War stories through eyes of local men

Cookstown and District Inter-Church Forum pictured with members of the committee and Mr Dessie Gordon front (right)
Cookstown and District Inter-Church Forum pictured with members of the committee and Mr Dessie Gordon front (right)

ON Monday June 11, The Churches’ Forum held its monthly talk in Gortalowry House. This month the presentation was by Mr Dessie Gordon, who spoke about Operation Overlord, better known as D Day.

The talk was given through the eyes and stories of local men who had taken part in the landings, or supported them in the different armed forces.

One of the men spoken of was Mr Jim Ferguson, who served in the Royal Navy, through the Atlantic convoys, and D Day. Mr Ferguson was taken to the 60th Anniversary of the landings by Mr Gordon and some friends.

The presentation included photographs of the landings, and a little background on them, and many photos of the 60th Anniversary celebrations. A number of other local men who took part in the landings were also mentioned, Mr Victor Nelson, who landed at Pegasus Bridge, and who died recently; Mr George Reid and Tot Barker, who was shot as a spy by the Germans.

Mr Barker had made two parachute jumps into enemy France with the SAS, but was captured on his second jump. Some people asked about the Americans who had been stationed around Cookstown, and Mr Gordon told of one local family who had treated some Americans to Christmas Dinner, but had lost touch with some of them.

One of these was killed in France, and Mr Ian Scott, of Cookstown, was able to go out to Normandy with the Friends of the Somme Association, and lay a wreath at the grave of this young American.

The presentation lasted for about an hour, and was followed by some questions. Some of the audience recalled the Americans in the area, and were very pleased to hear of their deployment, and what happened to some of them. Mr Gordon offered the expertise of the members of the Friends of the Somme to search for the graves of any soldiers of the Allied Forces if anyone was interested. Mr Jim Rutherford proposed a vote of thanks to the speaker, and light refreshments rounded off a very interesting and absorbing talk.