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   Fireman Brice Harkness
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Dated added: 30/12/2015   Last updated: 14/08/2017
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: Auxiliary Fire Service (British Civilian)
Date Of Birth: 09/01/1916
Died: 07/04/1941 (Killed in Action)
Age: 25
Summary      
Brice Harkness was the son of Thomas and Margaret Harkness. Brice was born on 9th January 1915 in Lismoney, Cookstown. It is believed he was the youngest of at least six children. Brice lived in Belfast and served with the Auxiliary Fire Service during the Second World War He was on duty in Belfast on the night of the 7/8th April 1941 when the German Luftwaffe attacked Belfast for the first time. One of the largest fires on the night was at the McCue Dick Timber Yard in Duncrue Street and it was here he and another man were killed when a parachute mine exploded.
Further Information
Brice Harkness was the son of Thomas and Margaret Harkness, Cookstown. Thomas Harkness married Margaret Espie on 2nd October 1901 in the district of Cookstown.
The 1911 census lists the family living at house 17 in Lismoney, Moneyhaw, County Londonderry. Thomas Harkness was a farmer.
Brice Harkness was born on 9th January 1915 in Lismoney, Cookstown. It is believed he was the youngest of at least eight children.
Known family: Thomas Harkness (died 12th October 1928), Margaret Harkness (died 14th May 1940), Sadie Harkness 8 (born about 1903), Marion Harkness 7 (born about 1904), Thomas James Harkness (born 4th May 1905, died 22 January 1972, age 67), Samuel Harkness (born 25th November 1906), Nora Harkness (born 10th June 1908), Robert Harkness (born 5th September 1910), Richard Harkness (born 8th March 1913), Brice Harkness (born 9th January 1915).
Brice’s father, Thomas Harkness, died 12th October 1928 when Brice was 13 years old.
Brice lived in Belfast and was a member of Primrose Temperance L.O.L. and R.A.P.C. No. 1203. He was also a member of Primrose Temperance R.B.P. No. 229.
Brice’s mother, Margaret Harkness, died 14th May 1940, just a year before Brice.
Brice Harkness served with the Auxiliary Fire Service during the Second World War and was on duty in Belfast on the night of the 7/8th April 1941 when the German Luftwaffe attacked Belfast for the first time.
elfast was almost completely undefended. The Northern Ireland Government believed that Belfast was beyond the limit of German Bombers.
Brice Harkness was killed on active duty, aged 25
One of the largest fires on the night was at the McCue Dick Timber Yard in Duncrue Street and it was while fighting this fire that Archibald (Archie) McDonald and another Auxiliary Fire Service member - Brice Harkness, who was from Cookstown, died. Both men were killed when a Parachute Mine exploded.
The Germans attacked Belfast 3 more times within the next 5 weeks causing severe damage and almost 1000 deaths.
It is thought that Brice Harkness was the first fireman to die in the Blitz in Belfast. He died in the docks area of Belfast.
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 10th April 1941:
Harkness – April 8th (the result of enemy action), Brice, fifth son of the late Thomas Harkness, Lismoney, Cookstown. Funeral from Lismoney this (Thursday) afternoon at 2 o’clock to Cookstown Cemetery.
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 10th April 1941: Primrose Temperance L.O.L. and R.A.P.C. No. 1203
Harkness – The Officers and Members of the above learn with deepest sorrow of the death of their esteemed Brother, Brice Harkness, and tender to his relatives their sincere sympathy. Malcolm Bothwell, W.M.; David Slane, D.M.; Edward J Leeman, W.M.; Malcolm Bothwell, D.M.
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 10th April 1941: Primrose Temperance R.B.P. No. 229
Harkness – The Officers and Sir Knights of the above learn with deepest sorrow of the death of their esteemed Brother, Brice Harkness, and tender to his relatives their sincere sympathy. Edward J Leeman, W.M.; David Slane, D.M.; John Currie, P.M. Reg.
From the book "The Flaming Truth" by Bill Broadhurst (Parts 1 and 2) :
"On the night of 7-8 April 1941 the German air force arrived over Belfast. Just past midnight, having illuminated the city with parachute flares, the relatively small force of six Luftwaffe bombers began dropping incendiary and high explosive bombs, principally on the docks area. One of the first major fires to develop as a result of this was at the McCue Dick timber yard in Duncrue Street. As the regular and auxiliary firemen moved in to deal with this and the other fires in the area, a parachute mine exploded nearby killing Auxiliary Firemen Archibald McDonald and Brice E. Harkness, who were among the first casualties of the raid. By the end of the attack at about four o’clock in the morning of the eighth, major fires had started throughout the harbour area, including one as the aircraft factory of Short Brothers and Harland Limited. The local firemen began to experience the same difficulties as their colleagues in Great Britain had been enduring for some months."
Brice Harkness was thought to have been buried in Belfast but only lately has Nigel Henderson’s research revealed that he was buried in Cookstown.
Brice Harkness is commemorated at Belfast City Hall on the Belfast Civil Defence Services plaque
He is also commemorated on Molesworth Presbyterian Roll of Honour.
Brice Harkness is also commerated on the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade Memorial in Lisburn
Northern Ireland Fire Brigade Memorial
The CWGC record that he was a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service. He is listed as being from Lismoney, Cookstown, and that he was a son of the late Thomas Harkness. It also states he died at Dock Area of Belfast.
Many thanks to Nigel Henderson of History Hub Ulster, who researched Brice Harkness and found that he was buried in Cookstown Cemetery.
The Newsletter reports listed here, like all on the website, are courtesy of Nigel Henderson.
Read more
Relevant Cookstown Area Locations
No Location Region Location Notes Longtitude Latitude
1 Lismoney Cookstown North CWGC - from Lismoney, Cookstown 54.657339 -6.711864
References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 1911 Census lists Harkness family 1911 census lists the family at house 17 in Lismoney, Moneyhaw, Londonderry
2 Auxiliary Fire Service Brice Harkness was the first fireman to die in the Belfast Blitz
3 Belfast Blitz Then & Now Details of how Brice Harkness died
4 Flickr Photo of Belfast City Hall Belfast Civil Defence Services plaque
5 History Hub Ulster Responsible for much of the research regarding Brice Harkness
6 The Flaming Truth" by Bill Broadhurst The book has an account of the death of Brice Harkness
7 World War Two Northern Ireland Details of Brice Harkness
8 WW2 Fire Services Living History Group Lists Brice Harkness under "Auxiliary Fire Service 1938 - 1941"
Cookstown District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2010-2021