The cookie settings on this website are set to ‘allow all cookies’. Leaving your settings to ‘allow all cookies’ means you consent to a website remembering your preferences and generally enhancing the user experience. If you prefer a website to not remember your preferences, you can change your settings at any time by changing the privacy settings of your browser.

Find out more about cookies >

Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



13 May 2015

An evening of VE Day remembrance culminated in a blaze of glory in Enniskillen. Veterans of World War II and locals who recalled the joy which took hold of the nation seventy years ago as peace was declared, took centre stage, sharing often poignant memories and watching as a symbolic VE Day beacon illuminated the Enniskillen skyline.

The arrival at the Killyhevlin Hotel of Viscount and Viscountess Brookeborough, accompanied by Cadet Sergeant Jamie Breen, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant’s Cadet for the County of Fermanagh, ‘piped in’ by Army Cadet Piper Lucy Somerville, marked the official start to the proceedings.

Pictured above, from left: Cadet Piper Lucy Somerville, Viscountess and Viscount Brookeborough, George Black, Hope Kerr and Cadet Sergeant Jamie Breen.

Distinguished guests, including Gregory Burton, United States Consul for Northern Ireland;  Roland Eadie, Her Majesty’s Deputy Lord Lieutenant for the County of Fermanagh;  Hope Kerr, High Sheriff for the County;  Cllr. Robinson, Vice Chairman Fermanagh & Omagh District Council;  Rev. Michael Fava Senior Army Chaplain and representatives from the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association Northern Ireland met with local veterans who congratulated Tom Elliott who chose to make this his first official engagement after becoming MP for the area earlier in the day. 

Ninety-year old Rita Hamilton, formerly a WAAF (Women’s Auxillary Air Force) driver at Castle Archdale sea-plane base during WWII was delighted to commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day by the shores of Lough Erne.   She and her friend and colleague, WAAF driver Frances Hornby, captivated the US Consul with tales of how, on VE Day in 1945, they joined up with nine or ten other woman drivers and celebrated Churchill’s glad tidings on an RAF motorboat on Lough Erne.  Two young RAF boatmen ferried the girls who were “all very excited at the news”, Rita remembers.  

It was an unforgettable trip, even though Rita’s routine WAAF journeys included chauffeuring two of Northern Ireland’s RAF Air Commodores around the country in a Humber Snipe!  She says, “We drove everybody everywhere.  We went to the Officers’ Mess with supplies of beer or groceries; we delivered depth charges to the seaplanes in trucks; we drove ambulances.  Whatever was needed, we did it!” Rita recalls.  Meeting Gregory Burton had a special significance for Rita as her sister married a US soldier stationed at Ashbrooke during WWII and later emigrated to live in America.  By happy chance her two nephews are visiting her from the US at the moment and were able to share in the celebrations.  

Rita Hamilton & Frances Hornby  (formerly WAAF drivers at Castle Archdale during World War II) share their stories with Cadet Piper Lucy Somerville from Clougher.

After dinner, generously provided by the Killyhevlin Hotel and Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism, Gary Wilson, resplendent in his red toast master tunic, called on the audience to mark the birthday of Belfast woman Margaret McCausland who was born on VE Day seventy years ago.  Margaret who had travelled specially with her husband Patrick to the event from Belfast cut her birthday cake to tumultuous applause.  

The Lord Lieutenant’s party was then piped on board the MV Trasna , kindly provided by the Duke of Abercorn and captained by Stephen Nixon from Erne Tours Ltd.  
The Trasna was escorted to Enniskillen by the RNLI Inland Rescue Craft and the PSNI.  During the short voyage Bill Eames shared his memories of VE when he was recuperating from injuries received at Arnhem.  Bill recounted how he and his comrades heard the radio announcement and celebrated ‘with a few beers’.  In 1944 Bill who enjoyed a distinguished career with the RAF piloted glider planes for the D-Day Landings.  

American-born Teddy Dixon then spoke of his service with the US Rainbow Division and movingly related his experiences in the liberation of Dachau concentration camp which he revisited last week.   

The Round O jetty was a hive of activity as guests including Lord Anthony Hamilton, Dean Kenneth Hall, Rev Sam McGuffin, Fr Brian D’Arcy, George Black, the Northern Ireland Chairman of The Royal British Legion, and local representatives of regimental associations arrived to board the MV Kestrel.  

Ballyreagh Silver Band entertained the crowds with a stirring selection of 1940s melodies just as their Band predecessors had done 70 years earlier in Tempo on VE Day.  WWII US army jeeps with their crews of GIs in authentic period uniforms helped set the scene and turn the clock back to 1945.  

