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8th Belfast H.A.A. Regt.

aka   'The Twelve Mile Snipers'
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Sergeant William Adrain - Diary and Biography

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Colonel Wm. N. Brann

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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"


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Cpl. William F. Davison

Belfast Telegraph Tuesday June, 6, 1944 Invasion


Colonel W. N. Brann, 1915 - 2005

by Iain Gray - Spectator Newspaper -  Thursday February 16th, 2006

        By the time he reached the rank of Lord Lieutenant of County Down, Norman Brann, who has died aged 90, had already lived a life of valour and adventure.

        During the Second World War he was among more than 300,000 British troops evacuated from Dunkirk, while he later saw combat in the Far East during that same conflict before returning to run a successful food importing business while rationing was still in force.

        He was regarded as a hugely compassionate and good-natured man, qualities he attributed to his parents - it was remarked that all four of his sisters shared the same good-natured humour yet single-minded sense of duty.

        Born William Norman Brann on August 16, 1915, the son of Rev. William and Francesca Brann, he spent his childhood in his father's Manse at Ballyeaston before being sent to board at Campbell College where he excelled as a school prefect, fullback and captain of both the rugby XV and boxing team.

        After leaving school in 1933, he took a position with food importers Beck & Scott.  Three years later, the firm sent him to America with £100 spending money and within two months he returned with a contract from the company now known as Del Monte Agency and £80 still unspent.

        Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, he joined the 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (Supplementary Reserve), with whom he was sent to France to join the British Expeditionary Force in December of 1939.

        Whilst trying to get to Dunkirk in 1940, the 8th Belfast received a command to 'spike' - blow up - all guns and get themselves out.  Disobeying orders, he and his troop successfully brought back three of its artillery guns and some vital gunnery instruments despite almost capsizing their vessel in the process.

        Back on British soil, the regiment was soon in action again during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz, first in London and then on Teeside.  In 1942, the regiment embarked for the Far East, driving some 2,000 miles in convoy from their landing point in Bombay down the Grand Turk Road to Calcutta.  Action stations were taken up there, and later in East Bengal, before moving south to join XV Corps in Burma.

        For two and a half years the regiment took part in the Arakan campaigns, firing effectively against the Japanese Air Force and even more extensively against ground targets when their accuracy at long range earned them the nickname "The Twelve Mil Sniper".

        Although he suffered the loss of his father only six weeks after returning from the army in the spring of 1946, he soon returned to Beck & Scott and on May 9, 1950, married Anne Elizabeth Hughes, to whom he remained devoted until her death in June last year. (2005)  The couple had three children within five years.
        In addition to his business commitments he served as a Belfast Harbour Commissioner for 19 years and in 1952 achieved the position of Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Down.

          In his leisure time he was a keen hunter, regularly riding with the North Down Harriers and the County Down Staghounds, and frequently holidayed in Donegal.  He advanced to the position of Lord Lieutenant of County Down in 1979, a position he held for 11 years, shortly after becoming chairman of the Somme Hospital for Ex-Service Men and Women near Holywood and President of the Burma Star Association.

        The following year saw his retirement from Beck & Scott - although he remained chairman for a further 15 years and a non-executive director until his death - and his appointment as a Justice of the Peace.  In retirement he continued to enjoy his farm and garden, though he was known to have been upset when ill health forced his wife into the Somme Hospital, where in 2003 his deteriorating hearing forces him to join her.

        He is survived by his children Victoria, Stephen and Caroline and six grand children


Lt. Col. William Norman Brann, OBE., ERD., JP, DL.

16th August 1915  -  30th December 2005



.....Earlier that day, Princess Anne visited the Somme Nursing Home in East Belfast which had been established in 1914 to provide treatment and care for ex-servicemen and women.

     Barney the resident "canine therapist" at the centre stole some of the limelight at her arrival.  He raised from his slumber just as the princess exited the state car and duly joined the line of people which she was to be introduced to, Barney, yawned openly as she approached him and walked off wondering what all the fuss was.

     She was met more politely, by the Lord Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast, Lady Carswell OBE, and was then introduced to Councillor Wallace Brown, MP Peter Robinson, First Minister, David Trimble, Chairman of The Somme Nursing Home, Dr. Arthur Eakins CBE DL and Vice-president of the Not Forgotten Association, Colonel Robin Charley OBE, JP, DL.

     During a tour of the facilities, the princess met the only female resident to have been on active service, Mrs. Anne Brann, wife of the former Lord Lieutenant of Co. Down, Colonel William Brann.

