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Monday, 15 August 2022

Victory Over Japan (VJ) Day - 15th August 2020 - 75th Anniversary of the end of World War 2

Belfast Telegraph - 14th August 1945 - Preparations for VJ Day

Belfast Telegraph - 16th August 1945 - The Day After VJ Day

96 of our colleagues volunteered for service in the Army, Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. 13 did not return.

Northern Bank – World War II
44 officials volunteered for service
of which
3 were killed in action

1 was reported missing

Belfast Bank – World War II
52 officials volunteered for service
of which
9 were killed in action

The returning men were repatriated in stages from 1945 to 1947. Some had returned for other reasons during the war. All the men had stories to tell.  A few left the employment of the bank and went on to other roles.

The links below tell only part of the story. Each man has an individual story that can be accessed via the website filters.

Northern Bank - deceased or served - names

This 16mm cine film records the men of the 8th Belfast HAA Regiment (The 12 Mile Snipers) returning home in 1946. If interested there are 2 other parts to this film.

Highlights include at 6 mins 40 seconds in is Major H Maurice Gabbey (Belfast Banking Company) described as a 'bridge player'. Their ship arrives in Larne at 8 minutes in and the film shows their return journey from Larne into Belfast where a parade was held for them.

We Shall Remember Them

Friday, 12 August 2022

Ervin, Wilson

Picture courtesy of the Belfast News Letter

Wilson Ervin CBE
was born on 13th December 1923 [Belfast News Letter quotes 13th November 1923] to Robert John Ervin, 32 Lucerne Parade, Belfast. 
Wilson attended Stranmillis and Fane Street Primary Schools before moving on to RBAI (Inst.) from 1936 to 1941.
In an autobiographical article in ‘The Link’ he reflected on his teenage years during World War II:
“I was very anxious to get out there and try and do my bit but my father was keen that I should look for a good job to which I could return after War Service.” 

Wilson joined the Belfast Banking Company on 15th April 1942 at Dungannon branch.  

Belfast Bank, Dungannon branch

His father, Robert signed the Bankers Guarantee for him giving his address as 32 Lucerne Parade, Belfast.
Belfast Bank - Bankers Guarantee ledger sheet

Wilson says:
“It’s difficult to imagine I was only paid £90 a year and still had spending money after buying a new suit and paying for my return train fares to Belfast.” 

Wilson joined the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm and served 4 years. He served in home waters as well as all over the world ... to South Africa, the Far East, Ceylon, Burma and Australia. His 21st birthday was spent in the Indian Ocean.

He returned from Active Service on 22nd August 1946 when his address was recorded as 32 Lucerne Parade, Belfast.  His first branch after the war was Bangor and he arrived with what his manager thought was 5 years banking experience. The bank looked upon his 4 years Royal Navy service as ‘Banking Service’.  

Belfast Bank Bangor branch

Wilson was a member of the Belfast Banking Company Sports Club in March 1947 paying 5 shillings subscription. 
It was in Bangor that he met his future wife, Joan Mercer, who was also a bank official.  

He is recorded in the 1966 annual accounts of the Belfast Banking Company as being the assistant manager of Donegall Square North branch. Transfers followed to positions in Head Office, Inspection Staff, Advances Controller, Regional Director and Managing Director (1972). 
Wilson had the distinction of signing the 1981 series Norther Bank banknotes.

Photo courtesy of Worthpoint

Later he was appointed Chief Executive and Senior Managing Director, a position he held until his retirement in 1984.
He was appointed as a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE). 
The Staff Magazine ‘The Link (Summer 1973)’ contains 2 photographs of Wilson. 
The Staff Magazine ‘The Link (Summer 1984)’ contains a photograph of W Ervin in the Belfast Bank Cricket Team of 1947. 

Courtesy of 'The Link'

Wilson Ervin attending the 1974 Ex-Servicemen's Association dinner
Wilson attended the 2000 re-dedication ceremony of the Rolls of Honour.

The Belfast Telegraph dated 24th February 2015 published a death notice saying that Wilson Ervin had died on 22nd February 2015. A Service of Thanksgiving was held on 25th February 2015 at Fisherwick Presbyterian Church, Malone Road, Belfast.

Wilson Ervin's obituary features in the Belfast News Letter of 1st June 2015.

