Grattan, Matilda

Grattan, Matilda

Civilian War Dead

Died as a result of enemy action on Wednesday 16 April 1941 (aged 59)

Buried:

Bangor Cemetery, Co. Down (Unmarked grave) (1. A. 164)

Commemorated:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Mother of Civilian Angeline Grattan

Mother of Flight Sergeant George Francis Grattan (No. 521645)

Mother of Civilian Shelagh Grattan

BIOGRAPHY

Matilda Grattan was the wife of Andrew Francis (Andrew) Grattan and she was living at 40 Ashley Gardens, Bangor when she died – at the same time as her daughters Angeline and Shelagh.

Matilda Grattan (nee McDonald, sometimes McDonnell) was born on 18 April 1882 in Parsonstown, King’s County, Ireland (now Birr, Co Offaly, Republic of Ireland) and she was a daughter of George McDonald, a labourer.  On 11 September 1902 Matilda McDonald and Andrew Francis Grattan were married in Birr Roman Catholic Church.  Andrew Grattan was registered as a soldier from Birr and he was a son of Robert Grattan, a tailor (deceased).

Andrew Grattan was born on 26 July 1875 in Rathdowney, Queen’s County, Ireland (now Co. Laois, Republic of Ireland) and he was a son of Robert and Catherine Grattan (nee Cunningham) who lived in Moore Street, Rathdowney.

On 14 July 1893 Andrew Grattan (aged 17) enlisted in Birr and served with the 4th Battalion, Leinster Regiment (No. 3908).  Before that Andrew had worked as a labourer.  Over the next 18 years Andrew Francis Grattan served in many places throughout the world – Home 1893, Malta 1894, Bermuda 1895, Canada 1897, Home 1900, South Africa 1901, Home 1901, South Africa 1904, Mauritius 1906 and Home 1911.

Between 1903 and 1911 Andrew and Matilda Grattan (nee McDonald) had four children:

Robert Andrew (born 24 June 1903 in Crinkle, Birr; Robert Grattan became a seaman and in 1930 he was working aboard the SS Markland)

Mary Kathleen (born 19 December 1905 in Middleburg, Transvaal, South Africa)

Hilda Geraldine (born 12 October 1907 in the Military Barracks, Birr)

George Francis (born 22 March 1910 in Devonport, England)

In 1911 the Grattan family was living in married quarters in Granby Barracks, Devonport where Andrew was serving as a Colour Sergeant with the 1st Leinster Regiment.

On 22 November 1911 Colour Sergeant Andrew Grattan was discharged from the Army at Devonport, at his own request, and he stated that his intended place of residence was Moore Street, Rathdowney.

The Grattan family moved to Canada and on 13 December 1915 Andrew joined the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force.  In 1916 he was promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major.  He broke his tibia and was later discharged from the Canadian Army.  On 22 July 1918 (aged 43), he joined the Royal Air Force as an Assistant Armourer (No. 276443) and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.  He was discharged on 7 February 1919 after 201 days of service because he was ‘no longer physically fit’ – a stiff knee resulting from his broken leg.

Andrew and Matilda Grattan had at least three more children:

Andrew (born 4 September 1913 in Holles Street Hospital, Dublin)

Shelagh (born around 1921)

Angeline (born around 1923)

The Grattan family moved to Bangor where they lived at 40 Ashley Gardens.

Between 10.45 pm on Easter Tuesday 15 April and 4.30 am on Wednesday 16 April 1941 there was a large-scale German Luftwaffe air raid on the City of Belfast.  Other nearby towns and villages, including Bangor and Newtownards, were also attacked.  Areas of Bangor where bombs fell included Ashley Gardens, Bangor Golf Clubhouse, Baylands, Farnham Road, Hazeldene Gardens and Ranfurly Avenue.  Fires blazed on Scrabo Hill, Newtownards and bombs fell on Green Road, Conlig and Comber Road, Newtownards.  At least 29 people with North Down and Ards connections were killed, including the following 15 civilians.

  • Matilda Grattan together with her daughters Angeline Grattan and Shelagh Grattan who died at 40 Ashley Gardens in Bangor.
  • Margaret Byers Watt who died at 5 Hazeldene Gardens in Bangor.
  • Robert Wright of 32 Baylands, Bangor who died of his injuries in Bangor Hospital.
  • Edith, Henry, Isabella and William Dunwoody; Nancy Simms Gribbin; Thomas Morton; Bessie and Ellen Ogle; William Henry Taggart and Evelyn Tate who all died in Belfast.

That night the aerodrome at Newtownards, which was the Headquarters of 231 Squadron, Royal Air Force was attacked.  The aerodrome was guarded by soldiers of the 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, some of whom were too young for front line service and were deployed instead on the home front.  Newtownards aerodrome was attacked with a considerable number of incendiary bombs and some high explosive bombs.  One high explosive bomb that fell on the hutments of ‘A’ Company Headquarters killed 13 men, all of whom served with the 70th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.  Most were killed instantly, and the remainder died the following day as a result of their injuries:

  • Fusilier William Bellamy (aged 28)
  • Fusilier Samuel Burke (aged 18)
  • Lance Corporal Alexander Carlisle
  • Fusilier Andrew Copling (aged 16)
  • Fusilier Hugh Fulton (aged 17)
  • Fusilier George Graham
  • Fusilier Daniel Higgins
  • Fusilier Leslie Love (aged 34)
  • Fusilier Samuel McFarland (aged 19)
  • Company Quartermaster Sergeant William McMurray (aged 27)
  • Fusilier Ernest McNeill (aged 17)
  • Warrant Officer Class II Alfred Penfold (aged 36)
  • Fusilier Matthew Wright (aged 18)

The casualties were all taken to Ards District Hospital in Newtownards.

There was another casualty with an Ards connection who died during the night of 15/16 April 1941.  Flight Lieutenant Wilfrid Mark Hamilton Brookes (aged 23) of 231 Squadron who was in Belfast at the time was killed during the air raid.

The funeral of Matilda, Angeline and Shelagh Grattan to Bangor Cemetery was reported in the 26 April 1941 edition of the County Down Spectator.  A service was held in St. Comgall’s Roman Catholic Church, Brunswick Road, Bangor on 18 April 1941 and then a hearse containing Matilda Grattan’s remains proceeded to Bangor Cemetery.  The hearse returned twice to the Church for the bodies of her daughters.  The chief mourners were Major Andrew Grattan, husband and father of the deceased, together with his daughters, Kathleen Grattan and Mrs George O’Connell from Salthill in County Galway.  Three of Andrew and Matilda’s sons, Andrew, George, and Robert Grattan, were abroad.  The Mayor of Bangor, Councillor W.H. McMillan, and the Town Clerk, Mr R.M. Moore, represented the Council and residents of the town.  No headstone was erected on their grave (1. A. 164).

Of the many civilians of the Commonwealth whose deaths were due to enemy action in the Second World War, the names of some 67,092 are commemorated in the Civilian War Dead Roll of Honour, located near St. George’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey, London.

After his wife and daughters were killed, Andrew Francis Grattan moved to Brunswick Road, Bangor and, some eight months after their deaths, Army Pensioner Andrew Francis Grattan died on 23 December 1941.  He suffered from diabetes and died in a hyperglycaemic coma.  Andrew Francis Grattan was 66 when he died in the townland of Ballaghanery, Annalong and he was buried in Bangor Cemetery.  His effects amounted to some £762 and probate was granted to his daughter Kathleen.

One year later, on 1 December 1942, Andrew and Matilda’s son, Flight Sergeant George Francis Grattan (No. 521645), died in a Japanese Prisoner-of-War Camp.