Rugby pitch visited by Eisenhower set to be named after him

Portora Royal School in Enniskillen
Portora Royal School in Enniskillen

A Fermanagh school rugby pitch is to be formally named after US General Dwight D Eisenhower, who inspected American troops there before they went into battle during the Second World War.

Oak trees and plaques will be planted and dedicated across the county and a series of major events will take place, attended by dignitaries, politicians, celebrities, veterans and historians in order to mark the significance of the general’s inspection 70 years ago, and of County Fermanagh’s role as a vital American out-post prior to D-Day.

The playing field in question belongs to Portora Royal School on the edge of Enniskillen.

Supreme Commander General Eisenhower stood on the touchline of the pitch 70 years ago, on May 18, 1944.

In the build-up to D-Day on June 6, 1944, a quarter of Fermanagh’s population consisted of American military personnel based in 20 garrisons.

And even before the US entered the Second World War in December 1941 it was an Enniskillen-based American pilot who first spotted the Bismark in May 1941.

The US Army’s General George Smith Patton reviewed his troops in the town in February 1944, and his ‘gutsy’ speech became the script of the 1970 Hollywood blockbuster Patton starring George C Scott.

General Eisenhower, later to become US President, inspected 2,000 soldiers on Portora’s rugby field on the May 18, 1944.

His historic review confirmed his Fermanagh-based troops’ readiness for D-Day, noting that they showed “exactly the same signs of fitness and training” as the 3rd Infantry Division had displayed on the Mediterranean front.

US Consul Gregory Burton will assist schoolchildren in planting trees.