     Anne was born in Cultra Manor, which has now become the site of the Folk and Transport museum, and has had an extremely interesting life which included working as a coder during the war and travelling the world with her husband.  She had met Princess Anne several times previously during her husbands time as Lord Lieutenant of Down.

     Colonel Brann was also an Aide de Camp to princess Anne's uncle for 20 years and therefore she had plenty to talk about with the Royal.  The pair recalled a previous meeting at Hyde Park Remand Home.  "We laughed, because these boys were from both sides of the divide and would fight as soon as they for out of the centre, but while they were in there, they got on very well and even cut each others hair.  We found is amazing that they could trust each other with sharp scissors," said Anne.

     Anne's 13 year old dog Tarka (named after the otter) was also a talking piece for the princess, who confided that she had to put down one of her own dogs recently because of old age.  During her visit, Princess Anne also observed a bingo session and was presented with a posy by the Honorary secretary of the Not Forgotten Association, Mrs. Betty Murray

19th September 2002



by Susan Clarke

     Under a car park, in the grounds of the Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra, lie the remains of Dalchoolin.

     It was the magnificent family home of Anne Brann (nee Hughes), built in 1839, and the memories she has of it reflect the passing of an era of 'the big houses', butlers and governesses, and a surprising lack of class consciousness.

     I met with Mrs. Brann in her current home, the Somme Nursing Home, and she shared some of those memories with me.  She is directly descended from Brian Boru and a great granddaughter of William Smith O'Brien.  Given her historical background, she is anxious that the tales are not lost, and has even asked her granddaughter to write them down so that they will not be forgotten.

     One of her stories is about the butler at Dalchoolin, Martin Fitzsimons.  He held the position for 60 years and the relationship between Martin and the family was not the sterile servant/master one that most people imagine.


     He lived at the front gate lodge with his wife (who was the cook in the big house) and two sons.  He never had an idle moment Mrs. Brann said, as she outlined his average day.  "First thing in the morning he unlocked all the doors in the downstairs rooms and pulled the curtains.  Then he took early morning tea up to the master and mistress.  Normal household chores followed, including seeing that the enormous coke stove in the hall was stoked, lighting fires in the dining room, drawing room and school room and perhaps the billiard room and folding the morning newspapers.

     "Helped by the parlour maid, he served the morning elevenses, lunch at 1pm, afternoon tea at 7.30pm.  Nightcaps were brought in at 9pm.  Blinds were drawn at a suitable time and at bedtime all the doors were locked again for the night."  He was also given the duty of polishing the silver, keeping the five grandfather clocks, grandmother clocks and several mantle clocks wound up, cleaning the boots and shoes, and was in charge of the loose cash in the house.  Mrs. Brann was taught from an early age how to polish silver and clean boots and help ease his workload.


     Martin became part of the family and, when his health started failing, he was cared for in the house.  The housemaid Aileen gave up her large sunny bedroom to him, and moved into the bedroom next door.  "She loved him dearly and looked after him for the rest of his life, with help from my mother,"  Mrs. Brann said.

     Towards the end he became very frail.  "Every afternoon he would struggle to sit up in his bed.  He was too weak but he would try and try, saying: 'I must go downstairs and give the master his tea.'  One day he just went to sleep and didn't wake up, the right way to go for him." said Mrs. Brann.

     Mrs. Brann was very close to Martin.  "He was a wonderful man, much loved and respected by everyone.  To me, he was a surrogate grandfather," she said.  "I am glad to say that he lived to attend our wedding.  I have a photograph of him dressed in his best, sitting in a canvas chair in the walled garden drinking a glass of champagne and smiling broadly."

     She also tells of her governess, Rosie Cowan, who 'had the greatest talent of educating and entertaining children at the same time.'  Her childhood sounds as if it came out of an Enid Blyton book, and Rosie Cowan sounds like Mary Poppins.  "We had tremendous tracking games, making our own home made wooden arrows," she said.

     Rosie also taught us how to lay fires, light them and keep them going.  We did quite a lot of basic cooking and learned exactly how to cook beautiful baked potatoes, cooked through but not burnt.  They lay in the dying embers for hours.  No potato has tasted as good since."

     Her unconventional governess also taught the children the art of tree climbing, and the use of ropes.  "In fact it was a whole survival course, tremendous fun and very useful,"  Mrs. Brann said.  The gardens at Dalchoolin were particularly impressive thanks to 'Old Magill' the head gardener, and her father who had a "tremendous knowledge of plants and plant care."

