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The Belfast Blitz: Two men, who were just boys at the time, recall their incredible escape on the night that terror rained down from the skies

More than 900 people were killed and 1,500 injured 75 years ago when Nazis carried out their biggest air raids outside London

Published 13/04/2016

In ruins: High Street in Belfast after being blitzed in 1941
In ruins: High Street in Belfast after being blitzed in 1941
Battle honours: Robert Porter and wife Betty with his Second World War medals
After the Blitz on the Shore Road in Belfast
Bleak picture: St Anne’s Cathedral just after the Blitz
Evacuees wait to be taken to safety
A crater on Ravenscroft Avenue in east Belfast
The devastation in Belfast city centre is clear to see
John Kielty sitting in Writer’s Square opposite the Cathedral today
Robert Porter in the Navy
Proud veteran: Robert Porter with his war medals

It is 75 years since almost 200 Luftwaffe planes rained bombs down on Belfast, wiping out more than 900 people in what came to be known as the Belfast Blitz.

It was the biggest loss of life in any raid outside London during the Second World War when, as well as the huge death toll, more than 1,500 people were injured.

This weekend, Belfast City Council is to stage a series of commemorative events to mark the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz.

There were four German air raids in total on the city in April and May of 1941, with the second, on April 15, proving the deadliest.

Another 150 people were killed in a subsequent raid on the night of May 4-5, with the final raid happening the following night.

Events to remember those caught up in the Blitz will begin this Friday, the anniversary of the worst raid, with the unveiling of the first in a series of memorial plaques at 10.30am at St George’s Market, which was used as a temporary mortuary during the war.

A commemoration ceremony will then be held at noon in the Northern Ireland War Memorial Gallery, which is also open to the public.

Everyone is also invited to an ecumenical service this Sunday at 3.30pm in St Anne’s Cathedral, an event organised in conjunction with St Patrick's Church, Donegall Street. Candles will be lit to offer symbolic reflection for those who lost their lives during the Blitz.

A number of other events will be staged throughout the city over the weekend, including a lecture by Dr Brian Barton, author of The Belfast Blitz: The City in the War Years, in the Bobbin coffee shop in City Hall (Friday, 6.30pm-8pm); a ‘sound and light’ presentation in the City Hall grounds, accompanied by the screening of the names of the dead on the Big Screen (Friday, 8pm); a Blitz-themed family open day in the Northern Ireland War Memorial gallery in Talbot Street (Saturday, 10.30am to 2.30pm) and a 1940s-themed tea dance will also be held at the Ulster Hall on May 2.

Seventy-five years on, and there are few people alive today who can recall first-hand the terrifying events of that night.

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.

But two people who have never forgotten the horror of those hundreds of bombs devastating Belfast, today share their memories with our readers.

The passage of time has not erased a single moment of the memories which have been forever etched in the minds of Belfast men John Kielty and Robert Porter, who give a fascinating account of their experiences of the Belfast Blitz.

John Kielty (87), a retired postmaster, was just 12 years old and at home with his family in Hopeton Street, off the Shankill Road, when the bombing started.

The family were visiting a neighbour’s house after the attack when a bomb exploded under them, burying them in rubble.

John, a widower, who has three children, 13 grandchildren and two great grandchildren, was the first to be dug out and taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

He spent the next three days believing he had been left orphaned and that his family had been wiped out in the blast.

Fortunately they, too, survived, but because of the mayhem that followed they didn’t realise John had been saved. It was only when a friend of the family spotted his name on a list of survivors that he was able to pass on the good news and the family was reunited.

John recalls: “I lived in Hopeton Street which is next to Malvern Street and opposite Percy Street off the Shankill Road.

“I remember during the bombing my sister Jean and brother Billy and I hid under the stairs, while my parents were under the kitchen table.

“Afterwards, when you looked at the houses that were ruined, the only things left standing were the staircases, so it was actually one of the safest places to be.

“It was very frightening — you could hear the drone of the planes and then the bombs exploding and the ground shaking beneath you.

