation was small and piecemeal and, where it was most efficient, largely Communist. Yet even the French Communist Party, confused by the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939, had toed the party line and joined the Vichy government. It wasn't until 1941, when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, that Communist resistance got going. They were just as likely to kill members of other resistance groups - Gaullists, for example - as they were to kill Germans. It seems almost unthinkable to us, 50 years after, but this was the reality of Nazi France. Let's call a spade a spade: France was just as much a Nazi country as Austria was.

my father wrote on this clipping...

The 8th (Belfast) during this siege sustained 36 Casualties including 13 dead.

L/Bdr. H. Mills - Military Medal
Sgt. Wm. Adrain - Military Medal
Lt. H. G. Bing - Military Cross
Capt. R. H. Reade - Military Cross
Lt. Col. J. G. Cunningham - O.B.E.


8th Belfast Heavy A.A. Regiment

by a Military Correspondent

   Once again in the back areas enjoying a well-earned rest are men of the Belfast Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, first unit of its kind to cross the Brahmaputra into the Arakan operational area in October 1942.  With Lieutenant-Colonel F. Dearden as Commanding Officer, their first role was airfield defence, and three batteries being sited in forward areas in East Bengal.  It was a period of considerable activity during which the Japanese were able to send over fairly large groups of raiders, of which the regiment took a good toll.
     In March, 1943, Colonel Dearden, who had received a Brigade appointment, was succeeded by Lieut.-Colonel J. W. P. Saunders, but he was wounded before taking over his command, and after some months in hospital was invalided home.  The present Commanding Officer, who took over on April 17, 1943, is Lieut.-Colonel J. G. Cunningham, son of the Rt. Hon. Samuel Cunningham, of Belfast.
     By September, 1943, the regiment were in new positions at Tambru, Ramu and Bawli, while in January, 1944, one battery moved forward in support of the 15th Indian Division, and a little later, another was detailed to support the 7th Indian Division.
     The crossing of the famous Ngakyadauk Pass by one troop of the latter battery without loss or damage to either matadors or guns has been described as "brilliant driving."  The newly opened road was a nightmare to drivers, being marked by dangerous gradients with sheer drops awaiting the slightest show of unskilled driving or want of care.
     The day after their crossing, the Pass was cut by the Japanese, and the troop played a part in holding the 7th Indian Division's famous "administrative box."  In addition to dealing with Japanese raiders who frequently flew over, they were called on to engage ground targets at varying ranges.  They wrought havoc among the Japanese when firing over open sights at a range of 650 yards on "Artillery Hill."  The troop was bombed, shelled, and mortared; two guns were temporarily disabled, but the two remaining played a great part in clearing the "box" of the Japanese who had overrun it.
     It was during these hectic days that L/Bdr. H. Mills, of 21 Matlock Street, Belfast, gained the immediate award of the M.M.  In spite of his wounds he struggled to beat out the flames which at one time encircled the ammunition supply on the site.  He refused attention until he had got the fire under control, even though cordite was already exploding.
     When the Japanese were completely smashed and the Pass was reopened, the contribution of this troop was spoken of very highly by senior officers in the Division.  About 40% of the original 1939 personnel are still with the regiment. Prominent among them is R.S.M. A. E. D. Simmonds, who was sent to Belfast in April, 1939, to help to raise the regiment.  He now has 28 years' Army service to his credit, 25 of them being with the Royal Artillery.
     The regiment has several well known sportsmen among its personnel, including Captain H. R. McKibben, 38 North Circular Road, Belfast, (Irish Rugby International); Captain H. J. Porter, Garryowen, Ben Madigan, Belfast (Irish Swimming champion) and Major H. M. Gabbey, King's Road, Knock, Belfast (Irish bridge international and radio commentator on bridge competitions).
     Most of the men come from Belfast, among them being Captain R. C. C. Kinahan, Fairways, Newtownbreda (adjutant); Captain J. M. Patterson, 27 Strathmore Place; L/Bdr. H. J. Mawhinney, 20 The Mount; Sergeant W. Adrain, 86 Hesketh Park; and Driver J. Wilson, 3 Esther Street, Alexandra park Avenue.  Others are Gunner W. W. Finlay, Mount Erin, Millisle, Co. Down, and Captain R. H. Reade, Carncairn, Broughshane, Co. Antrim.

Belfast A.A. Men Clear the Ground

     Ulster men of the 8th Belfast Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, who, in the early days of the war, manned their guns in defence of the city, are today firing at Japanese troops on the Arakan front at point-blank range.
     With the Japanese airmen almost driven from Burma's skies, these Belfast gunners fire mostly at enemy ground targets.  Less than a week before I met these men, writes a 14th Army Observer, one battery of the regiment had fired on about 100 of the enemy across open paddy-fields near the Mayu River.  Before the enemy were able to take cover 40 Japanese were lying dead, dying or wounded.  Another battery recently fired at an enemy 150 mm. gun position south-west of Buthidaung.  When the infantry reached the enemy position they found 17 dead Japanese sprawled around their gun which had been destroyed by a direct hit.  The Regiment has taken part in many actions in Burma since late 1942.
     The Regiment was raised in April 1939, mobilised in August and defended the skies over Belfast until October.  First Christmas of the war was spent at Le Havre.  Later they moved forward.  One battery, overrun by the Germans, made its way back to Dunkirk; two others took part in the defence of Calais?

