Gilford During The Second World War

During WWII most of Northern Ireland was a vast training ground for British and American troops, and Gilford and district provided an ideal location for army training.

The town is situated close to the Irish Border, and is within a few miles of Banbridge, Portadown and Lurgan. The main Belfast to Dublin railway line is nearby, and the proximity of the Newry Canal, together with the Bann and Cusher Rivers, local lakes, large wooded estates, undulating hills and country roads meant that Gilford provided an ideal and well camouflaged area, suited to the needs of the army.

In 1939 Gilford was a quiet but thriving small town situated in County Down, Northern Ireland, on the main road between Banbridge and Portadown. The local railway station, known to many as the Madden Station, was just over a mile away on the main Belfast to Dublin Railway line on the way to Tandragee.

The countryside is lush with mature trees and undulating hills, whilst to the South are the peaceful lakes of Kernan, Drumiller and Drumarin.

The town is surrounded by a number of very large private houses and heavily wooded demesnes, many owned by the families of linen merchants.

The River Bann meanders through Gilford and also through the neighbouring towns of Banbridge and Portadown. Nearby is the Newry Canal which links up to the river Bann two miles north of the town near Moyallon.

The population of the town in 1939 was approximately 2000, with most people living in small terraced housing, built for the mill workers of the large Dunbar & McMaster spinning mill which still dominates the skyline.

These quiet surroundings soon changed, when shortly after war was declared the area became the location for thousands of troops from Britain, Belgium, America, Germany and Italy. The country lanes, fast flowing river and the natural terrain provided an ideal and well camouflaged training location for approximately 9000 troops.

Map of Gilford as it would have been in 1939
Map of Gilford as it would have been in 1939

About Wartime Gilford

This website has been created in an attempt to document, or at least try to understand the important role Gilford played and the impact of the war years on our small town.

Today the children and youth of those years are grandparents and great-grandparents, and for the majority of people living today, the Second World War is now a distant memory. WWII Veterans are also slowly fading away, as ill health and the years take their toll.

Hopefully this website will provide a source of information for schoolchildren and the younger generation, and serve as a reminder to us all of life in wartime Gilford.