Terence Murphy was 19 in 1941 and serving in the B-Company, 22nd infantry battalion of the Irish Army. He was stationed at Collinstown Airport (Dublin airport) and manning a Lewis Machine Gun as the German planes flew overhead. He speaks about his memories of the night and the aftermath of the bombing. He also speaks generally about his experiences in the Irish army during the Emergency in Ireland.
Listen to Terence’s story here:
Project Name: North Strand Oral History Project (Part 1)
Track Number: 05
Name of the Interviewee: Terence Murphy
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: 29:25
Ellen Murphy (EM): This is the interview with Mr. Terence Murphy on the 6th April 2009 and Also present is Ellen Murphy, Elizabeth Kane and Ulrika Nillson from Dublin City Archives.
EM: So If you just want to start and tell us what age were you around 1940, you born in what year?
Terence Murphy (TM): Well I was born on 2nd June 1922. I was 18 on 2nd June 1940, and I joined the army in September. The 6th September 1940, I joined the army. I did my recruit training in Portobello and then we were marched up to the Hibernian Schools, now St. Mary’s Hospital in the Phoenix Park, and then we went from there then to Santry Court.
There had been a fire there in the big mansion in Santry Court and it was 7th Battalion as far as I can remember, were there at the time and we were brought up and we replaced them, and then we went out then. A company of us went to Dublin Airport -it was B Company – 22nd infantry battalion- we went to Collinstown Airport, now Dublin Airport.
And then of course the bombing started in May then and we were all of course rushed out to man our posts. And I had a Lewis Gun, a Lewis Machine Gun and there were artillery guns there and I think they were bofors now I’m not quite sure. And we could see the tracer shells being fired from them. I don’t think I fired the Lewis- we didn’t have to fire the Lewis machine gun, because it wouldn’t have been of any, it wouldn’t have been effective. So that’s that. I know remember, I vaguely remember hearing the explosions on the North Strand, and the following day then a lot of the men who were off duty or that- they went in to see the damage, that was done in the North Strand. And I think there was some that had been sent in for patrol duty. I heard later on, now of course this was only, you know, just second hand information, we heard there were looters and they were looting. So that was that. That’s about all I can remember of the North Strand Bombing.
I do remember the bombing on the South Circular Road and I remember the bombing of Clanbrassil Street- which was mainly a Jewish quarter at that time- and but there was also a bomb dropped at some time in the Phoenix Park at the Dog Pond. There was a Bungalow there and there was a couple lived in it. They were out at the time that the bomb dropped. I think when they came home, their home, it was demolished. I don’t know whether it was all demolished or not but anyway.
EM: And just to take you back to the night of the North Strand bombing, Where you on duty then or were you in the barracks?
TM: No, we didn’t have to be. We were just there, there wasn’t any duty. You know then of course when the bombs dropped, the bugle went to stand to and everyone turned out.
Elizabeth Kane (EK): Did you have like an Air Raid Siren or anything like that?
TM: No it was a bugler. He blew the call for stand to.
EM: So you could hear the actual planes before they dropped the bombs?
TM: Oh, oh we could hear the planes overhead, although the search lights were hovering around the sky, I couldn’t see them, anyway you know, I don’t know
EM: And if you had seen the planes, your instructions would have been to fire at them?
TM: Well they were firing in the direction of the planes, you know they were firing the artillery shells you know and that went on for quite some time, about 15-20 minutes or more.
EK: Where the planes noisy coming in?
TM: There were very noisy, very noisy overhead,
EK: What did they sound like, like a low engine?
TM: Well, it’s hard to describe what they sounded like.
EK: Scary time though?
TM: Oh yes it was, I remember someone – now I can’t remember who, I’m trying to remember who it was I heard saying- I heard someone saying ‘Action at last’ (laugh )
EM: And had you joined the army for action? What were your motivations at eighteen?
