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Belfast Blitz: The most disastrous event in city's history

More than 1,000 people perished in the Belfast Blitz of 1941, but three-quarters of a century later, there is still no civic memorial to them. Historian Brian Barton, author of a new book on the raids, makes the case for commemorating the victims

Published 03/06/2015

Entire buildings razed at Bridge Street
Entire buildings razed at Bridge Street
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. SOLDIERS. 4/5 May 1941. Soldiers playing gramophone. AR 151.
A huge crater at Ravenscroft Avenue off the Newtownards Road after the Blitz of 1941
The Albert Clock stands tall amid the rubble and ruins of High Street
Baby elephant, Sheila, who was moved out of Belfast zoo because of fears of a hit from bombers during the Belfast Blitz of 1941
Sheila the elephant: Northern Ireland woman Denise Weston Austin kept a baby elephant in her backyard during Belfast Blitz
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. HIGH STREET. 4/5 May 1941. High Street after the bombs. AR 79.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. SOLDIERS. 4/5 May 1941. Soldiers taking refreshments. AR 151.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. BRIDGE STREET. 4/5 May 1941. Bridge Street from High Street. AR 33
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. CITY HALL. 4/5 May 1941. Belfast City Hall showing the roof above the Banqueting Hall, damged after an explosion. AR 43.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. CHILDREN EVACUATED. April/May 1941. Children being evacuated at the railway station. AR 61.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. YORK STREET. 15/16 April 1941. Musical interlude. An impromtu organ recital AR 192.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. YORK STREET. 15/16 April 1941. Ballymoney mobile canteen at demolition squad. AR 196.
WORLD WAR II: V.E. DAY CELEBRATIONS BELFAST 1945.
Ewart's Crumlin Road, inspection of shells. 3/12/1943
Belfast Municipal College of Technology, College Square. Training women munition workers, two are shown operating a milling machine. 1942-05-14
Manufacturing parachute travelling bags at Ewarts Ltd., Bedford Street. A female worker shows the finished bag. 9/12/1943
Ewart's Crumlin Road, finishing the base of a shell to length. 3/12/1943
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. SHORE ROAD. 4/5 May 1941. Spreading the rubble. AR 160.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. THORNDIKE STREET. 15/16 April 1941.Debris after the bomb. AR 175.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. YORK ROAD. 4/5 May 1941. Londonderry mobile canteen at demolition squad. AR 211.
Typical female munition worker at "Combe Barbour". 22/11/1941
Shells being pressed and marked and numbered. 14/2/1940
World War 2: VE - Day. Crowd listening to Prime Minister Winston Churchill's broadcast at Belfast City Hall. (08/05/1945)
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. CHILDREN EVACUATED. April/May 1941. Children being evacuated at the railway station. AR 60.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. YORK ROAD. 4/5 May 1941. Removing furniture. AR 211.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. ST. ANNE'S CATHEDRAL. April/May 1941. Miraculously St. Anne's Cathedral survived, while most of Donegall Street was reduced to rubble AR 65.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. EGLINTON STREET. 4/5 May 1941. Eglinton Street and Carlisle Street (Carlisle Street). AR 70.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. HIGH STREET. 4/5 May 1941. High Street from top of Woolworths building. AR 92.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. HALLIDAYS ROAD. 15/16 April 1941. Smoke issuing from a crater. AR 95.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. INTERNATIONAL BAR. 4/5 May 1941. International Bar, York Street after air raids. AR 105.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. HARLAND & WOLFF. 4/5 May 1941. The International Bar (corner of Donegall Street and York Street) still ablaze. AR 107.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. NEWTOWNARDS ROAD. 4/5 May 1941.Newtownards Road, blitzed areas cleaned up. AR 128.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. ROSEMARY STREET. 4/5 May 1941.Rosemary Street and Bridge Street. AR 138.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. ROSEMARY STREET PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. 4/5 May 1941. AR 144.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. SUGARHOUSE ENTRY. April/May 1941. Where the United Irishmen used to meet under the leadership of Henry Joy McCracken in the days of '98. AR 161.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. TRANSPORT. 15/16 April 1941. The Municiple tram service carried on despite Hitler's bombs, which fell both inside and outside this depot in Salisbury Avenue (Antrim Road). AR 172.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. VICTORIA STREET. 4/5 May 1941. Waring Street corner as seen from 'the Albert'. AR 179.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. HARLAND & WOLFF. 4/5 May 1941. Harland and Wolff general view of part of the shipyard, damaged by air raids. AR 103.
