Trory Church overlooking wartime airport hosts D Day commemoration service


Clergy taking part in the D Day Service in St. Michael's Church Trory.

The area around St. Angelo Airport, Enniskillen and Lower Lough Erne had a pivotal role in the Second World War. RAF St. Angelo was base to 133 Squadron RAF Spitfires and 134 Squadron Hawker Hurricanes with flying boats stationed at RAF Killadeas and RAF Castle Archdale.

Earlier today, 8 June, St. Michael’s Parish Church, Trory which overlooks the runway at St. Angelo Airport, hosted a service to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D Day Landings.

They hosted the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Dragoon Guards and the service was led by the Rector, the Revd Mark Gallagher, who is also Airport Chaplain; the Revd Trevor Homfray-Cooper, Chaplain to Royal Dragoon Guards; Revd Robbie Robinson, Chaplain to 1 Ranger Battalion and the Bishop of Clogher, the Right Revd Dr. Ian Ellis.

Viscount Brookeborough reading a lesson.

The service was also attended by His Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for Fermanagh, Viscount Brookeborough and Viscountess Brookeborough. Viscount Brookeborough read a message from the King saying it remained the country’s solemn duty to continue to honour the outstanding gallantry, service and sacrifice of those who took part in that perilous mission.

The Litany of Forgiveness was led by the Revd Trevor Homfray-Cooper CF; the first lesson was read by Major Malcolm Barnes of the Royal Dragoon Guards and the second lesson was read by Viscount Brookeborough.

Revd Mark Gallagher, in his sermon, reflected on the contribution to D Day by one of his predecessors as rector of Killadeas, the Revd James McMurray Taylor.

He said; “There are so many local stories of D-Day, but one I would like to highlight is of my predecessor in Killadeas parish, Revd. McMurray Talor, who was a Padre on D-Day.

James McMurray-Taylor was born 17th May 1916 in Ballymena. He was educated at Trinity College Dublin after which he joined the Church of Ireland in 1939, aged 23. When war broke out he enlisted and became Padre of the 1st Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles.

Revd Gallagher recalled the events of 6 June 1944;
“The morning of 6th June was bright and sunny and began with a voluntary non-denominational service conducted by the Padre (Revd. McMurray-Taylor) and attended by every officer and man in the Battalion. The prayers he said were much more fervent than on a normal Sunday morning service.

“Later on, due to his rank he was in charge of a glider. As they were about to leave another officer came on-board; his glider had a problem and he could not continue. The officer was happy for the Padre to remain in charge but this duty quickly passed over to him;' it was Huw Wheldon (later to become Sir Hugh Weldon M. C. - Military Cross)
“Out of the 145 gliders which took off from England that 6th June evening all but two landed safely on the correct landing zones. One glider was hit by mortar fire after landing and was burned out.

Revd Trevor Homfray-Cooper CF leading prayers.

“The success of the operation was largely due to the efforts of the Parachute battalions combined with the skill of the glider pilots of the Glider Pilot Regiment.”

He said Padre Rev. McMurray-Taylor was very faithful in carrying out a brief ceremony for the dead of both sides despite frequent interruptions by cries of 'mortar' from the sentries, whereupon those present, including the Padre, would run for the nearest cover. Jim Taylor was always most conscientious in carrying out his duties however many times a burial service might be interrupted he would always complete a ceremony at the first opportunity, whether over British or German dead.

“Revd McMurray Taylor exemplifies the compassion which should run through the very veins of the church and all Christian people, and dare I say the care for your fellow man which is essential in trenches and modern battles too.
“D-Day marked the beginning of the end of World War II and winning the fight for freedom. St. Angelo is no longer an RAF base, but it’s current usage celebrates the freedoms we now enjoy, while we commemorate, respect and pay tribute to the past which fought so hard to win these freedoms for us, and for which all of the armed forces still fight for today, and we are beyond grateful for all you do.

“And St. Michael’s Parish Church, Trory, which you are currently in.

“As part of the war effort, government orders were given to demolish St Michael’s Parish Church as it was on a hill with an elevation which was perceived as getting in the way of aeroplanes wanting to land or take off.

“The importance of the local church, and the hope it symbolised, meant the local community rallied, and made sure the church stayed unaltered where it was. And as the roof and tower is still on the church, and the aviation war effort continued, I think we can safely say it was not an impossible obstacle for pilots to negotiate.

Major Malcolm Barnes Royal Dragoon Guards reading a lesson.

“This essential need for the parish church as a beacon of hope then raises questions for us today.

“Do we just tear down old structures because of a whim?

“Who gets to decide what is out of date, and what a community no longer needs?

“Is there still comfort from knowing a parish church exists, a physical reminder, or bastion of God’s love? A place of calm and comfort, to come a reset your soul regardless of affiliation?

“How do churches, or any community effort survive without your input?

“Parish churches are historic symbols of hope, of peace, of everlasting love, and point us towards the paradise which Christians believe to be when we finally come to be with God, when the strife is over, and the battle is won.

“The country parish church structure includes worshipping with your neighbours and family even if you disagree with them, and having loyalty to your local church even if your personality doesn’t mesh with your current minister or priest.”

Speaking directly to the members of the Armed Forces present, he said; “I’d hazard a guess this is the same for your battalions, troops and commanding officers. You don’t always get on, or agree, but you learn to work with each other, as there is a bigger picture.”

Revd Mark Gallagher delivering the sermon.

Revd Gallagher asked one final question. “Why do we associate memorials with churches?

“Yes, there is the dignity, and well-ordered nature of ceremony which links the church and the military, but I believe it’s more to do with a joint that desire to bring about peace, and in our own sacrificial way save and work for the wellbeing of all.

“Perhaps as we commemorate what probably will be the last major D-Day anniversary with living veterans in attendance, we need to relearn the value of the wisdom of age, and of the ages. We should not be so quick to tear down ancient structures, physical or social, church or military, or dismiss the wisdom of our elders.

“I may be wrong in thinking this goes for the majority of serving military personnel, but amongst my friends I have always admired the faith I see in those who have served in the forces.

“The rationale for faith goes something like this…

“If there isn’t a better tomorrow, why fight (for it) today?

“If there isn’t something better and worth fighting for, why join the forces in the first place?

“If we don’t have that desire for eternal peace, or hope for that which we cannot see, especially in the darkest times, we are lost.

“So, where do you find the hope and belief that with there is something worth fighting for?

“Faith, however flickering, dim, or dark the word is around any of us is what gets us through.

“Holding onto the knowledge that there is good in the world, and that is worth fighting for is the reason my military friends and relatives served, and I would stab a guess it is why you do too.”

Revd Robert Robinson CF leading prayers.

The hymns were; “Eternal Father, strong to save,” “O God beyond all praising” and “God! As with silent hearts we bring to mind.”

The Prayers of the People were led by Revd Robert Robinson CF and an Act of Remembrance was led by Wing Commander Jonathan Williams during which wreaths were laid by Viscount Brookeborough and a representative of the Royal Dragoon Guards.

The Last Post and Reveille were sounded by Ranger Lutton of the Royal Irish Regiment and a lament was played by Pipe Major Rayment, from the Royal Dragoon Guards.

The blessing and dismissal was given by Bishop Ian Ellis.

The Pipes and Drums of the Royal Dragoon Guards played marches as the congregation left the church, proceeding to the hall for refreshments.

The church overlooks St. Angelo Airport where a day long event was held to commemorate the D Day anniversary with numerous military services and groups hosting static displays.

Pipes and Drums of the Royal Dragoon Guards playing at Trory Church.