Clarke, David Victor

Major David Victor Clarke TD, KStJ

At home with David Victor Clarke

Major D V Clarke TD, KStJ at an event at Belfast Cenotaph - 02/11/2015
- photo Mark Brown

was born on 27th February 1924 at Milltown, Donacloney, Lurgan.  
Following his education at Cookstown High School and Omagh Academy, Victor joined the Omagh Home Guard in June 1940 (whilst underage and still at school). In September 1940 with the creation of an Air Training Flight at his school he joined and became their first Flight Sergeant. 
On 2nd May 1942 Victor joined Northern Bank at Head Office. His address was ‘Stathroy’, Omagh. A transfer to Broadway, Ballymena followed in 1943.  

Northern Bank, Head Office, Victoria Street, Belfast

Northern Bank, Ballymena branch

On 3rd November 1943 he volunteered for aircrew duties in the Royal Air Force. 
Victor resigned from the bank on 18th December 1943 when he was ‘Called up’ – RAF. 
Aircrew Reception Centre, St John’s Wood London, with the Doodle Bugs and V2 rockets gave him his baptism of enemy fire, but after a few weeks he was posted to No. 2 Initial Training Wing at St John’s College, Cambridge for a three month course. Flying aptitude tests followed at RAF Sywell in Cambridgeshire, flying Tiger Moth bi-plane aircraft, and passing for training as a fighter pilot.  Service on several airfields followed, mainly loading bombers with their varied loads for attacks on Germany, and in February 1945 he was posted to Southern Rhodesia for training, via the circuitous route of Atlantic/Mediterranean/Suez Canal/Red Sea and Indian Ocean, landing at Mombasa, Kenya for a short stay then by small coaster to Durban and finally by train to Gwelo, Southern Rhodesia. Training began on Fairchild Cornell aircraft, graduating to the Harvard from which Cadets graduated (hopefully) with their coveted wings, but with the war ending in August 1945 he did not gain these. 
Victor was awarded the Defence Medal and War Medal. 
Repatriated through Cape Town and discharged on 10th May 1946 he re-joined Northern Bank at Head Office on 1st May 1946. Transfers followed to Shankill Road (1946 - Junior), Downpatrick (1948 - Junior & Accountant), Head Office (1949), Holywood (1951 - Accountant), Donegall Square (1956 - Control Clerk), Holywood (1958 - Teller), Head Office (1960 - Paying Teller), Holywood (1961 - Manager), Head Office (1964 - Assistant Manager), Ballynafeigh (1967 - Assistant Manager & Manager) and Bangor (1983 - Manager). Victor also records a period of time in Training School and on the Inspection staff.  

Northern Bank, Shankill Road branch

Northern Bank, Downpatrick branch

Northern Bank, Holywood (at lamp post)

Northern Bank, Donegall Square branch

Northern Bank, Ballynafeigh branch

Northern Bank, Bangor branch (1984)
On 11th March 1948 Victor wrote to the Bank and requested permission to join the Territorial Army (TA). This was given and on 23rd March 1948 he joined the TA as a Gunner in 429 (Antrim) Coast Regiment RA (TA). He was commissioned on 1 April 1949 with Service Number 402421, promoted Captain in 1952 and Major, as Battery Commander in 1955. The Regiment converted to Royal Engineers in 1956, becoming 146 Corps Engineer Regiment (Antrim Artillery) RE (TA), and he retired in 1962 as Second in Command. He was awarded the Territorial Decoration to add to his WW2 medals. 
On retirement from the Bank in 1983, Victor volunteered for service with the St. John Ambulance Association – Northern Ireland, as Director of First Aid Training for business and the general public.  This was part of St John Ambulance – Northern Ireland, a Foundation of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. He was invested as an Officer Brother in 1985, created a Commander Brother in 1990, promoted to Commander of St John Ambulance in 1992 and retiring on age in 1996. He remained on the Chapter (governing body) of The Commandery of Ards (responsible for Order affairs within Northern Ireland) and, in 1997, he was honoured with a further promotion within the Order to become a Knight of Grace, as position still held at time of writing (2011). 
An article and photograph about Victor appeared in the Staff Magazine ‘The Link’ (Summer 1981). Unfortunately I do not have that copy.
Victor Clarke retired on 23rd September 1983. The event was recorded in the Staff Magazine ‘The Link’ (Winter 1983). 

