Rectangular concrete foundation of former Nissen hut in use 1942-1944.
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- NISSEN HUT (Mid 20th C - 1942 AD to 1944 AD)
Rectangular concrete foundation denoting the site of a former Nissen hut measuring c.9m by 4m. This is one of 5 similar hut foundations lying in close proximity on west side of tower hill at the southwest corner of the property. Mina Lenox-Conyngham records the arrival of the army in the 1940s in her book ‘An Old Ulster House…’ and mentions the “Ugly Nissen huts which sprang up in the Tower Hill and elsewhere”. Mina also records that the first regiment to arrive was the Berkshire Yeomanry commanded by Col. H.Crosland. They were then followed by the 119th Regiment Royal Artillery and then American forces 112th Engineers (1942), Company L, 519th Quartermaster Regiment (from Dec 43), Company D, 544th Quartermaster Service Battalion (Colored) (17 Oct 43-27 Dec 43) and 3991st Quartermaster Truck Company (Colored) (23 Dec 43-18 May 44).
Mina’s account of the war years records
“…the house was requisitioned by Government as an Officers' Headquarters and the grounds and the many outbuildings filled with soldiers. Ugly Nissen huts sprang up in the Tower Hill and elsewhere, and the laundry became 'Serjeanrs' Mess' and the Harness Room 'Orderly Room.' Bugle sounds filled the air, and drilling took place in the Court. The cloud of a stupendous war had over-shadowed even this remote dwelling.
Thinking to check damage to the place, the writer decided to reserve a corner of the house as a pied-a.-terre for herself, and she lived in the east wing for many months, trying to help the soldiers by arranging a lending library, clothes-mending parties, ete. The knitting depot met at the Manor House and was supervised by her active sisters-in-law.
The military occupation added a new and incongruous page to the history of Springhill. The first regiment to arrive was the Berkshire Yeomanry, an exemplary corps - commanded by Colonel H. Crosland. Later experience showed how fortunate was Springhill in being sent this regiment, which comprised men of so high a type as its Colonel, the 2nd in Command, Sir James King, Captain David Ormsby-Gore, Captain Birchall and others. The Berkshires were followed by the 119th Regiment Royal Artillery, and then came the Americans.
Who would ever have imagined that those old-fashioned rooms would ever resound with American voices! The U.S.A. soldiers - mostly from Cleveland, Ohio - were everywhere in evidence, playing Baseball in the Court, carving their names on the trees and carrying off many 'souvenirs' - one of them being the large old hall-door key. Sentries kept guard day and night on the steps. They were hospitable too, and the châtelaine was often invited to dine at mess (in her own dining-room) by about twenty-two U.S.A. officers, and repasted on green corn, chicken, peanut butter, poached egg, pickles and jam all on the same plate, followed by the excellent and inevitable ice-cream.
On several occasions religious services were held in the Court, the troops facing the house, a chaplain standing on the hall-door steps, where a piano was placed to accompany such hymns as 'Through all the changing scenes of life.' An occasional Roman Catholic service also took place, a priest in
gorgeous vestments officiating, the men kneeling in rows on the gravel.
Last of all the occupying troops came the Negro Americans, but these only used the Tower Hill Camp, and their stalwart frames and black faces were strange to behold and hard to detect in the dusk on the roads and paths.
The house was derequisitioned in December, 1944, and begins to resume its former appearance. At the time of writing, German prisoners are to be seen in the Tower Hill, employed by Government in tidying the Camp and cutting up the big trees, which the soldiers had barked and killed. They seem cheerful, and sing in chorus as they march to and from their work.
Soon there will be little trace left of Springhill's military occupation….”
Mina Lenox-Conyngham 2005 An Old Ulster House, Springhill and the people who lived in it. Ulster Historical Foundation, Belfast, 235-6
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