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The first bombing of neutral Republic of Ireland,[1] during World War II took place on 26 August 1940, when the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) dropped bombs at Campile, County Wexford killing three people. The first bombing of the city of Dublin occurred early on the morning of 2 January 1941 when German bombs were dropped in the Terenure area of south Dublin.[2] This was followed the next night by further German bombing of houses in Donore Terrace in the South Circular Road area of south Dublin in the early morning of 3 January 1941.[3][4] Although a number of people were injured, no one was killed in these bombings. Later the same year, on 31 May 1941, four German bombs fell in north Dublin, with the greatest damage in the North Strand area, killing 28 people.[5][9]


At the beginning of the Second World War, Ireland declared its neutrality and proclaimed "The Emergency". By July 1940 Britain stood alone with her Commonwealth and Empire against Germany, after Germany's military conquests of Poland, Denmark and Norway (Operation Weserübung), France and the Netherlands (Battle of France), most of which had been neutral. By May 1941 the German Air Force had bombed numerous British cities, including Belfast in Northern Ireland in "The Blitz". Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom was at war, but the independent state of Ireland was neutral. German area bombings aimed in the direction of the British Isles were reduced after the launch of Operation Barbarossa in late June 1941.

Timeline of German bombings of the Irish state

Despite its neutrality, Ireland experienced a number of bombing raids:

  • 26 August 1940; Five German bombs were dropped on County Wexford in a daylight raid. One bomb hit the Shelbourne Co-operative Creamery in Campile killing three people .[10] In 1943 the German government paid £9000 in compensation.[11][12]
  • 20 December 1940; Around 7.30pm two bombs fell in Sandycove near Dun Laoghaire (the first at the junction of Rosmeen Park and Summerhill Road and the second between Rosmeen Park and Rosmeen Gardens), injuring three people. A third bomb fell around 8pm near Shantonagh near Carrickmacross in County Monaghan, slightly injuring one person.[13][14]
  • Night of 1–2 January 1941; bombs fell in Counties Meath, Carlow, Kildare, Wicklow, Wexford and Dublin.[15] Meath: five bombs fell at Duleek and three bombs at Julianstown, without casualties;[16][17] Carlow: a house in Knockroe was destroyed, killing three people and injuring two others;[15][18] Kildare:three high explosive bombs and many incendiary bombs fell in the Curragh area; Wicklow: two sea mines were dropped by parachute near Enniskerry; Wexford: three German bombs fell near Ballymurrin without casualties;[15] Dublin: German bombs hit Terenure in Dublin, two falling at Rathdown Park, and two at Fortfield Road and Lavarna Grove,[2] with injuries but no loss of life.
  • Night of 3 January 1941; Dublin was again hit by German bombers, with bombs falling in Donore Terrace in the South Circular Road area with 20 people injured, but no loss of life.[3][4]
  • 31 May 1941; four German bombs fell on North Dublin, with much damage in the North Strand area and 28 people killed.[5][6][19][20][9]
  • 2 June 1941, Arklow was bombed by the Luftwaffe with no casualties.[19]
  • 24 July 1941, Bombs fell on Dundalk, causing only minor damage and no casualties.[21]

The Terenure Bombing

Around 6am on 2 January 1941, two bombs were dropped in Rathdown Park, Terenure.[3] The first bomb, which dropped behind the houses at the corner of Rathdown Park and Rathfarnham, road landed in soft ground and created a large crater but caused little other damage. The second landed behind the houses at 25 and 27 Rathdown Park, destroying both and damaging many neighbouring houses. Two other bombs were dropped on the corner of Lavarna Grove and Fortfield Road, close to the Kimmage Crossroads (KCR). Lavarna Grove was still under construction at this time and the bomb fell on undeveloped ground with the nearby houses at nos. 10 Lavarna Grove suffering the worst damage. Only one person was slightly injured, and there was no loss of life.

The Donore Bombing

Just before 4am on the morning of 3 January 1941, a bomb fell at the rear of the houses at 91 and 93 Donore Terrace in the South Circular Road area of Dublin.[3][4] Three houses were destroyed and about fifty houses damaged. Donore Presbyterian Church, the attached school and the Jewish Synagogue in Donore were also damaged. 20 people were injured, but there was no loss of life.

