Belfast Blitz victims were remembered last Friday, on the eve of the 72nd anniversary of the final raid of the Blitz.
The High Sheriff of Belfast, councillor Brian Kingston and Lieutenant Colonel C T Hogg, chairman, Northern Ireland War Memorial, laid wreaths at a recently refurbished memorial stone and plot in the City Cemetery which marks the graves of 154 unidentified victims of the 1941 Belfast Blitz.
Two major Luftwaffe air raids on April 15 and May 4 devastated the city, demolishing vast areas and killing over a thousand people. The memorial marks the graves of the people who remained unidentified after the bombing campaign ended.
Councillor Kingston said: "These attacks by the Luftwaffe were carefully planned and exposed the vulnerability of Belfast resulting in over a thousand people being killed. So it is fitting that we mark the 72nd anniversary, almost to the day, with something positive – the refurbishment of this memorial which commemorates those who lost their lives and have no known graves.
"The memorial stone marks the graves of those who remained unidentified as a result of the blitz attacks. It is also a focus for each of us to remember and to reflect on how tenacity and endurance help us overcome dreadful events to build a better future.
"The City Cemetery is not only a guardian of the past but is also an important part of our planning for the future of Belfast because it can help attract visitors and so boost the economic future for this part of the city. We are confident that maintaining memorials which reflect our history adds to that attraction," added Councillor Kingston.
Belfast City Council spent £30,000 refurbishing the memorial. The plot has been re-edged with Mourne granite stone to match the existing memorial; the plaque has been cleaned and re-engraved; the four corner stones have been repaired and re-built to enhance the boundary of the plot and the surrounding ground has been levelled and landscaped with decorative hedge box fencing to replicate the original design.
The finishing touches to the transformation also include a new pathway for improved access to the memorial, one of several in the cemetery relating to the Second World War.
Lieutenant Colonel C T Hogg said: "The refurbishment of this grave complements the restoration last year of the blitz grave in Milltown, where a further twenty bodies are buried. Citizens of both traditions are therefore honoured and remembered."
Local councillor and historian, Tom Hartley, also welcomed the refurbishment.
"The memorials in this cemetery are invaluable reflecting as they do the history of our city through plague, industrial revolution and wars. It is vital that we maintain them and help locals and visitors alike appreciate them," he said.