Newtownards Airfield, Newtownards, Co. Down

On 15th-16th April 1941, the Luftwaffe attacked Newtownards Airfield causing the deaths of 13 soldiers of 70th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

On the night of 15th-16th April 1941, as the Luftwaffe attacked the city of Belfast, bombs also fell in the vicinity of Newtownards, Co. Down. At Newtownards Airfield, Newtownards, Co. Down, 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers guarded the headquarters of R.A.F. 231 Squadron.

In the town, 7th Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers noted in their War Diary for the evening:

At 2255hrs… the siren was sounded. At 2330hrs, explosions heard from the area beyond Scrabo Tower became progressively louder, and by midnight enemy planes were dropping a large number of parachute flares and incendiary bombs on Scrabo Hill and the vicinity of the aerodrome. The whole town was now brightly illuminated and the H.E. was dropped. The enemy planes made off at approximately 0330hrs… Our fighters were in action, but only two or three A.A. shells were fired in the neighbourhood of Newtownards. The All Clear was sounded at about 0500hrs.

The Luftwaffe bombed the airfield at approximately 0230hrs on 16th April 1941. The attack came in the form of Incendiary Bombs and several High Explosive Bombs. The airfield and runways escaped the worst of the attack but a High Explosive Bomb struck the Nissen Huts of 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers ‘A’ Company Headquarters.

The blast destroyed around 12 huts, killing 10 soldiers. A further 16 people including the Commander of ‘A’ Company and 3 civilians sustained injuries. The most seriously wounded received treatment at Newtownards Hospital. The final total of fatalities as a result of the raid would be 13 members of 70th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Flight Lieutenant Wilfrid Mark Hamilton Brookes of R.A.F. 231 Squadron was not at the Newtownards Airfield but died as a result of the raid on Belfast.

Casualties of the Luftwaffe Raid

Commonwealth War Graves casualty lists give 16th April 1941 as the date of death of the following.

Memorial to the Newtownards Blitz

On 5th March 2012, Mayor Councillor Mervyn Oswald unveiled a memorial to those who died during the attack on the airfield. Soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment formed a guard of honour, 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.

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.

Polish Heritage Flight at Newtownards

Between 9th-11th September 2021, Polish Heritage Flight and For Your Freedom & Ours brought Supermarine Spitfire BM597 to Newtownards Airfield for a commemorative event.

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