Civilian War Dead
Died as the result of enemy action on Tuesday 15 April 1941 (aged 57)
In some records his surname is spelt Whirey.
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.
Six members of the Wherry family died at Thorndyke Street, Belfast on 15 April 1941 when a high explosive bomb detonated close to the public air raid shelter. The walls of the shelter gave way and the reinforced concrete roof fell onto those sheltering beneath it. Some 20 people died in Thorndyke Street that night, some 14 of them in the shelter. On 26 June 1941 Robert Wherry Junior gave evidence at an inquest when he stated that his parents, Robert and Margaret Jane, and his sisters, had died in the shelter. The six members of the Wherry family who died that hight (all of 16 Thorndyke Street) were:
Robert Wherry (aged 57)
Margaret Jane Wherry (aged 56)
Mary Wherry (aged 25)
Martha Wherry (aged 19)
John Wherry (aged 16)
Elizabeth Wherry (aged 13)
Robert Wherry was born on 7 June 1882 in High Street, Comber and he was a son of James and Martha Ann Wherry (nee Brown) who were married on 7 June 1872 in Comber Parish Church of Ireland Church. James Wherry from Dundonald was a son of Hamilton Wherry, a labourer. Martha Ann Brown from Comber was a daughter of John Brown, a labourer.
In 1901 the Wherry family was living at 43 Hornby Street, Belfast.
James Wherry died as the result of pulmonary tuberculosis at 43 Hornby Street, Belfast on 19 May 1901. His son Robert was with him when he died.
Robert Wherry and Jennie (Jane) Henderson were married on 11 July 1907 in Belmont Presbyterian Church. Robert Wherry, an iron-turner from 43 Hornby Street, Belfast was a son of James Wherry, a labourer (deceased). Jennie Henderson from Sydenham Lodge, Belfast was a daughter of John Henderson, a gardener.
In 1911 the Wherry family was living at 43 Hornby Street, Belfast.
Robert and Jennie Wherry (nee Henderson) had at least six children:
James (born 4 June 1908 at 43 Hornby Street, Belfast)
Jennie (born 19 March 1910 at 43 Hornby Street, Belfast)
Sarah (born 18 January 1912 at 18 Hornby Street, Belfast)
Mary (born 27 March 1914 at 43 Hornby Street, Belfast)
William Samuel (born 1 June 1916 at 43 Hornby Street, Belfast)
Robert (born 21 December 1918 at 43 Hornby Street, Belfast)
At least 30 people with North Down and Ards connections were killed, including the following 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, Evelyn Tate and Robert Wherry 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 the 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.
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.