Retirement party for Victor Clarke

Courtesy of 'The Link' - Winter 1983

Victor Clarke is still alive in 2020 aged 97 and is considered by the writer to be the last surviving staff member with war service.

Monday, 8 August 2022

Spence, Arthur Leonard

Squadron Leader Arthur Leonard Spence DFC (known as Artie)
was born in Donegal at 19:05 hrs on 25th February 1908, a twin to his elder brother by 6 minutes, Herbert Campbell Spence. Arthur was the son of Andrew Spence, Secretary of a Railway Company [Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway] and Lily Spence nee Wheeler.  
A wider family member has advised that he was known as Artie.
In 1911 Artie (3) was living in house 7, Figary, Fahan, Co. Donegal with his parents and 7 siblings; Dorothy Gertrude (11), Stuart Andrew (10), Kathleen Lilian (8), Muriel Constance (6), Edith Helena (4), Herbert Campbell (3) and John Walter (1). A governess, Marguerite Bumesnil (or servant aged 14) and a servant Mary Rodden were also staying in the house.
On 1st September 1925 Artie joined Northern Bank at Head Office. His address at that time was recorded by the bank as 4 Queen Street, Londonderry.

Northern Bank, Head Office, Victoria Street, Belfast
Transfers followed to Londonderry (1925 - Junior), Head Office (1931 - Exchange), Carrickfergus (1933 - Junior) and Head Office (1937 - Relief Staff).  

Northern Bank, Londonderry branch
On 2nd May 1939 Artie volunteered and enlisted into the RAF Volunteer Reserve. He was ‘Called up on Active Service’ on 2nd September 1939 with Service Number 81694. 
He returned to work from 5th October 1939 to 26th October 1939, reason unknown.
His rank and promotions were Leading Aircraftman, Pilot Officer, Flying Officer, Flight Lieutenant (1941) and Squadron Leader followed in 1943. 

Artie was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 1941 gazetted on 23rd September 1941.

London Gazette, 23rd September 1941 - Acting F/L A L Spence

The news of his award was syndicated amongst local newspapers:

Belfast Telegraph, 20th September 1940

Belfast News Letter, 20th September 1940

Londonderry Sentinel, 23rd September 1940

Ballymena Weekly Telegraph, 27th September 1940

On 14th March 1942 the Belfast Newsletter reported that the marriage of A L Spence to Alice Madeleine Irwin will take place in April at St Peters Church, Belfast. The wedding took place on 29th April 1942 and was reported in the Belfast Telegraph of the same date.

Belfast Telegraph 29th April 1942

Val Kerr, a family member posted this cartoon on the Facebook page:
On 19th November 1945 Artie resumed duty with the Northern Bank at Head Office. Transfers followed to Royal Avenue (1948 - Teller), Knock (1951 - Cashier), Head Office (1951 - Interim Manager), Lurgan (1958 - Manager), Head Office (1954 - Manager), Queen’s Square (1967 - Manager) and Dublin Regional Director (1971). 

Northern Bank, Royal Avenue branch

Northern Bank, Lurgan branch
A 'Welcome Home' dinner was held on 29th April 1947 by members of the CIYMS at Clarence Place Hall, Belfast.

Belfast Telegraph - 29th April 1947
The Staff Magazine ‘The Link (Spring 1971)’ contains a Profile and photograph (above) of Artie Spence. 
The Staff Magazine ‘The Link’ (Spring 1973) records Artie Spence as retiring as Dublin Regional Director on 28th February 1973. 
Squadron Leader Arthur Spence DFC RAF(VR) died on 18th January 1981.

Johnston, John Laird

Pilot Officer John Laird Johnston
was born at Wine Street, Sligo on 6th March 1916 to Henry Martin Johnston, Bank Official and Maud Alexandra Sarah Johnston nee Laird. They had married on 24th May 1915 at the Methodist Centenary  Church, Leeson Park, Ranelagh, Dublin. His father later became manager of the Belfast Bank, Glenarm branch. 

Belfast Bank, Toberwine Street, Glenarm

John was educated at Campbell College, Belfast. The Lennon Wylie website records John as attending Campbell College:

2134. *Johnston, John Laird (C), b. 6th March, 1916, son of Henry M. Johnston, Belfast Bank House, Glenarm. V, July, 1932. Bank Official. 1940-45: F/O., R.A.F. Musician, B.B.C., Belfast. Address: 4 Galwally Avenue, Belfast. (M.q.)

