Negotiating Identities in Britain During the Second World War
Northern Ireland’s War
The Belfast writer Sam McAughtry was prompt to volunteer for military service when war came in 1939. He grew up in a fiercely Loyalist working class district, Tiger Bay, in the north of the city where there was a strong local tradition of joining the British forces and also the Merchant Navy. ‘There were no pacifists in Cosgrave Street’, he wrote later. ‘We thought highly of the Crown forces. When World War Two was more than a year off the men of my district joined the Territorial Army in hundreds. The annual bounty of eight pounds or so helped, of course, but the men would have joined anyway.’1 Sam McAughtry had ‘a good war’ and saw active aircrew service over North Africa and the Mediterranean but he also encountered what often seemed to him unthinking prejudice about where he was from at some of his postings in England: ‘Oddly, coming from a district which had provided so many men for the King’s colours, nobody had ever mentioned the fact that in the armed forces all Irishmen were Paddies, all the way up to and including officers.’2 He learned to shrug this off but at one point a fellow Belfast recruit called Burgess was wrongly blamed for a fire in an aircraft hanger. A court martial loomed and McAughtry made it known he was willing to be a witness for his comrade. A Squadron Leader assigned to investigate the charge ascertained their origins and then put a question to...
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