No. 6984533, 70th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Died as the result of enemy action on Thursday 17 April 1941 (aged 18)
Macosquin (St. Mary’s) Church of Ireland Churchyard, Co. Londonderry
Fusilier Matthew Wright (No. 6984533) was one of 13 soldiers serving with the 70th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers who died as the result of an air raid on Newtownards aerodrome during the night of 15/16 April 1941.
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 30 people with North Down and Ards connections were killed, including the following 16 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; William Henry Taggart; Bessie, Ellen Ogle, and Evelyn Tate; James Thompson 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.
Fusilier Matthew Wright was a son of Matthew and Mary Anne Wright (nee Dinsmore) of Cross Lane, Coleraine. Matthew Wright Senior was a son of James Wright, he worked as a bricklayer, and he was a widower when he and Mary Anne Dinsmore were married on 2 August 1920 in Macosquin (St. Mary’s) Church of Ireland Church, Co. Londonderry. Mary Anne Dinsmore was a daughter of John Wilson Dinsmore who in turn was a son of Harrison and Rebecca Dinsmore (nee Douthert).
Matthew Wright Senior and Agnes Laverty were married on 31 January 1918 and Agnes was 23 when she died of puerperal fever on 28 January 1920 at her home in Society Street, Coleraine.
Fusilier Matthew Wright was wounded in the attack on Newtownards aerodrome, and he was 18 when he died of his wounds on 17 April 1941. He was buried in Macosquin (St. Mary’s) Church of Ireland Churchyard, Co. Londonderry and there is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:
HE GAVE HIS YOUNG LIFE
Fusilier Matthew Wright’s headstone stands in a Dinsmore family plot where the following people are also commemorated:
John Wilson Dinsmore died 22 January 1955
And his son John died 17 May 1989
Rebecca Dinsmore died 30 December 1950
And her son Samuel died 28 December 1918
Also her daughter Hannah died 27 February 1972
During the First World War, Private John Dinsmore (No. 595456) died on 29 October 1918, and he was buried in Macosquin (St. Mary’s) Church of Ireland Churchyard. He was a son of James Dinsmore of Englishtown, and a grandson of John Dinsmore of Farranseer, and he is commemorated on Page 373 in the Coleraine Book of Honour Coleraine Heroes compiled by Robert Thompson.