Riots : Belfast. October 1969. Women and children form a human chain across the Newtownards Road, Belfast, at Templemore Avenue. The protest lasted about an hour. (18/10/69)
Riots : Belfast. October 1969. Troops stop and search cars at Peter's Hill. (11/10/69)
Riots : Belfast. August 1969. A sentry looks on as Labour M.P. Gerry Fitt conducting Labour M.P's from Westminster around the Falls Road area, Belfast. (24/8/69)
Riots : Belfast. September 1969. Troops with arms at the ready face protestants in Percy Street as a crowd of Catholics shout from the Falls Road. (7/9/69)
Riots : Belfast. August 1969. Barricades in Divis Street, a man talks to troops over the barricade. (16/8/69)
Riots : Belfast. August 1969. (20/8/69)
Riots : Belfast. August 1969. Children playing in the sentry box erected by vigilantes at Thames Street, Belfast. The box is used by the residents who guard the street during the hours of darkness. (23/8/69)
Riots : Belfast. August 1969. Buildings reduced to rubble in the riots on the Falls Road in Belfast. 19/8/69
Riots: Belfast. Refugees. Furniture is carried into the schools meals centre in Butler Street as Roman Catholic families move from their homes in the Protestant area of the Crumlin Road. 5/8/1969
Explosions. Attacks on Electricity Service. Castlereagh. The smouldering remains of a transformer at an electricity sub-station in the Cregagh Hills, near Belfast, where an explosion caused ?500,000 damage. 31/3/1969
Reservoirs: Silent Valley. Explosion. Annalong water pipe explosion. 24/4/1969
James Callaghan: Former British PM, deep in thought as he stands in front of one of a row of burnt out houses in Bombay street, Belfast. On the right is Gerry Fitt, MP. 27/8/1969
RIOTS. BELFAST. AUGUST 1969.
RIOTS. BELFAST. AUGUST 1969. A family leaving the sealed-off area, are escorted down Divis Street by troops.
RIOTS. BELFAST. AUGUST 1969. After fierce rioting, the rubble filled Divis Street, reminiscent of the blitz. 15/8/1969
Army in Ulster 1969 | Library file dated 18/08/1969 | Ardoyne, Belfast. Soldier with young boy.
Riots : Belfast. August 1969. (4/8/69)
Riots : Belfast. August 1969.
Riots : Belfast. August 1969. Army take over: a young lady leaves the sealed off area passing through the barricades in Divis Street. 16/8/69
Riots : Belfast. August 1969.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. ARTHUR STREET. April/May 1941. Arthur Street, as senn from Donegall Place. The gap has been created by the destruction of Messrs. Brand's (Ulster Arcade) Emporium.. AR 12
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. BELFAST TELEGRAPH. April/May 1941. Belfast Telegraph offices boarded up and Central Library on Royal Avenue. AR 22
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. BRIDGE STREET. 4/5 May. Bridge Street/High Street. AR 30.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. BRIDGE STREET. 4/5 May 1941. Bridge Street from High Street. AR 31
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS.BRIDGE STREET. 4/5 May 1941. Bridge Street from North Street. AR 32
Belfast City Hall. Donegall Square. Under construction in 1906
The collapse of the central arches of the Albert Bridge. 15/9/1886
The Albert Bridge. 15/1/1932
Spectators gather to view the Albert Bridge after the collapse of the central arches in 1886
Belfast City Hall. Donegall Square. As it looked in 1930 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE
Belfast City Hall. Donegall Square. In 1912
The interior of Belfast City Hall.
The interior of Belfast City Hall. 18/8/1939
The interior of Belfast City Hall.
The interior of Belfast City Hall.
The interior of Belfast City Hall.
Belfast City Hall. Donegall Square. Under construction in 1906. The statue of Queen Victoria already in place. BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE
The interior of Belfast City Hall. 1951
City Hall from Wellington Place, Belfast. 5/10/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE/NMNI
The Plattermen. 26/5/1965
A beacon of Belfast night-life, dancers arriving at the Plaza in its heyday. 15/10/1965
The Plaza Ballroom in its heyday. 14/9/1967
The Nevada Showband, featuring the vivacious Kelley. 22/2/1973
The Miami Showband pose for the camera. 4/6/1972
" This is how you do it." Three Randalstown fans get some quick tuition on "The Hucklebuck" from members of the Royal Showband. From left: Alice O'hara, Ballygrooby; Brendan Bowyer, Margaret O'Hara, Ballygrooby; Ed Sullivan, Betty McKeown, Hook's Lane, and Tom Dunphy. 18/2/1965
The Freshmen. 27/10/1966
The Indians, one of Ireland's leading showbands. 14/8/1980
Big Tom and the mighty Mainliners. 11/12/1972
Showbands legend Dave Glover. 20/9/1968
The legendary Glenn Miller and his orchestra playing to a devoted audience at a wartime gig.
Brendan Bowyer does "The Fly" with two dancers who will be touring with the Rpyal Showband. 22/4/1966
Cliff Richard:British Pop Singer. in Belfast. 30/10/1964
A visitor's view perhaps of Belfast at night, as seen from a bedroom in the Royal Avenue Hotel. 9/11/1966
The hysterical crowd of teenagers which greeted the Bay City Rollers when they performed in Belfast's New Vic Cinema 25/4/1975
WORLD FAMOUS BOY SOPRANO BILLY NEELY
MCBURNEY'S PREMIER RECORD STORE AND SMITHFIELD MARKET
The demolition of the old Post Office, in Royal Avenue, to make way for a new shopping complex. 11/7/1985