The North Strand Bombing

Around 2am on 31 May 1941 four German bombs dropped on north Dublin.[5][20] One bomb fell in the Ballybough area, demolishing two houses at 43 and 44 Summerhill Park,[5] injuring many but with no loss of life. A second fell at the Dog Pond pumping works near the Zoo in Phoenix Park, with no casualties but damaging Áras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the Irish President (Douglas Hyde at the time).[5] A third made a large crater in the North Circular Road near Summerhill,[20] causing no injuries. A fourth, which was apparently a landmine, fell in North Strand destroying 17 houses and severely damaging about 50 others, with the worst damage in the area between Seville Place and Newcomen Bridge.[5][19] The raid claimed the lives of 28 people,[9] injured 90, destroyed or damaged approximately 300 houses, and left 400 people homeless.

On 5 June, a mass funeral was held for 12 of the victims; Éamon de Valera, the Taoiseach, and other government officials attended. De Valera made a speech in the Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the Irish Parliament) on the same day:

Members of the Dáil desire to be directly associated with the expression of sympathy already tendered by the Government on behalf of the nation to the great number of our citizens who have been so cruelly bereaved by the recent bombing. Although a complete survey has not yet been possible, the latest report which I have received is that 27 persons were killed outright or subsequently died; 45 were wounded or received other serious bodily injury and are still in hospital; 25 houses were completely destroyed and 300 so damaged as to be unfit for habitation, leaving many hundreds of our people homeless. It has been for all our citizens an occasion of profound sorrow in which the members of this House have fully shared. (Members rose in their places.) The Dáil will also desire to be associated with the expression of sincere thanks which has gone out from the Government and from our whole community to the several voluntary organisations the devoted exertions of whose members helped to confine the extent of the disaster and have mitigated the sufferings of those affected by it. As I have already informed the public, a protest has been made to the German Government. The Dáil will not expect me, at the moment, to say more on this head.[22]

The then-West Germany later accepted responsibility for the raid, and by 1958 it paid compensation of £327,000. Over 2,000 claims for compensation were processed by the Irish government, eventually costing £344,000.[23] East Germany and Austria, which were both part of Germany in 1941, made no contribution. The amounts were fixed after the 1953 Agreement on German External Debts, allowing maximum compensation.

Cause of the North Strand Raid

Several reasons for the raid have been asserted over time. Among the most discussed are: a navigational error; a deliberate attack in retaliation for Irish assistance to the victims of the Luftwaffe's bombings of Belfast; a warning to Ireland not to assist Britain during the war or a deflection of radio beams on which the Luftwaffe relied. Unlike British cities Dublin was not subject to full blackout regulations, so the city would have been visible from the air, unlike Belfast. A limited blackout had been ordered as from 15 April. An Irish Department of Defence report dated 16 July 1941 noted that un-blacked-out Irish lights were often used by the Luftwaffe as an "aid to navigation" towards Northern Ireland, and that: "...the lights on the south coast and Dublin were used as points of arrival and departure in synchronized timing."[24]

German Radio, operated by the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, broadcast that – "it is impossible that the Germans bombed Dublin intentionally".[25] Irish airspace had been violated repeatedly, and both Allied and German airmen were being interned at the Curragh. A possible cause was a navigational error and mistaken target. Numerous large cities in the United Kingdom were targeted for bombing, including Belfast, which like Dublin is across the Irish Sea from Great Britain. Navigational error, equipment malfunction, or weather may also have played a role. A pilot who was one of the pathfinders on the raid later recounted this as the cause of the raid.[26] War-time Germany's acceptance of responsibility and post-war Germany's payment of compensation are cited as further indications that the causation was error on the part of the Luftwaffe pilots.