     There was a walled garden of about an acre with herbaceous borders, a rockery in a ruined cottage, many rose beds and a pond with a fountain.  There was a greenhouse with a vinery and peaches.  Another acre accommodated more fruit trees and vegetables and fed eight households!  Other areas of the estate were set aside for shrubs and specialist trees.


     Mrs. Brann remembers the war years well and describes what it was like during the Blitz when bombs were dropped on Cultra and Craigantlet.  "The first air raid was so unexpected, no-one had taken any safety precautions.  The situation at Dalchoolin was chaotic!  There was a very large, heavy table in the kitchen and the children and several dogs were told to get under the table and stay there.

     Her mother, meanwhile, went out and searched for unexploded bombs with an Aga saucepan on her head as a helmet.  She admits that her family did not go hungry because of the rationing because when the war came they had eggs, milk, butter, vegetables and pigs.


     Her father 'the Major' joined the North Irish Horses and when war was declared in 1914 he was among the first troops sent to France.  He stayed there until 1920 when his father died and he returned to take over Dalchoolin.  She shows obvious adoration for her father and his skill in handling horses.  "Now we see and read of famous men who are horse whisperers and who are rightly acclaimed as pioneers in their field.  I wish that they had known my father who had been doing similar things more than 50 years ago."

     She herself loves horses and was involved with North Down Harriers for almost 50 seasons and many of her stories are about horses she had or horses her father trained.  her husband Norman was the previous Lord Lieutenant of County Down and the president of the Burma Star Association for more than 20 years.  Mrs. Brann travelled the world with him, but she said her favourite duty was to attend functions of the Burma Star Association.

     "I have the most enormous admiration and respect for the members, men and women, and their families." she said.  She told how she never could wear eye make-up at V.J. Day celebrations because when her husband stood back and said:  "When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave out today,"  her eyes filled with tears.  "Norman is not a sentimental man, but even he finds those words very hard to say," she said.

     Mrs. Brann herself was very involved in the war effort.  When she was 18 she left school and joined the wrens as a coder.  She served in Larne, Belfast, Liverpool and London and worked the remainder of the war for 75p a week.  "It was extremely interesting work,"  she said, "coding and decoding messages to and from naval ships."  

     Mrs. Brann has many other memories including her mother buying the first caravan in the North of Ireland.  It was a cabin cruiser shown at the Balmoral show in the early 30's and cost £120.  "When we went out in the open road, people would stand by the verge and clap.  We waved back like royalty," she told.


     She also remembers Sir Ian Fraser taking her appendix out on the kitchen table because her mother did not like hospitals!

     When she married, she moved to Drumavaddy in the Craigantlet Hills, where she raised three children, Victoria, Stephen and Catherine.

     After her father died in 1963 the family decided the house was too big to keep.  They did not want to sell to developers and risk the house being demolished so they decided to sell it to the government, thinking it would keep it in good repair and perhaps open it to the public.  However, the building fell into disrepair and, overtaken with rot, was demolished.

     Folk and Transport Museum admitted that perhaps the house would have been saved today but back then, neither the knowledge nor the money would have been available.  Now all that is left as a reminder of Dalchoolin is a walled garden in the grounds of the Folk and Transport Museum, and Mrs. Brann's memories.


The Daily Telegraph 5th January 06
Court Circular

     The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were represented by Mr. William Hall (Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of County Down) at the Funeral of Colonel Norman Brann (formerly Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of County Down) which was held at Ballygilbert Presbyterian Church, Bangor, County Down, this afternoon.

BRANN - Anne Elizabeth (née Hughes) died 29th June 2005 aged 79 years. Dearly loved wife of William Norman Brann.  Mother of Victoria, Stephen and Catherine. Grandmother of Emma, Annabel, Tom and Stephanie, William and Sophie. Funeral strictly private, family only. Service in Roselawn Crematorium. Family Flowers only. Donations in memory to "Sight Savers International" - Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind. c/o Gilmore F/D, 13 the Square, Comber.

The Daily Telegraph
Saturday, December, 31, 2005

Brann - Col. William Norman, died very peacefully, aged 90 years, on 30th December 2005.  Dearly loved husband of the late Anne Brann and father of Victoria, Stephen and Catherine; Grandfather of Emma, Annabel, Tom, Stephanie and William and Sophie.
     Funeral service to be held in Ballygilbert Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, 4th January 2006 at 3 p.m. followed by private cremation.  Family flowers only please. Donations in memory, if desired, to the Ghurka Trust Association c/o Gilmore Funeral Directors, 13 The Square, Comber, BT23 5DX. Tel. 02891 872919

exact same in News Letter and Belfast Telegraph