Mc Glade's Pub. Donegall Street, Belfast.
James Johnston. Belfast Tenor. 'The Belfast Butcher.' 21/2/1945
Young starlet Ruby Murray, pictured in the Belfast Telegraph offices. March 1955
Belfast city centre, looking towards the City Hall and the hills beyond. 25/4/1939 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Belfast City Hall, composite photographs showing approaches. 26/6/1948 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
City Hall, south side, Belfast 3/11/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE/NMNI
Statue of Queen Victoria in the grounds of the City Hall, Belfast. 5/1/1943 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
Belfast Castle. February 1937 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
St. Anne's Cathedral, with Miss Praeger working on the figure of Solomon on the Pillar of Wisdom. 18/6/1928 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
Outside St. Anne's Cathedral Mr. W.D. Hoskins, ARICS. and Mr. T.J. Rushton FRIBA a partner of Sir Charles Nicholson, cathedral architect with the Dean of Belfast, Very Reverend R.C.H.Elliot. 18/9/1947 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Presbyterian Assembly Buildings and Church House, Gt. Victoria St. Belfast 24/9/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Carlisle Memorial Methodist Church, Clifton St. Belfast. 13/5/1949 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
New' Petty Sessions Court, Victoria St. Belfast. 27/4/1943 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
Albert Bridge Road looking from Templemore Avenue citywards. 2/9/1943 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
Building a roundabout at the junction of Ravenhill Road, Albert Bridge Road and Madrid St. 10/9/1948 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
Anne St. and Arthur Square, Belfast. 11/10/1946 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Donegall Square North and East. Belfast. 26/7/1948 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Donegall Square South and West. Belfast 3/11/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Dublin Road. Belfast. 7/10/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
High Street, Belfast, looking towards the Albert Clock. 24/2/1939 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Lisburn Road, at Malone Avenue, Belfast. 3/5/1946 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Sandy Row, from Donegall Road looking towards Lisburn Road. Belfast. 10/5/1946 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Shaftesbury Square looking towards Gt. Victoria St. and Dublin Road, Belfast. 12/11/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Bedford St. Belfast. 6/10/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Belmont St. Woodstock Road, Belfast. 3/2/1939 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Bloomfield Road, Belfast, looking towards the Beersbridge Road. 1/12/1947 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
High St. from Castle Place. Belfast 20/2/1939 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
The Palm House in Botanic Gardens, Belfast. 7/5/1946 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Grand Opera House, The Hippodrome (Odeon), and The Ritz (ABC). In the foreground is a motorcycle and sidecar and a jeep. 5/10/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Exterior of King's Hall, Balmoral. 21/4/1949 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
G.N.R. railway terminus at Belfast 16/12/1937 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Looking along the Albert Bridge to The East Bridge Street Power Station. 2/9/1943 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Painting of Andrew Mulholland, founder of York Street Flax Spinning Company 4/4/1945 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Building of the Sydenham by-pass, a workman using a frog hammer. 25/10/1939 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMN
Shipyard workers watching the launch of the "Canberra". 11/3/1960 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Shankill Road at Canmore St.looking citywards, Belfast. 17/11/1943 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Victoria Square, Belfast, from Victoria Street. Davis & Co. automobile engineers, Cantrell & Cochrane factory. 24/8/1939 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Victoria Square, Belfast, with Cantrell & Cochrane delivery lorry. 3/5/1946 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Wilson's Court, Belfast. A narrow alley between High Street and Ann Street. Sign for "Lavery's". Gas bracket lamp. 16/5/1941 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Corner of North Street and Waring Street, Belfast. The Belfast Bank head office (formerly The Northern Bank). 22/9/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Old clothes market, Smithfield, Belfast. 5/1/1937 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Cattle pens at The Great Northern Railway Station, Belfast, from the Albert Bridge. 2/9/1943 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
The Mater Hospital, Crumlin Road, Belfast. 15/9/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
The Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, from the Grosvenor Road. 21/9/1925BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Chichester St. looking towards Donegall Square North. Belfast. 3/1/1941 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Chichester St. from Victoria St. junction. Belfast. 3/5/1946 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Donegall Square East, Showing a row of parked cars. Belfast 10/9/1928 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Donegall Square East, with air raid shelters, from the roof of the Robinson & Cleaver building, Belfast. Top of photo cut of by the censor. 22/9/1943 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Donegall Square North from the roof of the City Hall. Air raid shelters in City Hall grounds. Belfast 15/9/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Donegall Square North. Belfast 23/1/1946 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Arthur St. looking towards Arthur Sq. and Cornmarket. 27/4/1943 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Belfast, City Hall and surrounding area. Aerial Photograph. 17/8/1929 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE/NMNI
Stormont.Belfast. 24/10/1947 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE/NMNI
Stormont, painted black with pitch to camouflage it.Trolley bus no. 26. Belfast. 26/3/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE/NMNI
Smithfield market, Belfast.Young boy in a shop selling household furniture lamps and bric a brac. 26/11/1941
The stitching room of the Belfast Collar Company
Albion limited Group. Machine Department Albion Ltd Belfast 1919
Yardmen busy themselves bottling gas. 30/6/1934
On a tour of the gasworks our photographer is shown the Interior Gaosmeter. 27/4/1934
Linen Industry:Plain Weaving Shop, Brookfield Factory. 3/3/1939
Linen/ Warping, York Street Factory.
Linen/ winding weft yarn. York St. Factory.
Linen, Damask weaving shot. Brookfield factory. York St factory.
Linen Industry:View of Weaving Room, York Street Factory.
Linen Industry:Wet Spinning, York Street Mill.
Albion limited Group. The visit of H.R.H. the Duke Of Gloucester to Albion Ltd Clothing maufacturers Belfast,29th May 1934
Manhattan Beauty Salon, Corn Market. Female customers having their hair styled. 7/5/1940
On a visit to the Gasworks an employee demonstrates the Coal Gripper (The feed system of a coal getting combine, which works with a face conveyor, comprises: a traction device located on the combine and having a cylinder-shaped sprocket on the side surface of which a circular spherical-shaped recess is provided, slots being made on both inner sides of the spherical recess, said slots having an involute-spherical surface) 20/1/1938
Saw repair shop, McMasters, Church Lane. 19/11/1945
Weaving and winding training school at Ewart's factory. Pupils at work in the classroom. 29/1/1948
The Countess Granville, wife of the Ulster Governor and sister of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, cutting ribbon to open childrens play centre at Bessbrook. 15/9/1945
Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, visit to Northern Ireland 1945. Arriving in Belfast, being recieved by Lord Londonderry at Assembly Hall for degree ceremony at Queens. 14.9.1945
James Magennis:Ulsterman awarded The Victoria Cross (VC). Belfastman decorated for his heroic actions onboard the X.E.11 Midget Submarine returning from the attack on a japanese cruiser. James Magennis with Lord Mayor Sir Crawford McCullagh at a civic reception in Belfast in 1945.
Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, visit to Northern Ireland 1945. Arriving in Belfast and being greeted at the City Hall by Sir Crawford McCullagh. 14/9/1945.
BBC's Radio entertainer, Mr Gillie Potter, pictured here in Belfast. 17/2/1948
Hon. Edward Carson, son of late Lord Carson of Duncairn, and his wife arriving for the Unionist Council meeting. 19/2/1948
Lady Carson, widow of Lord Carson of Duncairn, and Lady Brooke, at Stormont House. 17/2/1948
Sir Malcolm Sargent, Conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, with his hosts, the P.M., Lord Brookeborough, and Lady Brooke, at Stormont. 24/6/1947
Sir Arnold McNair, Judge of the Court of International Justice at the Hague, with Lady McNair and Professor J. L. Montrose. 22/10/1947
The stitching room of the Belfast Collar Company
Rabbi Jacob Shachter, Rabbi Belfast, Rabbi Dr I. Herzog, Chief Rabbi elect of the Holy Land, and Mr J Hurwitz at Belfast railway station. 15/3/1937
Craftsmen finish work on the Royal Courts of Justice, Oxford Street, Belfast, under the watchful of Lord Craigavon. 14/4/1933
The opening of the Royal Courts of Justice, Oxford Street, Belfast. 31/5/1933
Stonemasons finish work on the outside of the Royal Courts of Justice, Oxford Street, Belfast. April 1933
Aerial of Belfast Harbour, Thompson Wharf. 12/8/1937
Belfast Custom House, Custom House Square, Belfast. 28/1/1930
Belfast Custom House, Custom House Square, Belfast. 14/4/1928
Belfast Harbour, The Quay's at the turn of the twentieth century.
The construction of the Albert Memorial, dating back yo 1867.
The interior of Belfast City Hall.
The interior of Belfast City Hall. The vault and storeroom at City Hall. 5/1/1934
Belfast City Hall. Donegall Square. Under construction in 1903. The Earl of Glasgow unveiling the statue of Sir Edward J Harland in the grounds of the new City Hall.

