Remembering the Americans in Gilford

A number of members of my family had been involved in the wars. During the 2nd world war my brother John Reilly was in the Royal Ulster Rifles. He had been living in Liverpool at the time and was called up – enlisted – to the reserve forces on the day war broke out, 3rd September 1939. The very next day he was placed in the Royal Ulster Rifles. He served amongst other places in Palestine, and I remember him occasionally saying how he had been a guard on duty at the Nurenberg war trials.

John believed he was one of the last people to see Andy Fullerton from Gilford, who lost his life during the evacuation at Dunkirk. John was making his way to the boats when he spotted Andy, when he turned around a few minutes later he was not there. On his return home he called to see the Fullerton family to express his sympathies.

At home I remember the Americans coming into Gilford. They were throwing oranges and chewing gum to the children, and we thought they were wonderful.

I can remember Veronica Conlon and myself down the street, and one American who realised Veronica was from the U.S.A. asked her to explain the money over here. Some of the Americans were being overcharged in shops and I remember when I worked in the Picture House, Sam Livingstone explaining to the Yanks about the different coins and notes.

I can also recall the German prisoners at the camp at Portadown Road. Often they could be heard singing “Lili Marlene.” When the war ended and things were more relaxed, we sometimes sneaked cigarettes or sandwiches to the prisoners, in return they often gave us toys they had made out of tinned food cans.

During the blackout, I remember walking into Molloy’s house. They lived two doors away. I thought I was in my own house. It was impossible to see anything in the dark.