Thomas William Bleakley

Civilian Thomas William Bleakley was a joiner from Thorndyke Street, East Belfast, Co. Down. He died in an air raid shelter on the night of 15th April 1941.


Thomas William Bleakley

Joiner Thomas William Bleakley lived with his wife and sister-in-law on Thorndyke Street, Belfast, Co. Down when the Luftwaffe attacked on the night of 15th-16th April 1941.

Civilian Thomas William Bleakley died during the Belfast Blitz on 15th April 1941 aged 51 years old. Born on 18th December 1890, he was the son of Thomas William Bleakley and Agnes Bleakley (née McLean) of Ashton Street, Belfast.

Thomas had an older brother Robert Bleakley born on 2nd October 1888. Younger siblings followed; Lilian Bleakley born on 4th November 1892, Mary Johnston Bleakley born on 28th September 1894, Edmund Bleakley born on 19th April 1897, Oscar Dallas Bleakley born on 28th August 1899, Cecil Joseph Bleakley born on 14th May 1902, Albert Bleakley born on 23rd August 1905. During this time, the family moved from Ashton Street to Lawther Place to Tamar Street to Witham Street to Laburnum Street to Crystal Street and to East Bread Street.

Belfast Blitz - Thorndyke Street

Belfast Telegraph Photo: AR 175 (Part of the Belfast Telegraph Collection). Alexander Irwin Thompson stands next to his father Reverend MA Thompson (Mountpottinger Presbyterian Church), and 2 Air Raid Precautions volunteers near the site of where the air raid shelter had stood on Thorndyke Street, Belfast. This photo is part of a collection published in 'Bombs on Belfast: The Blitz 1941'. Photo taken on 16th April 1941. Copyright Belfast Telegraph.

By April 1941, Thomas lived at 8 Thorndyke Street, Belfast with his wife Matilda Violey Bleakley, and her sister Mary Ann Crotty. Thomas and Matilda married on Christmas Day 25th December 1913 at Newtownards Road Methodist Church, Belfast, Co. Down. The couple had 3 children, Thomas William Bleakley born on 17th December 1914, Marion Crotty Bleakley born in September 1916, and Edmund Bleakley born in 1918.

On the night of 15th-16th April 1941, the Luftwaffe attacked the city of Belfast in what became known as The Easter Raid of the Belfast Blitz. Thorndyke Street sustained severe damage and a high loss of life on that night.

Among the dead were Thomas William Bleakley, Matilda Violet Bleakley, and Mary Ann Crotty. Thomas William Bleakley’s name is on the Civilian War Dead Roll of Honour at St. George’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey, London.

On 26th June 1941, an inquest took place at Belfast City Hall. Coroner Dr. Herbert P Lowe heard evidence relating to the reported deaths of many victims of the Blitz. Thomas William Bleakley’s son also Thomas William Bleakley of Loopland Park, Belfast asked whether there would be an inquiry into the condition of the city’s air-raid shelters. Lowe responded that it was a matter for the local Air Raid Precautions or the City Surveyor.