Proud wartime record of the ‘Fighting McAtamney’ family

They were called the “Fighting McAtamneys” after the Second World War, a tribute to the fact that seven members of one Carrick family were in uniform during the conflict.

Sunday, 25th April 2021, 7:20 am
Updated Sunday, 25th April 2021, 7:20 am
Bobby McAtamney, who was involved in the Battle of Narvik in April 1940

Six brothers and their sister saw service, something which must be close to a record in Northern Ireland.

During the Second World War, five members of the Irish-American Sullivan family served in the US Navy and had a biographical film made about them in 1944.

Nine Reilly brothers from Limavady also served in the Canadian forces during the war, some of them visiting their homeland when they came to Europe.

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Daniel McAtamney, who served in the RAF

But the McAtamneys may well hold the record for Northern Ireland in terms of the number from one family who served.

Local man Roy McAtamney – son of Bobby McAtamney, who was a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy – has assembled photographs and material about the family and their role.

Roy detailed that his father had served on HMS Hardy during the 1940 Battle of Narvik in Norway, his vessel being the flotilla leader.

Narvik was strategically significant as it had an ice-free harbour which allowed iron ore to be transported from Kiruna in Sweden.

Thomas McAtamney, Royal Navy

Both sides in the war had an interest in securing this iron supply for themselves and denying it to the enemy, setting the stage for one of the biggest battles at that time since the Nazi invasion of Poland.

Eighty one years ago this month, on April 10, 1940, HMS Hardy led four other vessels in a surprise dawn attack on Narvik harbour, one of her torpedoes blowing the stern of the German flagship,

Wilhelm Heidkamp, which sank the following day.

The attack took place in a blinding snowstorm and poor visibility hindered a second attack, but after the latter the British destroyers were engaged by three German destroyers and two others arrived, one of them disabling Hardy’s forward guns. Further hits set the ship on fire and she was run aground at

Peggy McAtamney, who served in the NAAFI

Vidrek.

The next day the Carrick man was among those on board when the Hardy was refloated at high tide and drifted to Skjomen fijord, where she capsized in shallow waters, being visible until 1963.

Bobby McAtamney was among the sailors rescued under fire and got safely back to Scapa Flow He later saw service on the Indian Ocean, including action on the Nicobar Islands, which were occupied by the Japanese.

During his time there he met up with his brother Thomas, who was serving on a destroyer.

Brothers Francis and William with Francis' wife Mary

An article in the Larne Times in 1943 related that the unexpected meeting – the first time they had seen each other in three years – came about when the captain of the aircraft carrier on which Bobby was a crew member signalled to invite crew members to a cinema show on the vessel.

Stoker Thomas McAtamney was among those who came from the destroyer for the movie and was surprised and delighted to meet up with his brother, whom he had not seen in three years.

The article detailed that the news of the get together had just been relayed in a letter to their parents Mr and Mrs W. McAtamney of Davys Street in Carrick.

It also detailed that another brother, Leading Seaman George McAtamney was also serving on a destroyer at that time.

Roy says that his father Bobby and brothers William and Francis also met up in Malaya during thewar, having to negotiate some miles of jungle to do so.

All told, the family had an impressive record of service to King and Country.

William (Billy) was in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Danny and Francis (Francie) were in the Royal Air Force, while their sister Peggy (Garvey) was in the Auxiliary Territorial Service and was one of 96,000 personnel who served in the NAAFI during the War.

All of the Fighting McAtamneys have passed on now, but the older generation in Carrick will remember their outstanding record, something of which the town can be well proud of…