I first wrote a book on the Belfast Blitz in 1989 - partly because of my deep affection for the city and also because virtually no research had been conducted into it. I was conscious then that there were many sources I should have looked at and always felt that, at some point, I would attempt to write a more definitive account.

I began this in 2010. I interviewed numerous people and consulted a wealth of published material. But my main new source was the wealth of documentary material drawn from almost 30 archive centres.

This included: at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, the papers of Belfast City Council; at the Linen Hall Library, civil defence message books for 'D district' covering April/May 1941 - ie the actual messages sent by wardens to their local HQ during the raids, in the area of north Belfast which was the most severely bombed of any in the city; in Dublin, reports by Eire's lookout posts, meteorological records and Government files relating to key aspects of the Blitz; and in London, the papers of servicemen who served locally in 1941, Luftwaffe target folders compiled to brief the crews later designated to bomb Belfast and the war diaries for those military units who manned its AA guns, fighter aircraft and searchlights.

The book, Belfast Blitz: The City In The War Years, examines the reasons why Belfast was ill-prepared for the Blitz. It had too few shelters and anti-aircraft guns, fighter aircraft only equipped for daytime operations, no searchlights and few people had been evacuated.

In part, this was because the city was thought to be too insignificant and remote from Germany to merit elaborate preparations. Its long immunity from attack encouraged the hope that it might escape altogether and there was a feeling that Hitler might respect Irish neutrality and, so, not bomb it.

