Veterans return to Carrick for reopening of US Rangers Centre

Re-enactors from Wartime Living History representing the different US Ranger battalions, outside the Andrew Jackson Cottage. INCT 25-750-CON
Re-enactors from Wartime Living History representing the different US Ranger battalions, outside the Andrew Jackson Cottage. INCT 25-750-CON

More than 350 visitors including veteran US Rangers, family and friends turned out for the reopening of the newly refurbished museum at Boneybefore.

The elite American commando-style force was set up during World War Two and remains the only US military unit to be formed on ‘foreign soil’.

SSG Tynel Oldmouse, current Ranger in conversation with WWII US veteran Teddy Dixon and his son Johnston. INCT 25-751-CON

SSG Tynel Oldmouse, current Ranger in conversation with WWII US veteran Teddy Dixon and his son Johnston. INCT 25-751-CON

Located at the adjacent Andrew Jackson Cottage, the museum is dedicated to the men of the first battalions of the US Rangers, formed at Sunnylands Camp in Carrickfergus in June 1942.

Many members who served with the US Rangers travelled from America to celebrate the 75th anniversary in Carrickfergus.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council held a formal civic commemoration with the US Consul General Daniel J Lawton, to pay tribute to the unit followed by a family-friendly launch event at the museum on Saturday.

WWII re-enactors in an authentic US Army camp setting helped tell the stories of all the Ranger battalions of the period.

SSG Tynel Oldmouse, Lt. Col. Michael R. Garry, Deputy Mayor Cllr Cheryl Johnston, US Consul General Daniel Lawton, MSG David K. Archibeque, and Lt. Col.  Frank Gasca. INCT 25-752-CON

SSG Tynel Oldmouse, Lt. Col. Michael R. Garry, Deputy Mayor Cllr Cheryl Johnston, US Consul General Daniel Lawton, MSG David K. Archibeque, and Lt. Col. Frank Gasca. INCT 25-752-CON

Visitors soaked up the sun and enjoyed a performance from Belfast Jazz Orchestra, learned some war time dance moves with the Bell Hoppers and genuine artefacts were on display with experts on hand to explain them.

The original museum was first opened in 1994 after visiting US Rangers veterans donated their photographs and memorabilia to create a permanent exhibition.

In a statement the local authority said: “Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is proud to continue the Ranger legacy and now with a new lease of life the visually striking displays will include never seen before artefacts and photographs as well as extensive film footage.

“The updated museum will offer a high quality visitor experience and already has a number of tour groups booked in over the summer months.

“The museum hopes to be a fitting tribute to the men who volunteered their services to the elite fighting force the US Rangers, in Carrickfergus and beyond.”

Meanwhile, the daughter of a US Ranger who trained in Ulster during World War Two made a symbolic journey from Larne.

Karla Merritt, from Alexandria, Virginia, was in Northern Ireland to attend the reopening of the US Rangers Museum.

Karla said she was very impressed with the refurbished museum and added: “It was a wonderful occasion, they did a wonderful job.”

Her father, the late Paul Cain was a member of 1st Battalion, B Company, of the Rangers, formed in Carrickfergus in June 1942.

His daughter said that he did not talk much about his wartime service, which included a time as a prisoner of war, and that it was only after his death that a number of old comrades told stories of their time in the Rangers.

Karla hopes to return to Northern Ireland next year and to encourage her two brothers, who live in Michigan and West Virginia, to come with her and see the Carrick museum.

But one thing which she wanted to do during her current visit was follow her father’s footsteps as a Ranger across to Scotland.

And that took her to Larne where she boarded the ferry to Scotland, a voyage which her father undertook in 1942.

The Rangers had been established at Camp Sunnylands in Carrickfergus and underwent their initial training there and in the countryside around the town.

Then they were transported the short distance to Larne, where they boarded the ferry to Stranraer. The troops then were taken to train to the Highlands, where their training commenced with British commandos.

Karla said she wanted to cross from Larne to Cairnryan and back to honour her father and all his colleagues who had fought alongside each other in the US Rangers.

The men who trained in the 1st and 3rd battalions were involved in the North African and Italian campaigns, code named Operation Torch.

Following training in the Highlands and Argyll, the men embarked on vessels including the Royal Ulsterman and Ulster Monarch as part of a massive convoy which made its way to the Mediterranean, where their first engagement was in the Algerian town of Arzew.