The Second World War in Northern Ireland

The Second World War in Northern Ireland

The Newtownards Air Raid

On Easter Tuesday, 15th April 1941 a large air raid was carried out by the German Luftwaffe on the City of Belfast. This raid has been widely recorded however at the same time a raid took place targeting the Airfield at Newtownards.

The blackout had been in force from 21:00 and the dreaded Air Raid siren was sounded at 23:00.

As the aircraft of Kampfgruppe100 began bombing Newtownards fires blazed on Scrabo Hill with other bombs falling on Green Road and Comber Road.

The airfield at Newtownards, which had been used as the Headquarters of 231 Squadron

Royal Air Force since 15th July the previous year, was guarded by soldiers of 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. – These soldiers were too young for front line service and were used for homeland defence.

The War Diary of the Battalion states “Newtownards Aerodrome was attacked with a considerable number of incendiary bombs and a few H.E. (High Explosive) bombs. One H.E. bomb fell in the hutments of “A” Company Headquarters. Casualties were 10 killed and 15 wounded. Among the casualties were Lt G.M. King (Acting Company Commander) wounded, C.S.M. Penfold killed, C.MS McMurray severely wounded”

The casualties were taken to Newtownards Hospital and the dead are identified here as :-


BELLAMY, WILLIAM Initials: W Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Fusilier Regiment/Service: Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Unit Text: 70th Bn. Age: 28 Date of Death: 16/04/1941 Service No: 6983155 Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: Sec. C. Grave 7629. Cemetery: SUTTON-IN-ASHFIELD CEMETERY

BURKE, SAMUEL Initials: S Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Fusilier Regiment/Service: Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Unit Text: 70th Bn. Age: 18 Date of Death: 16/04/1941 Service No: 6982708 Additional information: Son of George and Annie Burke, of Braehead, Londonderry. Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: Sec. S. Class B. Grave 1218. Cemetery: LONDONDERRY CITY CEMETERY

CARLISLE, ALEXANDER Initials: A Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Lance Corporal Regiment/Service: Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Unit Text: 70th Bn. Date of Death: 16/04/1941 Service No: 6984668 Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 11. Column 2. Memorial: BROOKWOOD MEMORIAL


Alexander Carlisle is named on the Brookwood Memorial.  (Thank-you to Jim Cosgrove for this picture)

COPLING, ANDREW Initials: A Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Fusilier Regiment/Service: Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Unit Text: 70th Bn. Age: 16 Date of Death: 16/04/1941 Service No: 6984669 Additional information: Son of Ernest Victor and Jane Copling, of Dromore. Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: Grave 26. Cemetery:

 DROMORE CATHEDRAL CHURCHYARD


Fusilier Andrew Copling is shown here with his final resting place shown above.


Thanks very much to Jim McEwen for providing this picture of the final resting place of Andrew Copling as well as Mr Andrew Copling who was a brother of the Deceases but born some years later and named after his brother who was only 16 years old when he was killed.

FULTON, HUGH Initials: H Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Fusilier Regiment/Service: Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Unit Text: 70th Bn. Age: 17 Date of Death: 16/04/1941 Service No: 6984727 Additional information: Son of William Moffet Fulton and Julia Fulton, of Markethill. Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Cemetery: BELLEEK (ST. LUKE) CHURCH OF IRELAND CHURCHYARD

(Thanks very much to Noel Fulton for the photograph of his brother Hugh which is shown below)

GRAHAM, GEORGE Initials: G Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Fusilier Regiment/Service: Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Unit Text: 70th Bn. Date of Death: 16/04/1941 Service No: 6982035 Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: Sec. E.1. Grave 490. Cemetery: BELFAST (DUNDONALD) CEMETERY

Above right is the gravestone of Fusilier George Graham who is recorded on the stone as having "Died result of Enemy Action 16th April 1941"

HIGGINS, DANIEL Initials: D Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Fusilier Regiment/Service: Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Unit Text: 70th Bn. Date of Death: 16/04/1941 Service No: 6980100 Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: Sec. 28. Prot. Plot. Grave 81. Cemetery: NEWTOWNARDS (MOVILLA) CEMETERY

My sincere thanks to John Savage who has sent me the picture shown here of Fusilier Danny Higgins, the only casualty buried in Newtownards. John says that at the time of his death Daniel Higgins was 'stepping out' with his "mother who kept and cherished this photograph until her death when the photograph was passed on to me. Indeed no matter when my mother attended the graves of her parents in Movilla cemetery she always ended her visit by calling past Daniel's grave".