Belfast's "A.A." men reach Liverpool
"We should be home by Week-end" says Commander
('my dad tells me that when they arrived at Liverpool there was one woman and a pram and a small child waiting to greet them' in comparison Belfast was alive with people when they arrived there)

     Among the 3,500 troops on board the 25,000-ton Union Castle liner, Stirling Castle, when she berthed in Liverpool last night, were the men of the 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.A. (S.R.) returning from Burma.

     The men, the majority of whom belong to Belfast and towns and villages in the vicinity, were sun-burned and cheerful.  Liverpool is the nearest they have been to Northern Ireland for three and a half years - "the longest years of our lives," as they themselves said.  They described Liverpool as "paradise" - and that despite the fact that it was cold and raining.

     "With any luck we should be home by the week-end," Lieut.-Colonel James G. Cunningham, the Regiment's Commanding Officer, told our special representative on the quayside.  Some of the men telephoned their relatives in Ulster shortly after disembarking.


Sunburned and cheerful
by a "Northern Whig" special representative

     Colonel Cunningham, who is joint managing director of the "Northern Whig," said the Regiment embarked in May, 1942, for the Far Eastern theatre and arrived in July the same year.  They served throughout the Burma campaign and were the first Regiment to take large-calibre guns across the Brahmaputra Pass.  During their six years of fighting - they had previously fought in France and had also taken part in the defence of the British Isles - the Regiment had managed to keep itself more or less intact, and ten pre-war officers were still serving with it.

     A rather unique method of locating the big guns - the 7.2s - in the dense jungle was related by Colonel Cunningham. With them, he said, they had a pipe band. Pipers were sent to various gun sites and when low-flying aircraft passed overhead the men could pipe up and in the stillness of the jungle the strains of the bagpipes could be heard in the planes.  Among the men to whom our representative spoke was Sergeant T. H. Coulter, 28 Knockbreda Gardens, Belfast; Private R. Stranex, 6 Morpeth Street, Belfast; ???, Lisburn Road, Belfast.  They told of bitter fighting and of fanatical resistance shown by the enemy.

     Driver Farr was with the ? Battery when it had all communications severed for three? During that time they fired ? enemy at point-blank range ? 3.7 anti-aircraft guns and ? had "a tough time."
     Supplies had to be dropped by air until they were relieved ? contingent of the King's Own ? Borderers. (a piece of the newspaper was torn)


Sir - We are appealing to the citizens of Belfast on behalf of the Benevolent Fund of the 8th (Belfast) Heavy A.A. Regiment, R.A.
     This regiment was raised in April, 1939, in the city, and the officers and men were all Belfast volunteers.  It has been worthy of its name, and has brought great credit to the City of Belfast and to Northern Ireland.
     After training, they proceeded to France and fought there until the French collapse, when they escaped through the Channel ports.  Then re-fitted, they were sent to London when the "blitz" started, and served with distinction through the worst of that period.  Later they proceeded to India, and from there to Burma, being in the Battle of India and the Burma campaign.  In Burma they formed part of the 14th Army, which was known as the "Forgotten Army."
     Now that victory is approaching, we, their fellow-citizens, desire to recognise their services.
     Subscriptions should be sent to the hon. treasurer at 1 Wellington Place, Belfast
          Yours, etc., Thomas Dixon, His Majesty's Lieutenant for the County and City of Belfast
V. Unsworth (Colonel), Chairman  -  Mrs. J. G. Cunningham, Vice-Chairman (Mr.)  -  R. F. Henry (Major), Hon. Secretary  -  A. C. Workman (Captain), Hon. Treasurer  -  Glentoran, Hon. Colonel, 8th (Belfast) H.A.A. Regiment R.A.


Brought their battery back safely from France


   A special correspondent who is visiting the Southern Command sent the following despatch yesterday :-
     Ulstermen assisting in the anti-aircraft defence of an important British port, are using the same guns they had in France.  Seven out of eight guns of their battery were brought out of Cherbourg on June 18.
     The achievement was remarkable, not only because it contrasted with the unavoidable dumping of so much other British war equipment, but also because only 50 minutes before being embarked the battery has been in position covering the embarkation of British troops.
     The cease fire order was given at 10.10 p.m. By 10.40? (newspaper is creased and hard to make out) the guns had been dismantled and spare ammunition blown up and the guns and valuable instruments brought three-quarters of a mile to the dockside.  Twenty minutes later they were aboard a transport leaving the port.

Ulstermen Create Record

     Territorial soldiers of Northern England and Ulster share the distinction of the two best A.A. shoots recorded against Japanese aircraft on the Burma front.

     Both took place in April - the first at Feni airfield, when three bombers were brought down for 24 rounds; the second at Imphal, where 85 rounds accounted for two bombers definitely destroyed, two probably destroyed, and one damaged.

     Ulster Territorial regiment gunners from the Belfast area were responsible for the first, and men, mostly from Yorkshire, shot up the five at Imphal.

     These two shoots were described by a senior gunner officer as "incredibly good shooting."

     Eight enemy aircraft for the expenditure of 109 shells compares with 1,000 for one aircraft in the war of 1914-1918