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My Memories of Tyrone in 1943


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My Memories of Tyrone in 1943

By Vernon A Babcock Sr.
vernonbabcock30@hotmail.com


We departed on the troop ship, the  'Victory', out of New York with a convoy across the north Atlantic on the 8th of October 1943.  The convoy was about fifty troop ships and navy ships for escorts. A lot of erman subs were around.We were 13 days going across the sea of the North Atlantic, and it was cold and rough all the way across. Everything was black out. We were what they called the 'advance troops' before the invasion.

On the 20th of Oct. 1943 we landed on the Clyde river in Scotland and stayed over night and one day. Then we went across the Irish sea , man that was rough. We boarded a train in Belfast and rode to a nice little town called Moneymore Co. Tyrone. Here we set up a medical supply base.

My unit was called the 11th Medical Depot Co. We had medical supplies of all sorts, which we supplied to all the American Army troops that were moving  up to England. My job was to make eye glasses along with another fellow,  but we had no unit. Having a unit came later when we got to France.

All the time I was in Moneymore we stayed tin huts, about 150 G.I's ( I have heard that they are still standing to this day but are in bad shape) There was a lady a short distance away that we paid to wash our chothes in a little stream in back of her home. I had two old  irons that you put on the stove to heat and  I'd make money ironing clothes for my buddies.

In Cookstown at a dance hall, my buddy, Tex (from Texas) and I met an Irish fellow by the name of Thomas Crooks . We would go to his house and have tea and bread baked on top of the stove by his mother. Boy the bread was good! She would tell us stories about the Irish and the Americans (haunted bridges,old homes,etc).

We would sit there and listen to these stories that his mother would  tell us. Some of these stories she would
tell me were a little scarey. She always told me about a
bridge in Tullyhogue that I had to cross going from
Coalisland to Moneymore (walking). The story
about the bridge, it seems this Irishman lived on one side of the bridge and worked on the other side. Every night when he went  to work  (late Shift) the moon was out.
There came a lady, all dressed in white.He spoked to her, and she said nothing. Then she vanished into the
woods on the other
  side of the bridge.The next night when he went to work he said " if she comes out again,
I won't
  speak..... I'll hit her with a club. So out she came all dressed in white, he spoke, she said nothing and he hit her with the club. Each  time he hit her, the bigger she got, and the bigger she got , the faster he would run. Again she vanished into the woods. The man walked  5 extra miles to get to work after that and never crossed that bridge again. This is just one tale she told me. Mrs Crooks would tell me that one of these days you won't  get across that bridge.

In Coalisland there were two dance halls, one was the orange and other was the green. The green hall my girl friend would go to and dance and have a good time. If I wanted to dance the night at the orange hall, I'd have to go alone.

To stay in Cookstown or any where else we got passes from the officer of the day in Moneymore 11th medical depot. Then we would take the train to Cookstown ( I understand that the train station is no longer in Monymore)

A taxi could only go seven miles from its home base. and the last train back to Moneymore was about seven in the evening, the last bus was about seven thirty. If I missed the train or bus, I would call and sometimes they would send a jeep after me, or they would say "get the bus in the morning". If I had to wait until morning, I would sleep next to a rock wall so the noise of cars would wake me up.

The girl that I was going with at that time was Katheen Cooney , and she came from a hard working family. She was sixteen and I was nineteen  Kathleen had two sisters, Rita and Josephine and a brother name Joe. Rita had a boy friend by the name of Jim who worked in a brickyard in CoaIsland. We had some nice times together.

Kathleen asked me if I went to church and I told her I used to go on the base (a big lie). Anyway, I had to prove it to her, so I got a week -end pass. Saturday night I slept in a hay stack which was near the church. Someone's dog came along and laid down with me and the church bell woke me up the next day. I wonder what the folks thought when they started to wipe the hay off my back. Everyone in that town knew my
name from then on. The church is St. Mary's and Joseph's
church.

I have found out since that Kathleen was married and had two boys. She and her husband have passed on.
She was buried in the cemetery in front of the church that we went to.

There was this castle the U.S. Army rented from the Irish government and it had 52 rooms in it. They needed it to house some of the troops. They said that there was one room that we couldn't use. After  the Irish government left, the Army decided to use that room and they put three men in it for sleeping.  The next morning the three men were insane and had be taken away. This story I used to tell to my late wife and she would say to me "you're as nutty as the story is".
Back in 1955, Tommy Crooks
was in the next town from where I live and we went to see him. He told my late wife the same story word for word.  He said that his father was the one that took the three men to the hospital. She didn't know what to say after that. (Thomas Crooks lives in Canada.)

There was a castle filled with soldiers. It had a bell tower and every night at midnight the bell would  ring. So they sat a guard next to the bell. At midnight the bell rang and a gust of wind went by the guard. He never knew why.

I learned the words to the song 'Galway Bay' before it reached the United States. Another song I  learned was
'Moonlight in Mayo'.  I would like to have the words to it. (I can't sing, I just like the song).

About myself, not much to talk about. I spent 42 years making eye glasses, got married and had three boys. 
My youngest is 44 years old. My Better half passed away back in '88.

To me Co. Tyrone is a very pretty country and I would like to go back again and see the changes.
My time there brings back a lot of good memories.

(note- Vern has since received the lyrics to the song Moonlight over Mayo.)

 

For further reading:

 

BBC American Soldiers in Omagh during WW2

The Americans in Ulster during World War Two.

11th Medical Depot after Tyrone



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