TM: No, I just joined the army. There was a chap was lodging in a house beside us, I lived in Leix Road in Cabra. There was a chap lodging, this chap, anyway, Paul Raymond I think was his name, and he was lodging and he came in one day- he used to be was always out in shorts, cycling . And he said “Ah it’s great. Army is great; you know you should join it”. And, I joined the Army and it wasn’t that great. (laughs)
So he apparently- I think he was a member of the IRA, he was a Belfast chap,-and he was a Republican. Anyway I know he was tried before second in command of the Battalion and he wouldn’t recognise the court, so he was, I’m not quite sure but I think he went on hunger strike or something. So he was in St. Mary’s Hospital no- he was in Brickens sorry. He was in Brickens. And he was in the bed, and there was sentry beside him, with a revolver. He hadn’t got a rifle; he was carrying a short arm. He asked him for a drink of water, and he got the drink of water, and when he got drink , when he was handed the glass, he threw it the water into his face, and he grabbed the revolver and he shot the sentry- but he didn’t kill him, and he ran out. And as he ran out, the relief guard was coming up, and they fired and he was killed. And he got a military escort- his remains got a military escort to Amiens street station, now Connolly station, and there then up to Belfast, where he came from. I remember that, Paul Raymond, his name is Paul Raymond
EM: He was the one who convinced you to join the Army.
EK: For a bit of action
TM: I had his memorial notice at home, for years. I was looking for it one day and I couldn’t find it. I think it’s lost.
EK: It’s probably up somewhere safe…
TM: So that’s all I can remember of the bombings.
EM: What was Dublin like at the time after the bombings, was everyone shocked by it?
TM: Ah yes they were all was shocked by it. I think everyone was going around scared in case it would happen again, but thankfully it didn’t.
EM: and in the Army, did you think a German Invasion was possible? Or a British?
TM: No, it never dawned on us. I remember we did about two years up in Gormanstown, Gormanstown camp. They had, you see if a plane came in and it landed, there was something wrong with it, you know there were given a certain length of time for to get it repaired. They got all the help and all that, repaired, and then they could take off, and if they were beyond that point, say 24 hours for instance, then they were interned. And they had the Internment camp in Gormanstown. And there were German, they were British, they were American. And I suppose some of them came in and said this is great, we are not going to repair this plane, we’re going to stay here. I remember one, oh it was an enormous American plane came in and they made cigarette lighters out of shell cases.
EM: Were you stationed in Gormanstown for a period?
TM: I was in Gormanstown for about two years or three years
EM: And after World War II, did you stay in the army?
TM: Well I was on reserve then after the war for seven years, and then at the end of seven years I got my final discharge papers. So I only went up reserve training, well there was no reserve training the year after the war, but the following year, there was reserve training, and I went up that year, and then I went up the last year- only just to meet the fellows. I mean we couldn’t do anything. If you ran from here to the wall, you’d be panting. Because you weren’t fit.
EM: You hadn’t done the training that you had done previously.
EK: Do you think many young men might have joined the army after the North Strand bombing?
TM: Well there might have but there were thousands joining the army at that time. You know, there was no shortage because there was no work and that. So this was a way of getting (paid). I remember I had 13 shilling and two pence a week. And then when I was promoted to rank of corporal that was an extra 7 shillings a week increase. That was a big jump. Actually our wages was 14 shillings a week but they deducted 10 pence for barrack damages. There was never any barrack damages, you know if a glass got broke or anything like that, but there was never any damages, and there was 12 pence to a shilling, so that’s why we were left with 13 shilling and two pence
EM: Was there a great sense of comradery then in the Army?
TM: Oh yes there was, yes. There were concerts in the Barracks. All the Barracks had their concerts once a week and all that, you know. Dances, I remember I think it was Dundalk I think, half price for soldiers going. And one or two nights a week it was free for soldiers to come in for a dance. Dundalk is a very republican town.
EK: And the artillery at the time of the World War our artillery probably wasn’t as advanced as the Germans. What was the guns they were using to shoot at the Planes?
TM: Well, it was mostly the artillery guns, and I think they were I’m not quite sure Buffers, there may have been something else they had the Vickers Machine Gun, Lewis Machine Gun. They were the two machine guns they had at the time, and there was another Machine Gun, called Hotchkiss Gun. It was a very long gun and [a metre and a half]. It used to jam quite often so it was made obsolete.
EM: And do you remember of the senior figures in the army, that you came into contact with?
TM: You daren’t speak to any of the brass, as I called them
TM: I remember [Sean] Collins-Powell. He was second to chief-of staff. Colonel Collins Powel. He was related to Michael Collins, as far as I can remember.
EM: Where did you meet him or see him?
TM: You would only see him occasionally at an inspection. I can’t remember who the chief of staff was at the time.
