Belfast Blitz: Bombs on Newtownards, Co. Down

On 15th-16th April 1941, the Luftwaffe dropped bombs on Newtownards Airfield, Co. Down killing 13 young soldiers of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

On the night of 15th-16th April 1941, waves of Heinkel, Dornier, and Junkers planes of the Luftwaffe attacked Northern Ireland. While the primary target was Belfast, Co. Antrim, bombs fell in other towns across Ulster.

At Newtownards Airfield, Newtownards, Co. Down, 13 soldiers died as a result of a Luftwaffe high explosive bomb that struck around 2300hrs. The men were from 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The youngest victim was 16 years old. As a battalion of young soldiers, they were not old enough for overseas service. Their role was the defence of the airfield, which was a base for RAF 231 Squadron.

They were here to protect the airfield and one of their huts took a direct hit. It wasn’t a secret but with the passing of time, more than 70 years, it has faded from people’s memories and has passed into history as it were and Ards council felt a memorial would be appropriate. If you go into any town, into any city in the UK, you will see war memorials. These lads were killed in Newtownards, but their names are not commemorated, and we feel it is high time it is commemorated.

Councillor Ronnie Ferguson – Newtownards – March 2012

The Battalion War Diary documents a high explosive bomb detonating in the huts of A Company Headquarters. A total of 10 men died with 15 injured according to this documentation. The nearby Newtownards Hospital received the wounded.

Several theories exist relating to the Luftwaffe bombing of Newtownards. Incendiaries lit up the hill around Scrabo Tower and several planes swooped in low suggesting they knew the target. Others think the Luftwaffe hit Newtownards, Co. Down after mistaking Strangford Lough for Belfast Lough.

Remembering the Fallen

On 5th March 2012, Councillor Mervyn Oswald, Mayor of Ards, unveiled a memorial to those who died during the Blitz. Soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment formed a guard of honour at the ceremony. Members of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Regimental Association and veterans from other regiments also attended. The granite memorial stands in War Memorial Gardens, Newtownards, Co. Down.

In a cruel twist of fate, a commander at Newtownards Airfield, Flight Lieutenant Wilfred Mark Hamilton Brookes, was off-site when the raid occurred. He died in The Easter Raid on Belfast, Co. Antrim on the same night along with more than 900 others in the worst raid outside of London.

Last Name First Name(s) Rank Unit Information
Bellamy William Fusilier 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 6983155. Aged 28 years old.
Burke Samuel Fusilier 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 6982708. Aged 18 years old.
Carlisle Alexander Lance Corporal 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 6984668.
Copling Andrew Fusilier 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 6984669. Aged 16 years old.
Fulton Hugh Fusilier 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 6984727. Aged 17 years old.
Graham George Fusilier 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 6982035.
Higgins Daniel Fusilier 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 6980100.
Love Leslie Fusilier 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 6984566. Aged 34 years old.
McFarland Samuel Fusilier 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 6984390. Aged 19 years old.
McMurray William Company Quartermaster Sergeant 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 6983653. Aged 27 years old.
McNeill Ernest Fusilier 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 6982560. Aged 17 years old.
Penfold Alfred Warrant Officer Class II 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 6392875. Aged 36 years old.
Wright Matthew Fusilier 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 6984533. Aged 18 years old.