Percy Street, Belfast, Co. Antrim

Percy Street is in the Shankill area of Belfast, Co. Antrim. The street, lined with small red-brick terrace houses suffered great loss in the Belfast Blitz.

Percy Street

Belfast

Co. Antrim

BT13 2HW

United Kingdom

During World War Two, Percy Street in the Shankill area of West Belfast ran between 88 Shankill Road and 155 Divis Street. Well-kept terraced houses lined the street. A maze of side streets ran off Percy Street in both directions.

The main Shankill Road escaped the worst of the Belfast Blitz but the surrounding area suffered greatly. Photos taken of Percy Street after the Easter Raid highlight the devastation inflicted on the area.

Inspection of Percy Street

Imperial War Museum Photo: The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester on a morale boosting tour on Percy Street, Belfast, Co. Antrim on 21st April 1941. This photo is used in 'Belfast Blitz: The City in the War Years' by Professor Brian Barton.

Percy Street in 1939

The following information is taken from the 1939 Belfast Street Directory.

NumberFirst Name(s)Last NameOccupation
1GFenningCaretaker
1aBelfast Co-Operative Society Ltd.Posting Establishment
3James MBlackford
5Thomas FMurrayWindow Cleaner
7FrederickOwensDraper
9SamuelStrange
9aThomasClucasDealer
11SamuelAddisInspector
13FAtkinsonPainter
15JohnMurphy
17AWCodooPostman
19HNeillyDriver
21JamesMitchellCoalman
23MayDennis
25Ellen MaryGribbin
27JohnMartin
29WJArbuthnot
31Mrs.Nugent
33SamuelGarvinPublican
35HTurnerHorse Shoer
37HughBeattie
39JCallanSanitary Inspector
41WilliamEllisonGlazier
43DTrainorCarter
45James BMcFallLabourer
47LeonardDowneRoyal Ulster Constabulary
49Miss MGibson
51CharlesCampbellCarter
53ArthurStewartMachinist
55WilliamSpencePlater
57M&KPeacocke
59Mts. EthelKirkConfectioner
61HughBoydBread Server
63Hugh DMcDonald
65Mrs.Birch
67AndrewBlackPainter
69JamesParkinsonGrocer
71-75Isaac Andrews and Sons Ltd.Flour Mills
77CharlesBoyleCarrier
79JamesLoughranDealer
81SarahHills
2Side Door
4Mrs.Reid
6JamesNeillLabourer
8HTBoyd
10Mrs. ANeill
12ThomasMageeLabourer
14JHeaneyJoiner
16RMIrvine
18Vacant
20MaryBarlow
22WHGuyCarter
24WilliamSmith
26SamuelMcGee
28JohnLockhartLabourer
30WilliamMcCreedyCinema Operator
32John HHosick
34EmilyDougan
36Miss DMateer
38Mrs. AnnieThompson
40JDicksonPreparing Master
42AndrewDiffy
44Vacant
46WMarmionSheet Metal Worker
48MissTempleton
50RobertMajorLabourer
52GeorgeTempletonIron Turner
54JohnBradley
56WMcFerranBook Binder
58TJRitchie
60Mrs.Cunningham
62WMcCulloughJoiner
64Mrs.Holloway
66SamuelGeddisOrganiser
68RobertBennett
70RobertNugent
72Mrs. MMartin
74Davidson
76Mrs. ECarvill
78SadieHunter
80FrancisMitchell
82HughBoydPrinter
84Henry Davis Ltd.Apron and Pinafore Manufacturers
94HamiltonKennedyDriller
96Eliza AnnMcKenna
98RobertScottPainter
100SarahMorrison
102JosephStranaghanClerk
104J Hamilton and Co. Ltd.Engineers
104Marine Governors Ltd.Marine Engineers
106ConMcCourtManager
108SamuelCunninghamDriver
110JJClarkeSea Captain
112Miss MDavey
114JohnKennedyStone Mason
116JosephBurnsButcher
118The Model WorksEngineers and Brass Founders
120WJMcErleanTraveller
122WPrice
124Side Door

16th April 1941

Kenneth Taylor, a lorry driver, and Auxiliary Fire Service volunteer watched as a parachute mine fell on Percy Street. He was on the flat roof of a mill on North Howard Street, a few streets away from the incident and, at first, thought a Luftwaffe pilot had bailed out. The bomb landed about 15 feet away from the entrance of the public air raid shelter.