“When it finally stopped, a neighbour who lived two doors away, Mrs Mewhirter, came down to us and said ‘come and see my wee house, it is ruined’. She was a spinster and the only one on the street who owned her own house.

"We all tripped down the road to see the damage and I remember another neighbour, Mr Adair and his daughter Jean, came too.

"The whole lot of us crammed into her hall and stood on the rubble of her house looking up at the sky.

"She then left to see if her sister was alright and Mr Adair and his daughter left and I remember I was standing at the doorway with my hands in my pockets when the all clear siren went and my mother said 'Thank God' and the next thing I was in darkness.

"There had been a bomb with a defused timer under the rubble we were standing on which exploded.

"I remember men coming with picks and shovels to dig us out. They got me out first and put me on a stretcher and carried me to a first aid post in Percy Street. A dog I played with on the street came over and licked my hand.

"The ambulance came and took me to the Royal and no-one thought to ask who I was or where I had come from.

"The rest of my family got out and there was no trace of me and they presumed I was dead.

"I was put in a wee annex in the Royal with other injured people and for three days I thought my family had been killed.

"It was only when a friend of my brother's noticed my name on the list of injured that he was able to tell my family that I was still alive.

"I had been lying in hospital thinking that I was an orphan and I was very, very glad when my father came into the ward.

"We had to move to stay with relatives in Ballymena because our house was destroyed and I went to school in Harryville.

"It was a year before we got rehoused and we got back onto our old street again.

"The Blitz is not something you would ever forget and it's great that the council is remembering it. I hope to attend some of the events this weekend in the city."

‘When I got home there were eight people hiding under our kitchen table’

Robert Porter (93) was 18 years old during the Blitz. A year later, he joined the Navy where he served for four years during the war. A retired headmaster, Robert now lives in Gilnahirk and has been married for 69 years to his teenage sweetheart Elizabeth (94).

They have three children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

He was at home on the Cregagh Road in east Belfast on the night of the worst attacks.

He recalls: "I was walking along the Lagan towpath when I saw the first plane on the first night which turned out to be a reconnaissance plane taking photographs of the shipyard and targets in the city. And it was the following night that the Blitz happened.

"I'd come home about 8pm and the bombing had started. I remember my father, who had lost a leg during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, was trying to put on what was in those days his dreadfully old artificial limb because he wanted to go down to the Newtownards Road and check if his business, a butcher's shop, was alright.

"I told him to stay and I would go instead. I got the bicycle and headed out.

"There was a dreadful mess and I was cycling over lots of broken glass and I remember Thorndike Street and Templemore Avenue were among the worst hit. There was a felt works on fire and what we called 'the wee hospital' in Templemore Avenue was in flames.

"The windows of my dad's shop were blown out and next door there was a shoemakers which was run by two elderly people and I went in there to see if they were okay and found them hiding under a sewing machine.

"There was nobody on the streets, I didn't see a soul - everyone must have been still hiding.

"When I got back home there were around half a dozen or eight people still hiding under our kitchen table, apart from my dad who was mooching around in disgust.

"I remember the streets being so very quiet. It was the same during the war.

"I joined up the next year and served in the North Atlantic which was no place to be, as we lost ships in every convoy. In one convoy we lost half a dozen ships and that was tough to see. Some of them were tankers and when they were hit that was the end. They were in flames and there wasn't any chance of surviving.

"Just like after the Blitz when there was an attack at sea no one spoke and silence reigned supreme as everyone had their own private thoughts about what was happening. And they just had to get on with their jobs.

"After the war I went to college to train to be a teacher and there were loads of ex-servicemen of all ranks back from the war doing the same thing and most of them became headmasters or deputy headmasters.

"From those days there were about 30 of us who went on to meet up once a month in Carnalea Golf Club and every year some dropped off so that there are only two of us now and we meet every couple of months for lunch.

"There are so few left and I think it is great that the council is commemorating the Blitz after all these years."

For further information on the Belfast Blitz commemorations, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/events

Belfast Telegraph

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