EM: What theories did the soldiers in the army have about why the bombs were dropped on the North Strand? The Germans always claimed it was an accident, and apologised.
TM: They did and I think they compensated, now whether the descendants of the people or their families who were killed at the time got any of the compensation. I don’t know. I doubt very much that they did.
EM: Did you feel it was an accident or did you suspect anything else?
TM: Well no one ever said, one way and the other whether it was an accident or not. I remember oh yes. I remember we were in Maynooth, and there is a big estate in Maynooth [Carton House], what’s the name of it I can’t remember (pause)
EK: Where the college is?
TM: A huge estate, I know we were there for awhile. I can’t remember how long. I remember a dog fight between a British and a German fighters right over Maynooth, I remember that all right and we all had to get in under cover.
EK: Who won?
TM: Well I don’t know. Well neither shot one or the other fellow down. Carton house, that’s Maynooth, isn’t
EM: That’s right; it’s a hotel and golf course now I believe.
TM: Now that’s right. And there was a cottage, well it was built with seashells, but
It was covered with sea shells all around front and back. Actually I saw another, my wife and I were in Jersey a few year ago, and there was cottage with all sea-shells.
EM: Really in the same style?
TM: But I remember the dog fight alright, it was the middle of the day, and there was a blue sky and all that, I looked up and saw it. You could hear the guns rattling.
EK: And you could see the planes?
TM: Yes you could see them. The German and British plane.
EK: It wasn’t a spitfire or anything was it?
TM: Don’t know you, wouldn’t know what they.
EK: Did they have distinctive marks on their planes?
TM: No you wouldn’t know. I know in Gormanstown, coming into Gormanstown camp, you went in the front entrance, there was a board, and all the German badges and insignias and all that were there, so you’d know them if you’d see them.
EM: Really, so you would know what to look out for.
TM: But I never paid very much attention to them. I was interested whether they were German or British or anything like that.
EK: Do you think it was good that we stayed neutral?
TM: I think so because, looking at the bombings in Britain, the way London was bombed, and the London Blitz. I think if we had Cosgrave or Costello or any of them, we would have been in the war. That’s only my own personal opinion.
EK: I think a lot of Irish went …
TM: Oh yes, thousands of Irishmen went across, and joined the British army. My father was in the Royal Engineers in the First World War. My son joined the Royal Engineers, when he turned 21, he joined it. He spent 3 or 4 years in it, but he didn’t like it.
EK: Do you remember any casualties that night [of the North Strand Bombing]
TM: There were a lot of injured I was told, along with those who were one dead. There was one man decapitated I heard them all saying.
EK: What hospitals did they bring the injured?
TM: I suppose all over. Jervis street would have been the nearest. I suppose any hospital that was near to them, Mater hospital.
EK: There was a man who was in before you who said there was a rumour that a baby flew out of his cot and survived?
TM: I’d say it’s possible, because a child will take a fall where an adult will not
EK: Were the gardaí good after the bombing?
TM: Well they were all very decent fellows. Even today, you hear talks people run down the Garda and that. I found them all very courteous. I never had much to do with the Garda except get a formed signed for passport or something like that. I remember my car breaking down one day, on the Greenhills road, I was going up to Tallaght, and it was an electrical fault. And they stopped in a patrol car behind me, and two of them got out, and shoved me into the car park. Then the gardaí in Drogheda were very courteous too. There was also rumour that some man was shot by one of our officers for looting. I tried to follow that up after that. I don’t think there was any truth in that. Because like you could be shot for looting- shot on the spot for looting, so I was told. I tried to research that and find out if it was true, and it was just another rumour, with no foundation to it.
EK: Did it take the people of Dublin long to get over the bombing, do you think?
TM: II don’t really know. I’d have known more, if I hadn’t been in the army. When you are in the army you don’t know when you are going to be called for duty. Guard Duty or stand to or fire duty.
EM: What were these types of duties; could you explain what you had to do with them?
TM: Well on guard duty you have two hours on sentry, and four hours off. That was the same everywhere. Two on and four off. I did [?] Magazine. We went from Santry Court to [?] Magazine court to that was where the explosives were all kept, they weren’t for the army, I think for county councils and corporation for quarrying purposes. They came in on a ship in the North wall, and there was a bicycle patrol, all the way out to [?]. Then we had to come in then to do duty on the Magazine. Then fire-picket you just stayed in barracks all day and all night. You were liable to be called out anytime during the night if there was a fire, or the officer, that’s the officer in charge, he might tell the bugler to sound call on. And they’d all turn out to make sure no one from fire-picket was missing. We used to do that occasionally. There was then a stand to, that was in case that somebody got sick on guard duty or fire picket, they’d have to be relieved and then the stand to would take his place
EM: So which type of duty did you enjoy the most or the least?
