North Belfast sustained a great amount of damage during the Fire Raid of the Belfast Blitz. Among the most serious incidents was the bombing of Glenravel Street. The R.U.C. Barracks took a direct hit from a High Explosive Bomb causing the deaths of 5 constables. In his memoirs, Air Raid Precautions Warden Jimmy Doherty wrote:
The district had taken another pounding, but, with the exception of one incident, the casualty list was small.
Glenravel Street R.U.C. Barracks hit by H.E., 3 men trapped.
Reports continued to arrive at D District Control Centre. The latest update reported that a bomb had hit a shelter at the Benn Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital on Glenravel Street. The report suggested that 20 people were trapped within the shelter. Further incident reports informed the control centre that the hospital itself was on fire. Within 30 minutes, two ambulances were en route to take 10 injured casualties to a nearby hospital.
D District Control Centre dispatched a message requesting a rescue squad to shore up a building behind the R.U.C. Barracks. The squad would then be required to extract bodies. The barracks was demolished having taken a direct hit from a high explosive bomb. A total of 5 serving police officers died as a result of this incident. Such was the level of destruction to the building, that 3 constables remained buried in rubble until after 7th May 1941.
In ‘Belfast Blitz: The City in the War Years by Professor Brian Barton, an interview with Hugh Ross – a survivor of the Glenravel Street bombing – tells of the attack and the death of his colleague William James “Pete” Lemon.
After a time, the station was hit by a bomb and the building collapsed over the tables. Pete Lemon spoke and said to me: "We are all badly trapped. We will hardly get out alive." Shortly after that, another bomb landed close by and we were covered with more rubble and I remember getting a mouthful of dirty, limey water apparently coming from a huge water tank at the rear of the station. I was able to speak to Pete but he never replied. I could hear some of my comrades' voices shouting but that only lasted for a minute or so and that is when I thought we all might die. I must have panicked at that stage as I thought I was in a deep valley with water and that I was going to drown. We were all dug out some time later, I don't know how long it took. I was treated in the Mater Hospital.
Within the barracks, the dining area had been reinforced as a makeshift shelter. During The Fire Raid on 4th-5th May 1941, a total of 9 constables took shelter, sitting on the floor beneath a single row of trestle tables. It was a risk to keep all the constables and police officers in the same place during a raid so when the bombing began, a number left the barracks bound for nearby shelters.
Commonwealth War Graves casualty lists give 5th May 1941 as the date of death of the following.
R.U.C. Constable Martin Robert Armstrong died on 5th May 1941 when the Barracks on Glenravel Street in North Belfast took a direct hit from a Luftwaffe bomb.
Constable Hugh Campbell was one of several members of the R.U.C. killed as a result of a Luftwaffe bomb exploding at the Glenravel Barracks.
R.U.C. Constable William James "Pete" Lemon was one of five young constables who died on 5th May 1941 when the police barracks took a direct hit from a bomb.
Constable James McKenna died on 5th May 1941 aged 21 years old as the Royal Ulster Constabulary Barracks, Glenravel Street, Belfast took a direct hit.