Personal Stories

Colette Herra’s Story

Colette Herra’s father was a member of the auxiliary fire brigade service in Dublin during the Emergency. He was called out to fires after both the Belfast Bombing and North Strand Bombing. Listen to story here:

Duration: 8 mins.


Project Name: North Strand Oral History Project Phase 1 Track Number: 02 Name of the Interviewee: Colette Herra Name of Interviewers: Ellen Murphy and Elizabeth Kane Place of Interview: The Lab, Foley Street, Dublin 1 Date of Interview: 6 April 2009 Name of Transcribers: Elizabeth Kane and Ellen Murphy Length of Track: 00:07:59 Ellen Murphy (EM): You are very welcome Colette. This interview is taking place on the 6th April 2009 with Colette Herra and Ellen Murphy from Dublin City Archives. Also present is Elizabeth Kane and Ulrike Nilsson of Dublin City Archives. So before we start Colette could you let me know your date of birth? Colette Herra (CH): 20th of July 1941 EM: So you’re here to talk about your father [Mr. George Doddard] who was a member of the Auxiliary Fire Brigade. What age would he have been in 1941? CH: Well about 32. EM: What was his job besides being in the Auxiliary Fire Brigade? CH: Well he worked in a Company called Smith’s Sack Company, somewhere down I think it was Sheriff Street or something. They made sacks, and he actually worked on a horse and cart, delivering the sacks. So that was during the week and on Saturdays as well. But on Sunday morning he was responsible for feeding the horse and looking after the horse as well. But on a Sunday morning he used to have to go down now, this is what my Father told me, he used to have to go down and feed and water the horse. EM: So seven days a week then. CH: Yes, yes EM: So when World War II broke out, he decided to volunteer for the Auxiliary Fire Brigade? CH: That’s right yes. EM: And do you know where he was based or with what unit? CH: Yes, they were based in Thomas Street, up in the Liberties. That’s where they were based. EM: Did he receive any training or did he ever speak about that? CH: Well he didn’t speak about that, but I found a book for the Auxiliary Fireman, you know in the house. I read a bit through it and I just saw things that they would have learned out of it. EM: So what way did it [auxiliary fire brigade] work then? Was there certain hours he was on call. Did he still have his day job? CH: Yes he still had his day job. I’m not sure now of what hours he would have been on. EM: But he was ready if needed. C.M: Yes, if needed EM: He was on duty the night of the North Strand Bombing? CH: That’s right, yes, well this is the stories I heard later from him- that they were on duty and they went to fire in the North Strand Bombing. You know. EM: Did he have any specific memories that he told you about the bomb or the people? CH: No EM: Did he not really talk about it in detail? CH: He didn’t. No, no. It was just like that we had heard that he had gone to the fire and the bombing but he didn’t really talk about it a lot. EM: And your father received a medal? CH: He did yes. E.M And did maybe the Lord Mayor of the time present it to him? CH: I don’t know who presented the medal. That’s something I don’t know. EM: It’s lovely to have the medals though. Do you still have them? CH: No, my brother has them. He’s away in England and he has them. Elizabeth Kane (EK): Were you worried as children, when you heard that he had to go to the North Strand bombing? CH: Well I wasn’t born. I wasn’t born until the July [1941] (laughs) EK Were any other of your siblings worried? Or your mother? CH: Well my Mam I’d say she would have been worried. But there was no other, I was the eldest, I was only coming along. EM: It must have been a very worrying time for your mother. EK It must have been, I say yes. EM: You have some photographs here as well? CH: I have yes. EM: So this photograph here is of the Auxiliary Fire men, and there are seven guys in the photograph, and your dad is CH: This is my Dad here EM: He’s the third person on the back row, and you know one of his friends as well. CH: This is his friend John, John Brennan. EM: So he is seated on the front row. And this is their special uniform CH: That is their uniform yes. EM: I read that they were allowed to keep their badges and helmets but they had to return their fire equipment. Did you ever find any of parts of the uniform around the house? CH: No, no EM: And now we will just look at this second picture, and this is a much larger picture, with three rows of men, all in uniform, so this is the auxiliary fire service plus the regular service is it? CH: No, no that was all the auxiliary fire service. That was the whole squad, is that what you call them? EM: Where is your father in this one? CH: Here he is there. EM: So he is on the end of the middle row on the right hand side. Is there anything else you would like to tell us or any memories that you have of your Dad, that you would like recorded, in relation to being a fireman during World War II? CH: I know that they went up to the bombing, to help with the bombing when it was in Belfast and they went up to that to help-for which he received another medal. I presume the other men did as well, and then I heard there was a shoe factory in Back Lane of Thomas street, and there was a big fire there. There the three specific ones that I heard about that, that they went on EM: And growing up were you aware of the North Strand Bombing around? Did people talk about it in the fifties in Dublin? Any events to commemorate the dead every year? CH: No, I didn’t hear anything about that. It was only like, you know through my Dad mentioning it now again and then I would have known about it. EM: Do you have any questions Liz? EK Later on in life, when you got older, when your Dad was telling you stories of all the fires that he helped out with, did he, talk about injuries that people suffered or anything like that? CH: No I don’t remember that. EK Maybe he didn’t want to scare you as a child (laughs) CH: Maybe. EK: The only thing I’d like to ask you is this [where the photograph was taken] Meath Street Barracks? Or Thomas Street Barracks? CH: That is up in Thomas Street. EK Is it up at the back where Guinness’s is? CH: No. You come up Meath street there, and that was Thomas Street, and it was just over across the road to the right, a little bit to the right, -that’s where the station was. EK Is it near where the National College of Art and Design is? CH: Actually, I think that’s where the College is now or was. But I do remember, I don’t how old I was, I’m not sure when they were disbanded, but I do remember my Father bringing me down and seeing all the equipment there. I have a memory of that, a vague memory. EK That’s lovely isn’t. Did he let you slide down the pole? (laughs) CH: No, they slid down the pole for me, to show me. (laughs) EM: I was just thinking he were very brave to go up to Belfast, because you had to volunteer CH: That’s right yes. EM: You had a choice to go or not. So he must have put his hand up for it. CH: He probably did yes. EM: And I believe there was issues as well, that they wouldn’t have been covered by insurance, so if anything had happened, thank God nothing did, but your mother might not have necessarily got a widows pension? CH: That’s something I didn’t know that. EM: All the fireman were asked did they want to go but it was completely at their own risk, but so many of them did. They didn’t think of their own lives really. CH: No, they just wanted to help out. EM: I think we might leave it at that CH: There’s not a lot really I can tell you. There are other parts of Dublin that I remember that I can tell you about for another time, but I know this is specifically what you want to do at the moment (The North Strand Bombing) EM: That’s been great. Thank you very much. Interview Ends