Irish neutrality in the Second World War was stretched. In April 1941, Germany had launched the Belfast blitz. Belfast, in Northern Ireland and therefore part of the United Kingdom was bombed severely during April. In response, Ireland had sent rescue, fire, and emergency personnel to Belfast to assist the city, and De Valera formally protested the bombing to the German government and made his famous "they are our people" speech. Ireland's response must have seemed unexpected from a neutral state, and some have contended that the raid served as a warning to Ireland to keep out of the war. This contention was expanded upon by Colonel Edward Flynn, second cousin of Ireland's Minister for Coordination of Defensive Measures, who recalled to the press that Lord Haw Haw warned Ireland that Dublin's Amiens Street Railway Station, where a stream of refugees from Belfast was arriving, would be bombed. The station, now called Connolly Station, stands a few hundred metres from North Strand Road, where the bombing damage was heaviest.[26] He similarly contended that the German bombing of Dundalk on 4 July was pre-warned by Lord Haw Haw as a punishment for Dundalk being the point of shipment of Irish cattle sold to the United Kingdom.

After the war, Winston Churchill said that the British could interfere with direction finding radio signals that the Luftwaffe used to guide bombers to their targets "The bombing of Dublin on the night of May 30, 1941, may well have been an unforeseen and unintended result of our interference with "Y"."[27] He was referring to the Battle of the Beams.

Some intelligence officials claimed that such interference caused the planes to hit Dublin. The technology, however, was not sufficiently well-developed by mid-1941 to have deflected planes from one target to another specific target, and could only limit the ability of bombers to receive the signals.[26]

See also


  1. For the technical difference in the names of the Irish state, see Names of the Irish state
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Houses Wrecked in Dublin Suburb", The Irish Times, 3 January 1941.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "More Bombs Dropped on Dublin", The Irish Times, 3 January 1941.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Damage in Dublin Yesterday", The Irish Times, 4 January 1941
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 "Bombs in Dublin This Morning: Many Killed", The Irish Times, 31 May 1941
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Dublin's Death-Roll May be Thirty-Five", The Irish Times, 3 June 1941
  7. "Formal Verdicts", The Irish Times, 4 June 1941
  8. "Dublin City & County", The Irish Times, p7, 20 August 1941
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 There appears to be some disagreement on this number. Initial reports quoted 34 people killed,[6] the formal inquest found 25 people killed with a further two bodies subsequently uncovered from the rubble;[7] some months later Lily Behan died of injuries sustained during the bombing taking the toll to 28.[8]
  10. "Three Irish Girls Killed By German Bombs", The Irish Times, 27 August 1940
  11. Irish Times report, 27 August 1940
  12. "German Compensation for Bombing at Campile", The Irish Times, 14 February 1946
  13. "Bombs Fall in County Dublin", The Irish Times, 21 December 1940
  14. "Bombs Fall in Counties Dublin and Monaghan", Irish Independent, 21 December 1941
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 "How Three Women Died in Carlow", The Irish Times, 3 January 1941.
  16. "Official Statement", The Irish Times, 3 January 1941
  17. "Bombs Fall Near Drogheda", Irish Independent, 2 January 1941
  18. "Women Die in Wrecked Home", Irish Independent, 3 January 1941
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "German Bombs were Dropped on Dublin", The Irish Times, 2 June 1941
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 "German Bombs Dropped on Dublin", The Irish Times, 7 June 1941
  21. "Bombs Fall at Dundalk", Irish Independent, 25 July 1941
  22. "The Dublin Bombing". Dáil Debates, Volume 83. Dáil Éireann. 5 June 1941. 
  23. "Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. – North Strand Bombing Compensation.". Dáil Debates, Volume 254. Dáil Éireann. 8 June 1971. 
  24. Barton, Brian (1995). Northern Ireland in the Second World War. Ulster Historical Foundation. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-901905-69-7. 
  25. O'Donoghue, David (1998). Hitler's Irish voices: the story of German radio's wartime Irish service. Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications. p. 61. ISBN 1-900960-04-4. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Fisk, Robert (24 January 1999). "Why the Nazis bombed Dublin". The Independent. 
  27. Churchill, Winston (1949). The Second World War (vol 2). London: Cassell and Co. Ltd. pp. 344. 


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