Carrickfergus setting for borough Thanksgiving celebrations

US Rangers. (Submitted Image).
US Rangers. (Submitted Image).

Mid & East Antrim will be celebrating Thanksgiving this year with the US Rangers Museum and Andrew Jackson Cottage at Boneybefore, just outside Carrickfergus, the venue for an action-packed afternoon of family fun for Thanksgiving Day.

The borough will lead local celebrations on Saturday, November 26, for this popular American holiday – that also marks a successful Harvest - while paying tribute to the US Rangers – an elite World War II US Commando Force established almost 75 years ago in Carrickfergus.

Speaking in advance of the event, which she will be attending at 2pm, Mayor Audrey Wales said: “Come and meet World War II reenactors, representing all the Ranger Battalions of the period, who will be on site in an authentic US Army camp setting. Genuine World War II artefacts will also be on display with experts on hand to explain them. With real American Thanksgiving food and craft activities for children and live wartime music, there’s plenty for all the family to see and do,” Cllr Wales added.

The Thanksgiving Day celebrations are especially important this year, as preparations are already in hand for the US Rangers Museum to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the 1st Ranger Battalion, which is initially being marked by a planned refurbishment of the museum.

“Take this opportunity at the Thanksgiving event to see our plans for the revamp. All are welcome to come along and have a say on the proposals. We would also love to hear any personal stories and invite people to bring along artefacts relating to The Rangers,” said Cllr Wales.

Made up solely of US army volunteers, the Battalion was nicknamed ‘Darby’s Rangers’ after their dynamic leader, Lieutenant Colonel William Darby, who was later killed in action. They trained in extreme conditions and then fought in some of the deadliest battles in Europe during WWII. It remains the only US military unit ever founded on foreign soil. In 1942 the American Army decided to raise an elite fighting force, based on the British Army Commandos, as the spearhead of all Allied offences against the enemy in the War in Europe. On June 19, 1942, volunteers from US Army units throughout NI assembled in Carrickfergus to form one of what was to be one of their most courageous and decorated units.

One of their most difficult tasks was during the D-Day Landings, after which the US Rangers successfully engaged in various theatres throughout the war - continuing to ‘achieve the impossible’. Even the final assault for the WWII Special Forces US Rangers – planned for mainland Japan - was only halted when they learned of the bombing of Hiroshima and Japanese surrender.