Blame is often attributed to the incompetence of the Stormont Government. But anti-aircraft guns and searchlights were in short supply throughout the UK, not just in Northern Ireland. Also, the key decisions about how the available supplies should be allocated were made in London, not in Belfast.

From mid-1940 there was a growing expectation amongst politicians and officials that Belfast would be attacked. This was because of the city's increasing importance as a munitions and military centre.

The fall of France in June 1940 increased its vulnerability. After this, Germany had air bases in northern France. Also, the Admiralty diverted shipping from Britain's vulnerable southern ports to those in the north west - Glasgow, Liverpool, Bristol and Belfast.

Concern was increased by the pattern of the Blitz on Britain by early 1941. It was increasingly directed at these western ports; there were mounting fears that Belfast would be next.

Furthermore, there was evidence that Luftwaffe activity over the city was increasing - laying mines in Belfast Lough almost daily by July 1940 and reports of reconnaissance aircraft overhead.

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. HIGH STREET.
4/5 May 1941. High Street after the bombs. AR 79.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. HIGH STREET. 4/5 May 1941. High Street after the bombs. AR 79.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. SOLDIERS. 4/5 May 1941. Soldiers playing gramophone. AR 151.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. SOLDIERS. 4/5 May 1941. Soldiers taking refreshments. AR 151.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. BRIDGE STREET. 4/5 May 1941. Bridge Street from High Street. AR 33
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. CITY HALL. 4/5 May 1941. Belfast City Hall showing the roof above the Banqueting Hall, damged after an explosion. AR 43.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. CHILDREN EVACUATED. April/May 1941. Children being evacuated at the railway station. AR 61.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. YORK STREET. 15/16 April 1941. Musical interlude. An impromtu organ recital AR 192.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. YORK STREET. 15/16 April 1941. Ballymoney mobile canteen at demolition squad. AR 196.
WORLD WAR II: V.E. DAY CELEBRATIONS BELFAST 1945.
Ewart's Crumlin Road, inspection of shells. 3/12/1943
Belfast Municipal College of Technology, College Square. Training women munition workers, two are shown operating a milling machine. 1942-05-14
Manufacturing parachute travelling bags at Ewarts Ltd., Bedford Street. A female worker shows the finished bag. 9/12/1943
Ewart's Crumlin Road, finishing the base of a shell to length. 3/12/1943
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. SHORE ROAD. 4/5 May 1941. Spreading the rubble. AR 160.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. THORNDIKE STREET. 15/16 April 1941.Debris after the bomb. AR 175.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. YORK ROAD. 4/5 May 1941. Londonderry mobile canteen at demolition squad. AR 211.
Typical female munition worker at "Combe Barbour". 22/11/1941
Shells being pressed and marked and numbered. 14/2/1940
World War 2: VE - Day. Crowd listening to Prime Minister Winston Churchill's broadcast at Belfast City Hall. (08/05/1945)
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. CHILDREN EVACUATED. April/May 1941. Children being evacuated at the railway station. AR 60.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. YORK ROAD. 4/5 May 1941. Removing furniture. AR 211.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. ST. ANNE'S CATHEDRAL. April/May 1941. Miraculously St. Anne's Cathedral survived, while most of Donegall Street was reduced to rubble AR 65.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. EGLINTON STREET. 4/5 May 1941. Eglinton Street and Carlisle Street (Carlisle Street). AR 70.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. HIGH STREET. 4/5 May 1941. High Street from top of Woolworths building. AR 92.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. HALLIDAYS ROAD. 15/16 April 1941. Smoke issuing from a crater. AR 95.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. INTERNATIONAL BAR. 4/5 May 1941. International Bar, York Street after air raids. AR 105.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. HARLAND & WOLFF. 