Noel Brady was standing with his father at the hall  door of their family home on St. Ignatius Road in Dublin’s North Strand area when they heard the drone of a Nazi Luftwaffe bomber flying overhead.

“I saw flashes in the sky. My father shoved me onto the ground and down on top of me he went. There was a very loud explosion,” he said.

(Left: A Heinkel He 111, the type of aircraft that bombed Dublin.)

It was May 31, 1941, Noel was 21 at the time and a member of the St John Ambulance Brigade. He grabbed his bicycle and raced to the scene and was soon treating the injured in rubble-strewn streets. He would continue to do so for the next 12 hours.

To this day, the death toll is still a little sketchy – at least 28 were killed, and a hundred injured. Three hundred homes were damaged, and all this from one 500 lb. bomb, which was dropped at 2 a.m.

The memories of that night are still with Noel 75 years later. The first person he treated was a man with a gash across his forehead.

“A lot of people were bleeding. I bandaged many people that night. Those that were seriously injured were taken immediately to hospital,” he recalled in an interview with The Herald newspaper.

“A lot of people were frightened, but there was no panic.”

The sight of children’s toys and dolls lying among the rubble was particularly hard to take, though.

As bad as things were, they could have been a lot worse, because it wasn’t just one bomb that had been dropped, there were four in total.

North Strand1

Damaged homes caused by the bomb dropped on the North Strand, in Dublin.

The first bomb fell on the suburb of Ballybough, destroying two houses. The second dropped near the President’s residence in the Phoenix Park, shattering some windows, while the third fell on the North Circular Road. Miraculously, nobody was injured.

Reports later described how the German aircraft that dropped the deadly cargo had circled the city for some time, making low passes across what is now Connolly railway station “as if awaiting instructions of some sort.”

On that day – May 31, 1941 – the Mayor of Baghdad was surrendering that city to British forces, thereby ending the Anglo-Iraqi War. In another theater, British troops were busy evacuating from Crete in the face of German attacks.

Those two events are blips in terms of the history of World War II, as is what happened in Dublin that morning 75 years ago.

I look at the images of North Strand on the day of that tragedy and I shake my head. My heart goes out to those families, but my head thinks of Londoners during the Blitz, and I can’t help but wonder how they coped when bombs rained down on Britain for 57 consecutive days.

German authorities later claimed the bombing to be due to a navigational error – that the real target had been Belfast (British territory, for those unsure of the Irish geo-political map). However, some speculated that it may actually have been a warning to the neutral Irish government, which had sent fire fighters into Belfast to tackle blazes caused by German air raids.

The West German Government later paid £344,000 in compensation for the death and damage that had been caused – but, of course, you can’t put a price on loved one’s lives.

Thankfully, for Ireland, the North Strand bombing would be the closest we would come to enduring the horror of World War II – a blessing for the country, but scant consolation for the families of those who died.

Views: 1456

Tags: The Emergency, War, World War 2

Comment by Joe Gannon on June 1, 2016 at 11:34am

I believe I saw a story a few years back in which someone claimed that some Luftwaffe documents had been discovered that included an order to purposely bomb Dublin that night. I've searched on line though and can't seem to locate it. I'm sure that Belfast and Derry and other larger cities in the north must have been blacked out, while Dublin wouldn't have been. It's hard to imagine how a German pilot wouldn't realized that a fully illuminated large city on the east coast of the island was obviously going to be Dublin.

Comment by David Lawlor on June 2, 2016 at 6:14am

It does seem strange that the Nazis could have got it so wrong, and your point about the blackout is a good one.

Comment by Gerry Regan on June 3, 2016 at 11:35am

I lived in digs at 27, St. Mobhi Road, Glasnevin, about three miles north of city center, from October 1973 through June 1974. The owner and occupant-in-chief of the semi-attached house was a widow named Evelyn Mullan, then 62 years of age, who became during that time another mother to me. She related to me one evening over dinner that during 'The Emergency' the broad window above her kitchen's sink offered her a remarkable view of a German bomber flying by. This was quite some time ago, this memory, but I seem to recall her saying she saw a British fighter trying to engage the Nazi plane. Both apparently flew off to continue their battle out of her sight. Is this possible, or perhaps that recollection of hers was essentially that of this German plane flying by prior to dropping its three bombs. Were there any other such bombing incidents in Dublin?

Comment by David Lawlor on June 3, 2016 at 11:41am

I know Mobhi Road, Gerry. I'm from Stoneybatter, which is just a short distance away. I haven't seen any references to a fighter plane with regards to the North Strand bombing , but that's not to say it couldn't be true. Perhaps, though, what she saw happened on a different day?

Comment by Gerry Regan on June 3, 2016 at 11:51am

That seems more likely since I presume she was washing her dishes at a decent hour (not the wee hours that marked the May 31 incursion into Dublin's airspace.

Comment by Joe Gannon on June 3, 2016 at 1:39pm

There were several other incidents of smaller German bombings of Irish territory. This list of them does include one that happened at 6 am in south Dublin on January 2, 1941. It would have been light then I imagine and the plane doing it could have flown over north Dublin even if the bombs were dropped in south Dublin. And perhaps it could have had a British fighter on it's tail. So she could have been at her kitchen sink then if she was an early riser. Also, given all these incidents when bombs dropped, there were probably many other times when German planes flew over Ireland without any bombs being dropped. In fact this website says "... throughout the 1940 - 1941 period, it appears that Irish Army Authorities frequently plotted aircraft flying deep within Irish airspace." So what she saw wouldn't necessarily have to coincide with any bombs falling on Dublin. There may have been many incidents of it that were never even mentioned in any papers. 

Comment by David Lawlor on June 3, 2016 at 2:38pm

There are plenty of Luftwaffe crew buried in the German graveyard in Glencree, a fact which would support your point, Joe

Founding Member
Comment by Liam Murphy on June 5, 2016 at 2:00pm

In 1971, while in grad school in Dublin, I was told that this bombing of Dublin was intended to send a message to deValera to not send the Dublin Fire Brigade down to the North when the Germans were bombing "British" targets.  It seems that the Nazis had no more regard for the 1937 Éire Constitution (which claimed "the entire Island of Ireland, its islands and territorial seas") than did the Brits.  I also learned that there was a second bombing of Dublin -- after which the German Ambassador told the Dublin government, "This time it wasn't us."  Gee, you don't suppose Mr. Churchill's RAF was guilty of a similar "navigational error", or were they just masquerading as Luftwaffe (?).

Comment by David Lawlor on June 5, 2016 at 7:58pm

I wouldn't put it past Churchill to do such a thing, Liam

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Comment by Liam Murphy on June 5, 2016 at 10:58pm

Glencree is uniquely, deceptively beautiful for a war cemetery.  The central man-made object is a three-sided obelisk, bearing the same message in Irish, in German and in English.  Most of those buried there were German aviators and sailors who, in distress/desperation, headed for Ireland, seeking refuge. 


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