The resulting blast was deafening and the suction as a result of the blast caused the walls to disintegrate and the shelter to collapse. As the outer walls crumbled, the large concrete roof lifted with no supporting walls providing further strength. The 30 foot long and 5 feet thick concrete slab then fell into the shelter crushing many of those inside.

Residents of Percy Street ran from their houses putting themselves in more danger as bombs continued to fall across Belfast.

Percy Street in 1943

The following information is taken from the 1943 Belfast Street Directory.

NumberFirst Name(s)Last NameOccupation
1GFenningCaretaker
1aBelfast Co-Operative Society Ltd.Posting Establishment
3James MBlackford
5Murray
7WilliamMcKeeLabourer
9Wilson
11SamuelAddisClerk
13AtchisonDecorator
15RichardEllwood
17-19Vacant
21ThomasCaseyLabourer
23-33Vacant Ground
35Vacant Ground
37Occupied
39Vacant
41WilliamMarmionSheet Metal Worker
43SamuelMcQuistonIron Dresser
45McFall
47-49Vacant
51Mrs. EBarnes
53ThomasWrightBus Conductor
55Vacant
57Mrs. SBlack
59Vacant
61JamesConnor
63FrankGrahamLabourer
65EdwardBrownLabourer
67Mrs. MaryDevine
69JamesParkinsonGrocer
71-75Ardmoulin Cottages
71-75National Fire Service Station
71-75Isaac Andrews and Sons Ltd.Flour and Provender Mills
77FMcCartney
79JamesLoughranDealer
81SarahHills
4Mrs. LetitiaReid
6Mrs.Dixon
8-18Vacant Ground
20Mrs.McCray
22ThomasWilloughby
24HughReynoldsLabourer
26Samuel JVoganSoldier
28JohnLockhartLabourer
30Occupied
32HenryLambLabourer
34JamesMcCalumMotor Driver
36MissesMateer
38Mrs.Thompson
40GeorgeFitzsimonsMachinist
42RobertFarr
44RobertBell
46RobertReaEngineer
48Miss AnnTempleton
50Occupied
52John DDennisonMoulder
54Ross TWallaceFitter
56VictorMillarTram Conductor
58JohnClelandLabourer
60-62Occupied
64S McNTodd
66DonaldFlemingIron Moulder
68HenryMcStravickLabourer
70Martin
72Mrs.Edwards
74Hardy
76Miss JessieCarvill
78Mrs. JWalker
80Armstrong
82HughBoydPrinter
84Henry Davis Ltd.Apron and Pinafore Manufacturers
86Church Hall
94HaroldBuckle
96Eliza AnnMcKenna
98ThomasFitzsimmons
100SarahMorrison
102JosephStranaghanClerk
104J Hamilton and Co. Ltd.Engineers
106JMcBennettBootmaker
108THMagee
110AlfredQuinn
112Miss MDavey
114JohnKennedyStone Mason
116JosephBurnsButcher
118The Model WorksEngineers and Brass Founders
120WJMcErleanTraveller
122AlbertPriceUpholsterer
124Side Door

Life carried on in the Shankill area and stories of the horrors on the Belfast Blitz began to circulate. Neighbours wept in the street as news broke on many of the deaths in the area.

Anecdotes tell of one man who rushed home from the Gaeity Cinema to be with his family. A warning flashed on the screen and many left the safety of the cinema to be with their loved ones. He joined his family in the Percy Street shelter and all died when the shelter collapsed.