4/5 May 1941. The International Bar (corner of Donegall Street and York Street) still ablaze. AR 107.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. NEWTOWNARDS ROAD. 4/5 May 1941.Newtownards Road, blitzed areas cleaned up. AR 128.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. ROSEMARY STREET. 4/5 May 1941.Rosemary Street and Bridge Street. AR 138.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. ROSEMARY STREET PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. 4/5 May 1941. AR 144.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. SUGARHOUSE ENTRY. April/May 1941. Where the United Irishmen used to meet under the leadership of Henry Joy McCracken in the days of '98. AR 161.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. TRANSPORT. 15/16 April 1941. The Municiple tram service carried on despite Hitler's bombs, which fell both inside and outside this depot in Salisbury Avenue (Antrim Road). AR 172.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. VICTORIA STREET. 4/5 May 1941. Waring Street corner as seen from 'the Albert'. AR 179.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. HARLAND & WOLFF. 4/5 May 1941. Harland and Wolff general view of part of the shipyard, damaged by air raids. AR 103.
Riots : Belfast. October 1969. Women and children form a human chain across the Newtownards Road, Belfast, at Templemore Avenue. The protest lasted about an hour. (18/10/69)
Riots : Belfast. October 1969. Troops stop and search cars at Peter's Hill. (11/10/69)
Riots : Belfast. August 1969. A sentry looks on as Labour M.P. Gerry Fitt conducting Labour M.P's from Westminster around the Falls Road area, Belfast. (24/8/69)
Riots : Belfast. September 1969. Troops with arms at the ready face protestants in Percy Street as a crowd of Catholics shout from the Falls Road. (7/9/69)
Riots : Belfast. August 1969. Barricades in Divis Street, a man talks to troops over the barricade. (16/8/69)
Riots : Belfast. August 1969. (20/8/69)
Riots : Belfast. August 1969. Children playing in the sentry box erected by vigilantes at Thames Street, Belfast. The box is used by the residents who guard the street during the hours of darkness. (23/8/69)
Riots : Belfast. August 1969. Buildings reduced to rubble in the riots on the Falls Road in Belfast. 19/8/69
Riots: Belfast. Refugees. Furniture is carried into the schools meals centre in Butler Street as Roman Catholic families move from their homes in the Protestant area of the Crumlin Road. 5/8/1969
Explosions. Attacks on Electricity Service. Castlereagh. The smouldering remains of a transformer at an electricity sub-station in the Cregagh Hills, near Belfast, where an explosion caused ?500,000 damage. 31/3/1969
Reservoirs: Silent Valley. Explosion. Annalong water pipe explosion. 24/4/1969
James Callaghan: Former British PM, deep in thought as he stands in front of one of a row of burnt out houses in Bombay street, Belfast. On the right is Gerry Fitt, MP. 27/8/1969
RIOTS. BELFAST. AUGUST 1969.
RIOTS. BELFAST. AUGUST 1969. A family leaving the sealed-off area, are escorted down Divis Street by troops.
RIOTS. BELFAST. AUGUST 1969. After fierce rioting, the rubble filled Divis Street, reminiscent of the blitz. 15/8/1969
Army in Ulster 1969 | Library file dated 18/08/1969 | Ardoyne, Belfast. Soldier with young boy.
Riots : Belfast. August 1969. (4/8/69)
Riots : Belfast. August 1969.
Riots : Belfast. August 1969. Army take over: a young lady leaves the sealed off area passing through the barricades in Divis Street. 16/8/69
Riots : Belfast. August 1969.
WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. ARTHUR STREET. April/May 1941. Arthur Street, as senn from Donegall Place. The gap has been created by the destruction of Messrs. Brand's (Ulster Arcade) Emporium.. AR 12

The book describes the raids in detail and their impact. The first was the Dockside raid (April 7/8, 1941), when 13 people died, 12 in the docks area. Though popularly referred to as the "wee" raid, 500 bombers attacked the UK that night; there were at most eight over Belfast at any one time.

It seemed certain that the Luftwaffe would return and, in preparation, a smokescreen was set up to obscure the docks and searchlight units arrived on April 10.

Belfast's second raid, on Easter Tuesday night (April 15/16) is the one most deeply embedded in the popular memory. Some 180 bombers participated and dropped 200 tons of high explosives and 30,000 incendiaries.

