The North Strand Bombing was the most serious atrocity inflicted on neutral Ireland during the Second World War. On the night of 31 May 1941, four high-explosive bombs were dropped by German aircraft on the North Strand/Summerhill area of Dublin City. The casualties were many: 28 dead and 90 injured, with 300 houses damaged or destroyed. The tragedy has resonated with Irish people ever since, and especially in Dublin, where it has passed into the collective community memory.
Ireland (formerly the Irish Free State) remained neutral during the Second World War, but a ‘national emergency’ was declared. The period from 1939 to 1945 has been known ever since as ‘The Emergency’.
Despite this neutrality, the Nazi Germany Luftwaffe dropped bombs along the east coast on several occasions, beginning in county Wexford in August 1940, and ending with the North Strand the following year. On 19 June 1941, the Irish government announced that the Nazi regime had expressed regret for the North Strand bombing and had promised compensation.
The North Strand Bombing caused shock and revulsion, as revealed in contemporary newspapers and documents. The Irish Red Cross provided emergency shelter at the Mansion House and in parish halls throughout the city. Charleville Mall Public Library was designated as headquarters for the bombed area. Damaged houses were repaired where possible, and those made homeless by the bombing were re-located to Dublin Corporation’s new housing estates at Cabra and Crumlin.
The worst damage was inflicted on the North Strand itself, on the North Circular Road, and on Clarence Street North, but there was also extensive damage at Summerhill, Quinn’s Cottages, and Charleville Mall.
Compensation was provided for owners of damaged or destroyed property under the terms of the Neutrality (War Damage to Property) Act 1941. Dublin Corporation acquired two areas where the bomb damage was most severe, one off Summerhill Parade, and one off the North Strand, for the purpose of clearing the districts and developing a new housing scheme.
Photographs of destruction caused by the North Strand Bombing were commissioned by Dublin Corporation as evidence for the assessment of insurance claims. The work was entrusted to a local photographer, Henry McCrae, of 152 Clontarf Road, who began work on 4 June 1941 and continued until the end of October.
Photographer McCrae was supplied with a permit from Dublin City Manager, Dr. P.J. Hernon, allowing him ‘to pass through the cordons at the North Strand and Summerhill Areas for the purpose of photographing buildings demolished, or about to be demolished, for record and assessment purposes’.
These photographs record destroyed buildings but also the indestructible spirit of North Strand, as people continue their daily work and young children play in the rubble of devastated streets. The original photographs are held at Dublin City Library & Archive, but can be viewed on this site.
A plaque to commemorate the victims of the North Strand Bombing was unveiled at Charleville Mall Public Library on 31 May 2001, the 60th anniversary of the atrocity.