The Lord Lieutenant together with the US Consul inspected the RNLI escort and chatted briefly to local Army and Air Cadets, who formed a guard of honour.  

On arrival, guests were provided with refreshments and regaled with an account of events in Enniskillen on VE Day 1945 by Alan Devers. Formal events included the NIRTB Ball in the Town Hall that evening, with street celebrations, fireworks and bunting. 

On passing under the Erne Bridge, Army Cadet Piper Lucy Somerville played a tribute on the bagpipes.  The MV Trasna then linked up with the MV Kestrel, taking on board some enthusiastic local passengers who got into the spirit of the occasion by singing wartime songs.    

At Castle Island the Lord Lieutenant’s formal party disembarked from the MV Kestrel with an escort of Army and Air Cadets.  A PSNI boat crew provided support to the cadets whose duty had been to prepare the VE Day beacon for lighting.  Together, the two boats made a short trip up the Erne in improving weather with the waters of the lake falling still and calm.  
Senior Army Chaplain, Fr Michael Fava , read out the official tribute to VE Day and led prayers as all paused for a moment of contemplation: 

'Let us remember those who gave their lives at home and abroad, whose sacrifice enables us to enjoy the peace we have today.
Let us remember those who came home wounded,
physically and mentally, and the friends and family who cared for them.

Let us remember those who returned to restore their relationships and rebuild their working lives after years of conflict and turmoil

Let us remember the families that lost husbands, wives, sons, daughters and sweethearts.

Let us remember the servicemen and women of other nationalities and faiths - from Commonwealth and Allied countries who fought, suffered and died during six years of war.

Let us remember those in reserved occupations and the brave people who kept us safe on the home front - the doctors and nurses who cared for the wounded, the men and women who toiled in the fields, those who worked in the factories and the air-raid wardens, police officers, firemen, ambulance drivers and the young people of the Scouts and Guides who all played such a vital role in the war effort at home.'

Moments after the lighting of the first beacon, at 9.30 precisely, by Her Majesty The Queen at Windsor Great Park, 200 beacons across the land were fired up  … at  Enniskillen the honour of performing the firing of the official ‘V’ shaped beacon fell to  Viscount Brookeborough and the US Consul.  

Enniskillen was the most westerly location in the UK to light an official VE Day Beacon as the sun set in the western sky. The beacon symbolised light emerging from the darkness of war and was a shared moment of celebration marking the end of the war with Germany.  

The official party then returned to disembark at the Round O jetty where the cadets presented every guest with a limited edition souvenir plate depicting Enniskillen Castles, kindly provided by The  Devenish Gallery.

Event organisers Alan Devers & Selwyn Johnston from Headhunters Railway Museum together with Brian Sykes, Deputy Chief Executive for the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association for Northern Ireland reflected that, just as in 1945, the VE Day 70 celebrations were a culmination of community effort.  

They thanked all those involved who contributed to the success of the event including the PSNI, RNLI, Ballyreagh Silver Band, Killyhevlin Hotel, Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism, Gary Wilson Toast Master, Royal British Legion, The Duke of Abercorn, Roy Crawford, Devenish Gallery, Stephen Nixon and his crew from Erne Tours, PSNI Launch with Inspector Hoy, Sergeant Taylor and Superintendent Dodds. 

Brian Sykes, Deputy Chief Executive for the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association for Northern Ireland, spoke on behalf of the local teenagers who had the honour of supporting Viscount Brookeborough with the lighting of the official VE Day beacon. He said, “This was a fantastic opportunity for some of the County’s outstanding Army & Air Cadets to play a key role in what has been a significant civic occasion. The young people benefited immensely from the opportunity to hear at first hand of war time experiences.”

Pictured above left is Cadet Corporal Jonathan Wilson.  Pictured above right, members of 72 Sqn Omagh ATC: (from left): Cadet George Donnell, Cadet Flight Sergeant Darragh McQuaid, Cadet Flight Sergeant James McLean, Warrant Officer Scott Roulston, Cadet Corporal Jonathan Wilson and Cadet Sergeant Jack Stevenson.  

The VE Day events continued on Saturday with bell ringers from St.Macartin's Cathedral, Enniskillen joining Cathedrals and Churches throughout the United Kingdom in ringing a full peal of bells at 11am to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of VE Day. During WWII church bells were only to have been rung in case of German invasion. The bells of St.Macartin's Cathedral rang out their joyful chimes to herald the great victory in Europe, signifying the end of six long  years of war during which  church bells hung silent.