Sunday 23 October 2016

'I was there the day the war ended and I'll never forget it thanks to this picture'

Liam Sands (80) holding a class photo taken when he was 11 yrs old. He is five from left, back row.
Liam Sands (80) holding a class photo taken when he was 11 yrs old. He is five from left, back row.
Liam Sands (80) holding a class photo taken when he was 11 yrs old. He is five from left, back row.
Liam Sands (80) holding a class photo taken when he was 11 yrs old. He is five from left, back row.

The beginning of the end of the Second World War happened 70 years ago this week.

That momentous week in history is recalled by Liam Sands as a special time in the life of a Dublin primary school.

Six years of conflict culminated with the downfall of the Nazis in Germany and the destruction of the Japanese Empire after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The war officially ended on September 2.

Retired plumber Liam remembers receiving a note as an 11-year-old schoolboy to turn up for a special class photo to mark the day.

He has now decided to make public that photo to help re-kindle memories of the time.

"I'll never forget that day when our school principal told us the war was over," said Liam (80), who was a pupil at North Brunswick Street Boys' National School, known as The Brunner.


"We were all on holidays from school when the principal, Brother Ryan, sent a circular to all our homes telling us to come in to school to get a special photo taken to mark the impending end of the war," he said.

"Brother Ryan announced to the class, 'Boys, never forget this day for the rest of your lives because it's the day the war has ended'. I remember it was a lovely sunny day.

"It was August 14, 1945, the day after my 11th birthday. Our class had to get up on a sort of ladder effort for the photo. I was in the back row, fifth from the left."

Liam is grateful that the headmaster made him appreciate the significance of what was happening.

He said he was later inspired by the story of English war hero Leonard Cheshire, who was in a plane when he observed the atomic bomb exploding at Nagasaki in 1945.

The attack resulted in Japan's surrender within days.

Cheshire's wartime experiences as a bomber pilot and his witnessing of the atomic attack prompted him to devote his life to caring for humanity by opening care homes for disabled people.

Liam, when he became an adult, decided to help Cheshire's efforts by giving his services as a plumber free of charge at a Cheshire Home for disabled people in Dublin.

He recalled the war being a significant part of his childhood.

Although Ireland remained neutral throughout, Liam remembered his parents being very concerned and intently interested in provisional plans to evacuate children from Dublin in the event of an invasion or if the city became a target for air raids.


"My family was living in Harold Road, off Oxmantown Road," he said.

"My mother had a plan for me and my two sisters to be sent to live with her uncle in Clonmellon in Co Westmeath if there was going to be an evacuation of the city.

"Of course, Ireland stayed out of the war, but I remember when German bombs were dropped on the North Strand. I went down the next morning to see what happened, but it was cordoned off.

"Another day there was great excitement when a big German bomb fell in the Phoenix Park.

"I remember seeing a big hole beside a pond in the park where the bomb landed."

As a schoolboy, Liam watched Pathe News film reports of the war at his local cinema, The Broadway in Manor Street, and other cinemas throughout the city where he and his friends would go on a regular basis.

While Liam was a pupil at The Brunner, one of the teachers was Paddy Crosbie, who later hosted The School Around The Corner on RTE television in the 1970s.

Liam recalled learning all his subjects through Irish.

He served an apprencticeship as a plumber and went on to enjoy working as a contractor until the day he retired.

"I finally packed in working at the age of 73, but I always adored the job," he said.

Liam and his wife, Frances, live in Benmadigan Road in Drimnagh and have two children and four grandchildren.

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