Hugh Castles

Hugh Castles was a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service in the Belfast Blitz. He died on 16th April 1941 having sustained injuries at Royal Avenue in the city.

Auxiliary Firefighter Hugh Castles was a fatal casualty of the Belfast Blitz during the Second World War. He lived at 80 Malone Avenue, Belfast at the time of the Luftwaffe attack on the city.

Born on 8th January 1908, he was the son of Alexander Castles and Martha Castles (née Parkhill) of Sandy Row, Belfast. Hugh Castles died on 16th April 1941 aged 33 years old at Mater Infirmorum Hospital, Belfast. He sustained injuries on 16th April 1941 at Royal Avenue, Belfast.

Tragedy on Royal Avenue

Hugh was part of an Auxiliary Fire Service crew based on Lisburn Road, Belfast. In the early hours of 16th April 1941, he was in the lead fire tender rushing to the scene of a fire. Flames had spread through the York Road London, Midland, and Scottish (L.M.S.) Railway Station. Castles traveled in the vehicle towing the pump, alongside driver Clyde Rainey, Jack Walsh, James Lee, and George Spence.

As the fire engines proceeded down Royal Avenue, Belfast, a High Explosive Bomb exploded outside the offices of the Belfast Telegraph newspaper. The blast hurled the vehicle across the street, shattering windows, and injuring all on board. Rainey was temporarily blinded, Lee trapped in the vehicle, and Walsh’s helmet saved him from a piercing piece of shrapnel. In the rear, Castles and Spence were among the worst injured. Hugh Castles was unconscious with serious chest wounds.

With telephone lines dead, and ambulances on calls, it took some time for help to arrive. A.F.S. Control Centre of D District received word at 0200hrs. At 0550hrs, the centre issued instructions to recover the body of George Spece who died at the scene. An ambulance en route to the incident crashed into a bomb crater causing further injury to the medical staff on board. By the time Hugh Castles reached the Mater Infirmorum Hospital, he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Hugh Castles’ grave is in Section P, Grave 169 of Belfast City Cemetery, Belfast. A funeral service took place on 19th April 1941. He and George Spence were the final fatalities from either the Belfast Fire Brigade or the Auxiliary Fire Service during the Belfast Blitz.