Monday 26 June 2017

Memories of south's darkest wartime hour burn brightly for bomb survivor

Ken Sweeney

Ken Sweeney

SHE was only five years old when the bombs fell. That was 70 years ago, but Betty Keogh remembers it like it was yesterday.

Thirty-four civilians lost their lives and 50 more were wounded as a result of the German attack on the night of Tuesday, May 31, 1941, the worst wartime atrocity south of the border during World War II.

Betty's family lost everything in the raid -- except their lives.

Yesterday, she returned to the house in North Strand, Dublin, where her family lived at the time of the tragedy and which is just 100 yards from where the last -- and biggest -- bomb detonated.

"It brings back so many memories being outside this house again," she told the Irish Independent.

"I was five at the time and too young to realise how lucky we were. This anniversary makes me sad for my late mother and father because they lost everything and didn't receive any compensation until years later."

It was on the last weekend of May, 1941, the start of a warm Whit bank-holiday weekend, that a single low-flying German bomber dropped four bombs on Dublin.

The first fell at the junction of North Circular Road and North Richmond Street, the second landed in Summerhill and the third in the Phoenix Park.

Betty's family lived at 10 Charleville Mall.

"We heard the bang of the first bomb," she said. "I remember waking up in the pitch dark and my mother and father at the window. Everyone was confused about what was going on.

"My father left the house to investigate. He was gone for so long, my mother got anxious, so she put myself and my brother Noel, who was eight, into bed and went out to look for him."

A short while later, the German plane's fourth and largest bomb, a 500lb landmine believed to have been dropped by parachute, landed nearby.

Tremor

Such was the ferocity of the explosion, a tremor was reported to have been felt as far away as Mullingar.

"It was a huge bang all right," said Betty. "The whole back fell off our house. In fact, the backs of the whole row of houses fell out. I can still see the rubble like it was last night.

"I can't remember what happened next but my brother remembers this boy who was minding us leading us down the stairs of the house to get to the air-raid shelter," she said.

Betty's parents panicked when they returned home to find the house in ruins and their children missing.

"They thought we'd been harmed so they were delighted to find us in the air-raid shelter," she said.

Now living in Booterstown, Co Dublin, the grandmother said she had no bitterness towards the German pilot who dropped the bomb

"What happened was history and that's that," she said.

After the war, Germany paid compensation to Ireland for a "military error".

Today, at Marino College, Dublin, Councillor Ray McAdam and German Ambassador Busso von Alvensleben will officially re-open a refurbished memorial garden commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Dublin bombing.

Irish Independent

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