Former air-raid shelter, Holyhead

Link to French translationFormer air-raid shelter, Newry Beach

Part of Holyhead Maritime Museum is housed in this former air-raid shelter, used by members of the Dutch Navy and others during the Second World War.

The port of Holyhead was a strategic target for German bombers, therefore 17 air-raid shelters were erected around the town. Each shelter could accommodate about 50 people. The brick walls were 35cm thick, the reinforced-concrete roofs 30cm thick.

The first of several air raids happened on 5 October 1940, when the Church House in Boston Street was destroyed. Bombers returning from raids on Liverpool would drop leftover bombs on Naval vessels in Holyhead harbour or on the town. Fortunately nobody died in the bombing. 

Two shelters still stand alongside Plas Road (leading to Porthdafarch beach). The town’s other surviving shelter was almost next door to the old lifeboat station (now the main part of the maritime museum), which was used as an informal mess by Dutch Navy sailors. Their vessels had evaded capture during the Nazis’ occupation of the Netherlands and were sent to Holyhead, to help protect shipping in the Irish Sea.

More than 100 Dutch sailors and Marines were based at Holyhead from July 1940. When the air-raid warning sirens sounded, Dutchmen would walk from the mess into this shelter. Many of them remained in Holyhead after the war, married local girls and brought up families. A Dutch Navy memorial was unveiled near the former air-raid shelter in 2014.

The shelter has had many peacetime uses, including storage of council grass-cutting equipment. It was the first boathouse for the RNLI’s local inshore lifeboat. Now it houses a permanent exhibition, Holyhead at War, with photographs and other artefacts relating to both World Wars and later conflicts. 

With thanks to Barry Hillier, of Holyhead Maritime Museum

Where is this HiPoint?

Postcode: LL65 1YD

Website of Holyhead Maritime Museum

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