Some residents of Percy Street and the surrounding side streets had their lives saved when the shelter filled. Some who could not get in the shelter returned to their houses, taking cover under tables or beneath the stairs.

Percy Street after the Belfast Blitz

Imperial War Museum Photo: Vacant ground on Percy Street, Belfast, Co. Antrim. Before 16th April 1941, Percy Street was a street lined with small terraced houses that could not withstand the devastation of Luftwaffe Bombs. This photo is used in 'Belfast Blitz: The City in the War Years' by Professor Brian Barton.

The day after the attack, the Civil Defence Corps and Royal Ulster Constabulary sealed off the street with a rope cordon. The search for casualties continued. Wardens also patrolled the area and one of them spotted a young boy standing in his pyjamas in the debris of what had once been the shelter.

Hugh Mackie had regained consciousness to find masonry from the air raid shelter wedged against his chest. He noticed his mother and grandmother sitting opposite him on the other side of where the shelter had been. Both women had died in the position they sat when the blast struck the shelter.

Casualties of the Belfast Blitz

Last NameFirst Name(s)RankDate of DeathPlace of DeathAge
BoydElias JonesCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street15
BoydElizabeth KateCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 1070
BoydHughCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street18
CorryElizabethCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street Shelter0
CorryMarthaCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street Shelter27
CorySamuelCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street Shelter
CurryWilliam JohnCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street52
ElliottSamuel Stewart McCombCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 3132
GribbinNancy SimmsCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 2574
GuyHenry WilliamCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street50
GuyMaryCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street50
GuyMary DoreenCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street22
GuyReginaldCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street10
GuySydneyCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street12
HeaneyAJCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street Shelter52
HeaneyEdithCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street Shelter41
HeaneyGeorgeCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street Shelter3
HeaneyVeraCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street Shelter18
IrvineAgnesCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 1672
IrvineMargaret Hill McQuoidCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 1635
IrvineRobert McCulloughCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 1672
LarkinWilliamCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street Shelter49
MageeDanielCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 1218
MageeJaneCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 1219
MageeMaryCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 1231
MageeMaryCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 1254
MageeThomasCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 1254
MageeThomasinaCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 1229
MartinJohn AndrewCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 2751
MellsMary JaneCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street Shelter65
NeillAnnieCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 1066
O'NeillHughCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street48
RobinsonAgnesCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 1065
SimmonsJohn ThompsonCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street 255
SmythWilliam JohnCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street22
SwannJohnCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street31
SwannMarthaCivilian16th April 1941Royal Victoria Hospital18
SwannMaryCivilian16th April 1941Royal Victoria Hospital32
SwannMargaret IsabellaCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street58
SwannWilliamCivilian16th April 1941Percy Street59

In his book ‘Post 381: Memoirs of a Belfast Air Raid Warden’, Jimmy Doherty states the shelter had taken a direct hit. He estimates the casualties to be around 70 people as he recounts a personal tale from 16th April 1941.

We left the Irish firemen on the Shankill Road and went down Percy Street, the scene of the greatest disaster of the raid. A shelter had suffered a direct hit and almost 70 people were killed when it collapsed. I knew many of those who died. When I was serving my apprenticeship in that area, I had walked up Percy Street every evening. One of the women standing close by remembered me and recalled my friendship with a young girl who lived in the street. She was very pretty and often waited for me as I came out of the workshop. The older boys chaffed me about this but, as I have said, she was very pretty and I was proud that she had singled me out from the other boys. She was in the shelter when the bomb hit it. I swallowed hard and held back a tear. My memory went back to those days and my first day at work. But we had to push on, so I wished the old woman goodbye and we continued down the debris-strewn street towards the Falls Road.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records suggest that 37 people died in Percy Street that night. Two more died later as a result of their injuries at the Royal Victoria Hospital. Of those, 10 had sought refuge in the public air raid shelter. In total, 29 residents of Percy Street died as a result of enemy action on the night of 16th April 1941.

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