My husband Jock Wallace was born in Edinburgh, and came to Gilford with the Royal Army Service Corps in 1941. He had already seen lots of action at a number of different locations in England before moving to Gilford. The Service Corps were billeted at Bannvale, Gilford – now the site of the Social Education Centre. At that time the large wooded estate was heavily covered with Nissan huts, but Jock and some of the others slept in the main Bannvale House. Jock was a driver and also did guard duty at the camp.
We met when he and his friends used to call at my parent’s home to have tea, and we eventually married on 12th March 1946 and brought up our family in Gilford, Northern Ireland.
I recall the Royal Engineers based in the grounds of Gilford Castle, and other troops in the Orange Hall on the Stramore Road. The soldiers paraded to the various Churches on Sundays, and I remember the Service Corps parading to the old Dunbarton Schoolhouse (now St Paul’s Church Hall), for meals until the canteen facilities were ready at the various camps.
There were German prisoners in Gilford and I remember Jock telling me how on one occasion he and another Service Corps guard were taking a prisoner out the Portadown Road for exercise, when he suddenly climbed a tree and broke off a piece of a branch, later carving it into a toy. Jock often said that these young men were very creative, they wasted nothing – tin cans, pieces of wood or even glass – all were engraved or carved and turned into trinkets, which they swapped for cigarettes.
We did not have any evacuees staying with us although many of our neighbours did. I remember coming up to Christmas, both men and women from the town joined Mrs Pentland, and went carol-singing around the different camps.
I’m not sure where the Service Corps went after they left Gilford, but I remember Jock saying that they had to bring supplies into one of the concentration camps. He said the people just “looked like sticks”.