A photograph has inspired a man to launch a search for the 16 children from Northern Ireland who were ‘adopted’ by US employees of Lockheed during the World War II.
Ernie Cromie, an aircraft historian and an inspiring force in the Ulster Aviation society, was moved to search for the children after receiving a poignant photo from Anneliese Ogden in California.
Ogden’s father, Henry Ogden, was the general manager of the Langford Lodge Air Depot from 1942 until 1944. The air depot played a crucial part in the war, primarily in the assembly and repair of aircraft.
The photograph, taken in 1943, shows 15 of the 16 children, suitcases in hand, on the stage of the theatre in the air depot. American civilian workers of the Lockhead Overseas Corporation at Langford in County Antrim, on the shores of Lough Neagh ‘adopted’ the children who lost their parents during the Blitz on Belfast and other bomb attacks during the war. The workers collected $6,500 and put it into a trust fund for the children until they were 18 years old.
Henry Ogden, who died several years ago, and his staff were determined to help the children after hearing that their parents were killed during the Blitz.
"I've already met one of the little girls, who lives in Ballymena," Cromie told the Belfast Telegraph. "Her name is Joyce and her father was killed in action, but when I spoke to her she preferred not to talk about her childhood experience."
"Some of these little folk must have been orphans and I am determined to find out whatever happened to them," he said.
"It really is an intriguing story – a few could have gone to America to live. The survivors will be in their eighties now and I want to hear from them."