LOVE, LESLIE Initials: L Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Fusilier Regiment/Service: Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Unit Text: 70th Bn. Age: 34 Date of Death: 16/04/1941 Service No: 6984566 Additional information: Husband of Frances Gertrude Love, of Nottingham. Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: Sec. B. Row M. 6. Grave 8. Cemetery: CARLTON CEMETERY

(Thank-you to Amanda Rhodes at Gedling for this photograph) - I would direct everyones attention to the verse on the bottom and in particular the last two words "NEVER FORGET"


McFARLAND, SAMUEL Initials: S Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Fusilier Regiment/Service: Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Unit Text: 70th Bn. Age: 19 Date of Death: 16/04/1941 Service No: 6984390 Additional information: Son of Alexander and Elizabeth Margaret McFarland, of Clogherney. Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Cemetery: CLOGHERNEY CHURCH OF IRELAND CHURCHYARD

(Thanks very much to Judith Lyons for the picture above which shows the headstone of Samuel McFarland)

McNEILL, ERNEST Initials: E Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Fusilier Regiment/Service: Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Unit Text: 70th Bn. Age: 17 Date of Death: 16/04/1941 Service No: 6982560 Additional information: Son of John and Margaret McNeill, of Craigmore. Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: Grave 4B. Cemetery: MULLAGHGLASS (ST. LUKE) CHURCH OF IRELAND CHURCHYARD


PENFOLD, ALFRED Initials: A Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Warrant Officer Class II (C.S.M.) Regiment/Service: Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Unit Text: 70th Bn. Age: 36 Date of Death: 16/04/1941 Service No: 6392875 Additional information: Husband of Annie Penfold, of Waterside, Londonderry. Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: Sec. H. Grave 846B. Cemetery: GLENDERMOT CHURCH OF IRELAND CHURCHYARD AND NEW CEMETERY


The black and white photograph shows the Ards Airfield as it looked during the Second World War.

The Comber Road can be seen going from left to right in the picture which was taken from an aircraft above Scrabo Tower.

Newtownards town would be to the left of the picture.

The huts which were damaged by the bomb which killed the soldiers are those which appear to be the last two on the left side of Comber Road on travelling out of Newtownards and before the runway is reached.

I believe the following 2 “Skins” were also victims who died of their wounds the following day. The first of these is the Company Quartermaster Sergeant mentioned in the War Diary.

I am very appreciative of the two items shown here relating to William McMurray which I have received from Mr George McMurray.

 Army Form B. 104 - 81 with the Reference Number appearing to refer to Cas/381/RINF which would be Casualty 381 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

A rather bland Initial Contact report from the Infantry Record Office in Edinburgh date stamped 17th April 1941 which was the day the William McMurray sadly succumbed to his wounds.

Company Quartermaster Sergeant William McMurray is shown here.

McMURRAY, WILLIAM Initials: W Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Company Quartermaster Serjeant Regiment/Service: Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Unit Text: 70th Bn. Age: 27 Date of Death: 17/04/1941 Service No: 6983653 Additional information: Son of George and Annie McMurray, of Bessbrook; husband of Susan Elizabeth McMurray, of Bessbrook. Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: Grave 19. Cemetery: BESSBROOK METHODIST CEMETERY

WRIGHT, MATTHEW Initials: M Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Fusilier Regiment/Service: Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Unit Text: 70th Bn. Age: 18 Date of Death: 17/04/1941 Service No: 6984533 Additional information: Son of Matthew and Mary A. Wright, of Coleraine. Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: Grave 462. Cemetery: MACOSQUIN (ST. MARY) CHURCH OF IRELAND CHURCHYARD

Thank-you very much to Alfie Hunter for providing me with this photograph of the headstone of Matthew Wright.

Newtownards Airfield as it Looks Now.

This photograph has been taken from Scrabo looking over the West Winds Estate towards Ards Airfield.

On looking at the runways you will see a dark green square of evergreen trees which surround a water treatment plant. This is the location of a well preserved Airfield Defence Position. Note the location as this is the area where the young soldiers would have been killed.

To the left of the evergreens is the old Miles Aircraft Factory who made use of some of the original WW2 Airfield Buildings for their production of aircraft.

The red bricked building which is to the right of the colour picture and is near the shoreline is the old Shooting Range which also features elsewhere in this website.

Another Fatality

Whilst researching the bombing of Newtownards Airfield I have learned that Flight Lieutenant Wilfred Mark Hamilton Brookes was one of the Commanders of 231 Squadron Royal Air Force which was based at Newtownards. On the night of the bombing Brookes was in Belfast and was killed there during the Air Raid!

He was 23 years old and is now buried in the Old Churchyard at Sannox, Kilbride on the Isle of Arran.

Memorial and Remembrance

On Monday 5th March 2012 a Memorial to the soldiers who were killed during the Air Raid was unveilied and dedicated in the War Memorial Garden at Court Square, Newtownards.

The Mayor of Ards making a speech in front of the Guard of Honour then unveiling the Memorial Stone beside which is the Regimental Standard Bearer.

Shown here is the Memorial Stone and relatives of some of those who were killed who attended the ceremony.


Here we have a total of 13 soldiers, some of whom have no age recorded and of which two were 18 years old, another two were 17 years old and one was only a sixteen years old boy. 

All of whom gave their lives for their country in time of war on their home soil.


“Nec Aspera Terrent” – Lest We Forget