The most striking feature of the raid was that the docks sustained little damage. Instead, it was the working-class terraces to the north of the city which suffered most (for example, the chronicle for St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street, records that 130 of its parishioners died).

The explanation most commonly offered was that the Luftwaffe mistook Belfast's Waterworks for the docks and bombed the district surrounding it. It is understandable how the bombers might have missed the harbour area. Weather conditions were poor; one-third of the bombers designated to attack the city failed to reach it and diverted to targets in Britain.

Military reports also stressed the effectiveness of the smokescreen in obscuring the harbour area. Bombing techniques were primitive; in spite of these conditions, Luftwaffe crews attempted to drop their bombs "by sight".

Their reports on the raid are revealing. They described it as "unsatisfactory", "abortive", predicted that its effect would be "minimal" and results "mediocre". Basically, they did not know what they had struck.

Few claimed to have hit their primary targets in the docks; most knew they had missed them. Other areas were hit - in Londonderry, Newtownards and Bangor. In Belfast, 740 civilians lost their lives.

The death rate was high, because so many bombs fell on densely populated areas, there were few shelters, the fact so few had been evacuated from the city and its defences were inadequate.

Again, it was likely that the Luftwaffe would return; crews knew they had missed their targets. Meanwhile, little could be done to improve the city's defences. "Dangerous" animals in Bellevue Zoo were put down and the number of anti-aircraft guns increased from 22 to 28.

Belfast's second major attack took place on May 4/5. It was shorter, more intense and more accurate than on Easter Tuesday - the Luftwaffe struck its primary targets (the shipyards and aircraft factory). Over almost three hours, 200 bombers dropped 240 tons of high explosives and 100,000 incendiaries.

More than 200 fires were ablaze when the raid ended. It was popularly referred to as the "fire raid". There were fewer casualties; 192 civilians were killed, primarily because it was the docks and city centre area which suffered most.

There were few people about - it was a Sunday night, many workers had refused to work night shifts after Easter Tuesday and 100,000 people had evacuated following that attack.

Possibly the shelters were used more; certainly, the anti-aircraft guns were more active, supplemented this time by HMS Furious.

After this raid Luftwaffe crews expressed elation. Virtually all reported that they had hit their targets, and some claimed that the city's fires were visible from the coasts of Wales and Lancashire.

Belfast's last raid took place on the following night (May 5/6). While 460 bombers attacked UK targets, fortunately just three struck Belfast. It was vulnerable at the time; the water was off over three-quarters of the city and civil defence workers were exhausted.

The bombing of Dublin (May 30/31) was the last occasion when a significant number of bombs were dropped on Ireland. Its causes have prompted speculation. Did the Luftwaffe bomb it by mistake, because the British "bent" their navigation guidance beams, or their aircraft were blown across from Britain by strong easterly winds?

Or was the bombing a calculated act of German retaliation for Eire's breaches of neutrality - most recently evidenced by the help it had given Belfast after air raids there?

In support of the latter is the fact that, prior to the Easter Tuesday raid, Luftwaffe pilots had been given strict instructions to ensure that they did not bomb neutral Ireland.

The book also evaluates in detail the impact of the Blitz - its demographic, social, economic and political consequences; whether it affected Stormont/Westminster relations, or improved those between Northern and southern Ireland, or between the two communities within Northern Ireland (it examines the wartime activities of the IRA).

The air raids caused 960 civilian deaths in Northern Ireland (the book contains the names of almost 900 of them). When military deaths are included, the total rises to more than 1,000.

The Belfast air raids have been described as the "most disastrous event in (its)... history" and they were traumatic and unprecedented. Two of them were particularly heavy.

Thus, half of the city's housing stock was destroyed or damaged, and half of its elementary schools. In May 1941 officials estimated that 220,000 people had evacuated from the city (one-half its population), while tens of thousands "ditched".

Yet the Blitz is still not adequately commemorated; there is no civic memorial to its victims. Hopefully, this omission will be corrected next year - its 75th anniversary.

Brian Barton's Belfast Blitz: The City In The War Years is published by the Ulster Historical Foundation (£19.99)

Belfast Telegraph

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