Hidden history unearthed at Ballykinler huts

Michael King, Heritage Manager at the Down County Museum, with some of the artifacts believed to date back to the First World War which have been found at an army camp in Co Down
Michael King, Heritage Manager at the Down County Museum, with some of the artifacts believed to date back to the First World War which have been found at an army camp in Co Down

A dog tag, a section of uniform, pipes and matches believed to date back to the First World War have been found at an Army base in Co Down.

The discoveries were made after more than 30 huts, originally built by soldiers in 1914/15, were removed from Ballykinler.

Down County Museum will recreate one of the timber Armstrong huts based on an example salvaged from Ballykinler in 2012.

Michael King, heritage manager at Down County Museum, said the artefacts will go on display along with the hut.

“The hut was taken down in 2012 but it dates back to the very beginning of the First World War,” Mr King told the Press Association.

“It was built by the soldiers who were volunteering at that point. They were being trained at Ballykinler camp and they built huts and they also dug trenches for practising for trench warfare.

“We know of several soldiers who were doing that – a guy called Tommy Ervine, from Belfast, recalls building huts and digging trenches.

“And the great thing is, when the hut was removed we found a lot of artefacts in the sand underneath that will now tell the story of the hut.”

The artefacts range from First World War era to when the camp was used to intern prisoners during the Irish War of Independence, American GIs during the Second World War, and subsequent soldiers who were stationed there during Northern Ireland’s Troubles.

Mr King said they are also trying to trace relatives of the soldiers who owned the items.

“We have got a dog tag – every soldier was given two dog tags and somebody lost this one, a fellow called Daidson, so we are trying to trace this fellow. We think it may have been from the end of the First World War,” he said.

“We have various pieces of uniform, one which says its from the Royal Ulster Rifles, a badge, matchboxes, a string for cleaning a rifle barrel, pipes, mess tin and a mug.

“We have got quite a lot of interesting things which tell you about the everyday life of the soldiers.”