Most people by now know about the Belfast Blitz. Many also know the Luftwaffe dropped bombs on Bangor in April 1941 but this was not the first aerial attack on the seaside town.
Early on Friday 13th September 1940 the German air force attacked. A Focke-Wulf Condor dropped around twenty indendiaries on to Bangor’s Main Street.
Like with many attacks across the UK, the people of Bangor just carried on with daily life. This Friday 13th attack resulted in no casualties among the people of Bangor. Worse was to come, though.
The bombs of the Easter Blitz
In April 1941, the Luftwaffe attacked again. Thousands of bombs fell on Belfast but other areas of Northern Ireland like Bangor also suffered. Many houses in Bangor and across North Down sustained damage and huge craters ruined streets. Little evidence of these attacks remains today.
Shrapnel from bombs damaged the walls of numers 17 and 19 Ranfurly Avenue, Bangor. Little evidence of this exists today and there were no known casualties at the time.
Several other houses in the area suffered minor damage from the Luftwaffe. Properties on Knockmore Park, which runs parallel to Ranfurly Avenue were affected.
Harry Gough’s house at 20 Farnham Road suffered considerable damage as a bomb landed in the back garden. Again, there were no serious injuries to the family. Not every was so lucky that night.
On the opposite side of the marina, 60-year-old Margaret Watt was killed as a bomb struck her home at 5 Hazeldene Gardens.
40 Ashley Gardens was the home of the Grattan Family who suffered a great loss of life on the night of 15th April 1941. Matilda Grattan was 54 years old and sisters Shelagh and Angeline were 20 and 18 respectively. They are all buried in Bangor New Cemetery.
41-year-old Robert Wright of 32 Baylands died as a result of his injuries on 17th April in Bangor Hospital.
German bombs at the golf club
The same bombs on the night of 15th April 1941 blasted the nearby golf club. Explosive devices damaged the clubhouse, 18th hole and 1st and 2nd fairways.
In 1918, the club had been presented with a painting of the 36th Ulster Division’s attack on The Somme. Shrapnel from a blast pierced the picture. Writing at the bottom of the print now says “Blitzed Easter Tuesday Night 1941.” An arrow points to the hole created by the shell splinter.
The Serbol Strikes
On 2nd January 1940 around 1530hrs, the townspeople of Bangor came under under attack from the Royal Navy. The 2,000 tonne Belgol Class Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Serbol had anchored in Belfast Lough.
The crew were 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.
A more modern bomb threat
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.