Brice Harkness

Volunteer fireman Brice Harkness from Cookstown is thought to be the first Auxiliary Fire Service victim of the Luftwaffe's Belfast Blitz on 7th April 1941.

Fireman

Brice Harkness

Volunteer fireman Brice Harkness from Cookstown is thought to be the first Auxiliary Fire Service victim of the Luftwaffe's Belfast Blitz on 7th April 1941.

Brice Harkness served with the Auxiliary Fire Service during World War Two. He died on duty alongside colleague Archibald McDonald on 7th April 1941.

Harkness, aged 25 years old, was the first recorded death of a fireman during the Belfast Blitz. He was the son of Thomas Harkness of Lismoney, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone.

The Docks Raid

The night of 7th April 1941 saw the Luftwaffe attack Belfast for the first time. Brice Harkness and Archibald McDonald were with the Auxiliary Fire Service near the docks. This area of Belfast city suffered worse than most.

Soon after midnight, the skies over Belfast illuminated with parachute flares. Firebombs rained down and buildings like the McCue, Dick and Co. timber yard on Duncrue Street burned into the night.

The Belfast Fire Brigade and the Auxiliary Fire Service rushed to the scene. By the end of The Docks Raid at around 0400hrs, flames enveloped Short and Harland and other buildings.

During the raid, a parachute mine fell close to where Harkness and McDonald were battling the flames. Believing it to be a German pilot bailing out, the men rushed towards it. The mine exploded fatally wounding both men.

Remembering Brice Harkness

Fireman Brice Harkness’ grave is in Belfast City Cemetery, Belfast, Co. Antrim. He is commemorated at Belfast City Hall, Molesworth Presbyterian Church and on the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service memorial in Lisburn, Co. Antrim.

Newsletter Signup

If you'd like to hear more from WartimeNI, you can sign up for regular free updates to your inbox. Just enter your email address below.