He joined the Belfast Banking Company on 18th January 1937. His Bankers Guarantee bond was signed by his father. John served in Newtownards, Downpatrick and Warrenpoint. 

Belfast Bank - Bankers Guarantee ledger sheet

Belfast Bank, Newtownards branch

Belfast Bank, Downpatrick branch

Belfast Bank, Warrenpoint branch

In 1940 he volunteered for the RAF whilst in Warrenpoint.

The London Gazette (1944) records a John Laird Johnston with Other Ranks Service Number 1308099 and Officer Service Number 183336 serving with the RAF Volunteer Reserve.  

A notice in the Belfast Telegraph dated 25th October 1944 recorded John's marriage at St James Parish Church to Josephine Owen on 10th October 1944.

On 5th February 1945 the Belfast Telegraph reported that Pilot Officer J L Johnston was a member of the crew of a damaged RAF Liberator.

Belfast Telegraph, 5th February 1945 - P/O J L Johnston

On 8th February 1945 the Larne Times reported 'Ulster Pilot in Epic of Baltic':

Larne Times, 8th February 1945 - P/O J L Johnston

Following the end of WWII, John re-joined the Belfast Banking Company on 8th April 1946 and is recorded as being a member of Portaferry branch. 

Belfast Bank, Portaferry branch

John's signature is recorded in this BBCo staff hand-book.

Belfast Bank Staff Handbook - J L Johnston

British Library Web Archive

The British Library Web Archive have advised me that they have accepted the Northern Bank - War Memorials / Roll of Honour website for permanent archiving in the UK Web Archive.

An archive of this website from 14th January 2013 is available. I am not aware of how often archives are taken.

The UK Web Archive was established in 2004 to capture and archive websites from the UK domain, responding to the challenge of a ‘digital black hole’ in the nation’s memory.  It contains specially selected websites that represent different aspects of online life in the UK.

Medals Awarded During the Great War

The medals awarded during the Great War were:

1914 Star (Mons Star) was awarded for service in France or Flanders (Belgium) between 5th August and 22nd November 1914 (clasp).

1914-15 Star was awarded for service in France or Flanders (Belgium) between 23rd November 1914 and 31st December 1915, or for service in any theatre between 5th August 1914 and 31st December 1915.

Note: A person awarded any of the variants of the Stars automatically qualified for the award of the Allied Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

Allied Victory Medal (Victory Medal) was awarded for service in any operational theatre between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918. It was issued to individuals who received the 1914 and 1914-15 Stars and to most individuals who were issued the British War Medal. The medal was also awarded for service in Russia (1919-1920) and post-war mine clearance in the North Sea (1918-1919).

British War Medal was awarded to both servicemen and civilians that either served in a theatre of war, or rendered service overseas between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918. It was also awarded for service in Russia, and post-war mine clearance in the Baltic, the Black Sea, and the Caspian Sea between 1919 and 1920.

Note: The Victory Medal could not be awarded on its own, therefore a Victory Medal must always be issued with at least a British War Medal (but the reverse is not true - some Naval personnel received the British War Medal but not the Victory Medal).

Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) was awarded to non-commissioned officers for bravery.

Distinguished Service Order (DSO) was generally awarded to officers ranked Major and higher for distinguished war service.

Military Cross Medal (MC) was awarded to commissioned officers of Captain and below, as well Warrant Officers, for valour during active operations.

Numbers Awarded WW1, WW2 & Korea
MC1st Bar2nd Bar3rd Bar
1st World War37,1042,9841684
2nd World War10,38648224-

Military Medal was awarded to non-commissioned officers for bravery in a land battle.

Silver War Badge (SWB) was awarded to servicemen who became ill or were wounded while serving in a theatre of war or at home.

Territorial Force War Medal was awarded to servicemen who were members of the Territorial Force either on or before 30th September 1914 and who served in an operational theatre abroad between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918.

Note: A person who received any of the variants of the Stars could not be awarded the Territorial Force War Medal. 

“Mentioned in Despatches” was an award for commendable service or bravery. Despatches were official reports that detailed military operations. These reports were published in the London Gazette. Servicemen who had performed noteworthy actions were often mentioned in these reports, therefore having been “Mentioned in Despatches.”