Bertie Downey:

The only bomb in Derry during the Second World War was on Easter Tuesday 1941 at 10.45pm.

At the time people thought it had strayed from its real target the old shipyard in Derry’s port. Ships were made there when I was a boy, but there was a big military presence in Derry during the war. At this time I did a lot of work for the servicemen repairing their shoes. This was official work, the repairs had to be signed for, sealed, numbered and records kept. The servicemen stayed in a purpose-built camp of missan huts in Springtown Camp. I used to go out on my bike to collect and then return the repairs. If a serviceman could not be found it probably meant he had been killed but no one talked about it. I never heard of servicemen who had been killed. You made enquires and you might have found somebody or not.

At the time of the bomb there was a lot of censorship. There was no publicity when the people were killed. The locals talked about it. The Collon was not highly populated at the time. I had to go up to the City and County Hospital to see the dead wondering what am I going to see, will I be fit to look at it? It was horrific. I thought, it could have been me. I was able to identify some of them but some of them you wouldn’t have known them at all. The dead were kept in an out-house alongside the hospital. Whenever the boy was getting the keys ready to take you in we were very anxious to see them but at the same time, if someone had of got a holt of you and lead you away you would have been thankful to him. I remember standing at the door and the tension that was within your body that you were going in to see people that were killed with a bomb and you were conscious that you could have been one of them. None of my family was injured, but as my brother Johnny and I went out past where the bomb was, where the people were working, crowds of people, I remember how happy I was going out the road that I wasn’t lying in at Messines dead. It really and truly proved to you how little you could do for yourself and for a long time after that bomb there were a couple of policemen on duty at each end that nobody would have been pilfering and the policeman who was next the Collon always stayed in the workshop with me and told me different things. People were looting the houses afterwards. They were lifting things they didn’t even want.