TM: Well I didn’t mind any of them, you know -It was a day off parades. Then you had the following day off because you were awake all night. You had the following day off. There were good days and bad days in it. More good days than bad days.
EK: Do you remember the bomb in the Phoenix Park?
TM: I remember the bomb falling on it alright. I didn’t go to see the damage. I remember the bomb falling.
EK: Did any of the animals get hurt?
TM: The Park was full of cattle and sheep, but I don’t think any of them were injured
I remember the foot and mouth outbreak, when we were in the Hibernian Schools, now St. Mary’s Hospital. I was on leave at the time, and I was coming back and they were burying all the cattle, and they had big pits dug. And they carried the cattle all down into it and then they shot them and then they covered it in.
EK: Other than yourself, were any of your other family members involved with the war effort?
TM: No I was the only one.
EK: Can you remember any of the ways in which the North Strand Bombing was commemorated in the years that followed?
TM: I don’t think it was commemorated at all, except maybe there was a mass said at the anniversary for the families. I don’t think, I don’t think the government played any part in the commemoration ceremonies or anything like that. Only the people who were dedicated to keeping it alive, otherwise it would be long forgotten
EM: It’s wonderful to be able to record your memories because at the moment we have the official corporation records and photographs, but to be able to hear what people thought at the time is brilliant.
TM: Oh your welcome, I only wish I could remember more.
EM: Do you have any final comments.
TM: I’m trying to think of anything else that might have happened. I remember a girl being shot in Drogheda, from a sentry on the viaduct. As she passed, she was wearing a red coat, and she used to go up, like from her house, she would walk along here and turns a corner and up to this friend’s house you see. And the viaduct came across here; she was wearing this red coat as she came out this night. She came to this lamp and when she went under the street light, she was shot by the sentry. It was like shooting her in day light, and she crawled down to her house and she died on a footpath outside her own home. And for years, there was a cross chiseled out of the footpath. And the man that shot her, it should have been her sister- so it was her sister that he was keeping company with- and of course she was wearing her sisters red coat. I remember that alright. When he came out of jail, I only heard this now, but he came out of jail so many years later and he was seen to be going around selling things from a hand cart. He used to buy bottles and jam jars and that, and give you a balloon blown up a stick, piece of cane. I think he went a bit mental
EK: Was she a young girl?
TM: I’d say she must have been young. Sure we were all young, at that time. I tell you what I remember. There used to be a medical inspection every Friday. You took off your shirt. The whole company would be lined up in this hall. There was a man right down in front of me, he had white hair, and about my height. His back was to me and a picture of a Crucifixion tattooed on his back. You think it was like an oil painting. I remember that well as anything. I’ve never seen him after that.
EK: Do you know how many years that man was jailed for that shot that lady?
TM: I don’t know. He might have got life, and got out for good behaviour, and got ten years or 12 years as they do today
EK: Does your family ask about your time in the war?
TM: No, they never ask me.
EK: Do you have any grandchildren?
TM: I have, yes seven grandchildren.
EK: Do they ask you about?
TM: No they don’t, they have no interest (laughs)
TM: My daughter who lives in Ashbourne -she used to ask me quite a lot about it. She was the only one. I never had any photographs of myself in uniform. I had one on the last year of reserve training there was, we were in [?] in Glenaville Mall. It was only a snap. 21/2 inches.
EK: Would they have a record of you in Cathal Brugha street [military archives]?
TM: No as far as I know they haven’t. I had a photograph of group on the steps of burnt out mansion in Santry court. Fr. Callen was the priest attached with the battalion, and I gave into Military Archives in Portobello. I’m not sure whether I was in or not. I was on guard duty on that day. I was always on duty at that wrong time (laughs). That’s all I can tell you. I hope I was of help to you.
Subsequent to the interview Mr Terence Murphy would like to clarify that on reflection, there was no anti-aircraft guns at Collinstown Airport at the time of the bombing.