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Third from right and holding a camera, James Quinn is seen here with his army comrades as they enter Germany in the late autumn of 1944.  Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
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In 2019 Newry and Mourne Museum acquired two important additions to its collection of World War II uniforms. One was the tunic from the uniform worn by Bramwell Baird from Newry, who served with the Royal Air Force and other is a blouse and cap from the American Army’s 563rd Motor Ambulance Company worn by James Quinn, originally from near Kilkeel, county Down.

Bramwell Baird, pictured in Newry c.1939, wearing the uniform of Air Training Corps (the Home Guard). Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Born on 3rd September 1924, Bramwell Baird worked as a clerk with The British and Irish Steamship Company in Merchants Quay in Newry after leaving school. 

He became a member of the Air Training Corps (the Home Guard) but, after the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, he joined the RAF at the age of seventeen. He was initially trained in radar before being sent to Deal, near Dover, where he received training on bomb targeting equipment directing ‘pathfinders’. ‘Pathfinders’were target-marking squadrons in RAF Bomber Command and they located and marked targets with flares, which improved bombing accuracy.

Bramwell Baird in his RAF uniform in June 1943. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

A family story relates how Baird guided an RAF plane back to base which was on fire after having been under enemy fire. No one wanted the responsibility of guiding this plane back as it was assumed that it would crash being so badly damaged. Baird succeeded and the plane with its crew landed safely.

While stationed in Europe, Baird sustained a serious head injury when he was thrown from a truck which had hit a bomb crater. After being nursed in France for six weeks, he was sent to England where he recuperated in hospital for nearly a year, before returning to Newry in 1946.

Baird’s former employers transferred him to Dublin but he later got a job with the Ministry of Finance in Belfast. He remained there until he retired in his early fifties. Bramwell Baird died on 10thMay 1993. 

Bramwell Baird (front row, fifth from left) with the members of his RAF squadron. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

From Tullyframe, near Kilkeel, James Quinn emigrated to America in May 1927 just over a month before his twentieth birthday. He settled in New York where he opened a grocery business with an annual turnover of $30, 000. In 1936 he became an American Citizen. 

James Quinn during World War II wearing his American Army uniform. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

From 1943 until 1945 Quinn served with the American Army in the 563rd Motor Ambulance Company and was involved in the Allied advance across Europe into Germany after the D-Day Landings in 1944. Attached to the 96th Evacuation Hospital Unit, he was an ambulance driver and mechanic. He was in engaged in driving casualties from the evacuation point back to where the hospital was stationed. Quinn was discharged from the American Army in October 1945.

James Quinn pictured on top of an American field ambulance. Each ambulance was crewed by a driver and an Ambulance Orderly and could accommodate four litter (stretcher) cases or twelve sitting cases. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

In 1950 James Quinn returned to Kilkeel where he opened a shop and bought a farm in Corcreaghan townland. He married Susan Murphy and had one daughter, Anne. He died in 1975. 

These uniforms are now on display at Newry and Mourne Museum.

The Museum is currently offering free tours of the exhibition galleries on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 11.00 am. These must be booked in advance by calling our Education Officer at 0330 137 4422.

Newry and Mourne Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday 10.00 am – 4.30 pm. Please call 0330 137 4422 or email museum@nmandd.org for further information.

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