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The bombing of North Strand, 1941… July 31, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish History, The Left.
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I’ve been reading an interesting book recently on the wartime bombing of Dublin in May 1941. By Kevin C. Kearns, an US historian who has written a series of books on Dublin, it’s entitled The Bombing of Dublin’s North Strand, 1941.

In comparison to the conflict globally this may have seemed like a small event, four bombs (one of which was a massively explosive landmine designed to inflict maximum damage) were dropped across an hour or so. One fell in Phoenix Park, the other three off North Circular Road and on the west side of North Strand. 40 people or more (numbers remain imprecise) were killed by the bombs, an hundred more were very seriously injured and many many more were less seriously injured.

The motivation for the bombing remains uncertain, an accident or some sort of effort to send a message to the Irish government (particularly in the wake of assistance to Belfast after the bombing there earlier that year? Certainly the evidence can be argued either way, though I guess on balance I’d tend to the accident theory (that said there’s curious evidence that the bomber pilot flew repeatedly over the scene at low level as if looking for something and the fact it was so limited a bombing is odd too).

It’s a fascinating book which covers the ground forensically and builds into a real picture of life in the city during that period and that Whit weekend. It’s also filled with photographs of the aftermath of the event.

But one fascinating chapter engages with the issue of those who were left homeless by the bombings, many of whom were rehoused in Cabra which at that time was considered a part of the country by inner city residents. Their plight is unfortunately – having read Conor’s Sins of the Father - much less a surprise than it might have been. Families and individuals were quite literally abandoned to new houses that had been built too quickly (so that when fires were lit chimney breasts cracked) with only blankets.

The rents on the new properties were often double the rents they used to pay to the Corporation. And there’s one telling anecdote which in some respects is an example of the attitude that has persisted well into the contemporary era in relation to such matters.

Some new inhabitants [in Cabra] were left virtually helpless. Nan Davis tells of the hardship of two widow friends, Ginny and her sister Rosie. The bombing had rendered them essentially destitute.

“Ginny’s husband died and she was left with three children. Then her house was bombed. Lost everything! And the Government never done anything about it. They got nothing. Never go compensation, not a bed, not a cup. Just let them go and they had to find their own way. That was an awful thing.”

Nor did they receive any sympathy from one corporation official to whom they turned. avid well remembers the day that Ginny and Rosie timidly went to the corporation offices to seek some small compensation – any bit of help – to get them through life. The man flatly turned them away, dismissing their tragedy in a huffy tone, tell them “it was Providence. Providence that happened – couldn’t be prevented.”

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1. Dr. X - August 1, 2012

When I lived in Belfast, I once heard a radio documentary about the North Strand bombings on BBC NI. Amongst other things it claimed that the bombing was a deliberate attempt by the Reich to punish the Irish Free State for being neutral on the allied side.

Anyone else heard that one? And is it a claim with any credibility, or just more myth making?

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2. Damian O'Broin (@damianobroin) - August 1, 2012

I’ve got that book in my still-to-read pile myself. I’ve dipped into it but need to go back and get stuck in.

Two things that struck me. One was the utter indifference shown by official Ireland – from the anecdotes you mention through to the failure to properly commemorate it – the garden on North Strand Road coming decades later and only when the local community made it happen.

And the other is the way the bombing left such physical scars – with the neat rows of redbricks and shops replaced by flats. I wonder how area would have fared if it had remained intact?

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3. oceanclub - August 3, 2012

Does anyone know of a map showing the actual areas of damage?

Cheers,

P.

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WorldbyStorm - August 3, 2012

Very good question. There’s one in the book which is okay, but a poor one available on DCC site.

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4. ghandi - August 3, 2012

The only area in the city that has been bombed and flooded and that has also seen the assassination of 2 senior political figures.

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EamonnCork - August 3, 2012

Pardon the ignorance g, Seamus Costello and who?

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