The bombs that fell on the seaside town of Bangor, Co. Down during the Belfast Blitz were not the first to cause destruction and create casualties in the town.
Early on Friday 13th September 1940, the Luftwaffe attacked Bangor, Co. Down. A lone plane dropped 22 incendiaries on Main Street, Bangor, Co. Down. Worse was to follow for the coastal town but before the Luftwaffe raids, an attack came from an unlikely source.
The Serbol Strikes
On 2nd January 1940 around 1530hrs, the townspeople of Bangor came under attack from the Royal Navy. The 2,000 tonne Belgol Class Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Serbol had anchored in Belfast Lough. The crew was conducting gunnery training and fired off several rounds. Heavy fog and poor visibility led to the accidental shelling of several houses in and around Belfast Lough. The 4″ solid shot rounds caused significant damage to property walls but there were no reported casualties.
The Serbol was a regular visitor to Belfast Lough. The crew had established a light signalling procedure with coastal personnel but it appears to have failed in January 1940.
Several properties took direct hits from the Royal Navy shells. 102 Seacliffe Road belonging to Mr and Mrs James McQuoid and daughter and 108 Seacliffe Road belonging to Mr Harry Donaghy sustained considerable damage. A shell penetrated the front wall of number 108 passing betwen the top floor and ground floor and making quite a hole in an internal wall.
At the time, the Northern Whig newspaper carried photos of Mrs Holland’s damaged house at 8 Hazeldene Park. Other pictures showed the impact of shells on the Fitzimmons family home at 28 Shandon Park East. The final property struck was Mr SC Taylor’s Garage on the Ballyholme Road.
In a stroke of luck for the residents of Bangor and the Royal Navy, there were no injuries as a result of this accidental attack.
Modern Wartime Dangers
Hundreds of pupils from Bangor Grammar School were evacuated on 18th December 2008. Construction workers uncovered an unexploded Second World War mortar while digging the grounds of the new multi-million pound complex.
As well as the school, several surrounding streets were closed and evacuated as Army Bomb Disposal units attended the scene. A reminder that the history of World War Two in Northern Ireland is still all around us.