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Belfast Blitz: Recalling the fear, death and horror of nights Nazi warplanes bombed city

Survivors remember explosions, destruction and the loss of life during service to mark the 75th anniversary of the Blitz

By Linda Stewart

Published 18/04/2016

Congregation members light one of the thousand lights lit to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz held at St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast on April 17, 2016. Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Congregation members light one of the thousand lights lit to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz held at St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast on April 17, 2016. Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Some of the 1,000 lights at St Anne's Cathedral commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz on April 17, 2016. Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye
St Anne's Cathedral commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz on April 17, 2016 Belfast. Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Councillor Brian Kingston at St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz on April 17, 2016. Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Dean John Mann at St Anne's Cathedral commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz on April 17, 2016. Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Dean John Mann and Father Michael Sheehan at St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz on April 17, 2016. Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye
The 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz at St Anne's Cathedral was commemorated on April 17, 2016. Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Belfast City's deputy mayor, Alderman Guy Spence pictured at St Anne's Cathedral commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz on April 17, 2016. Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye
George Fleming beside one of the original Merry Weather fire engines from the Blitz. Picture by Justin Kernoghan

Belfast was "like fairyland" as German flares began to drop from the skies on the night of April 15, 1941, according to Blitz survivor Alec Murray.

But those eerie lights were helping the Luftwaffe exact a terrible toll on Belfast on that Easter Tuesday night - 900 deaths, 1,500 injuries and the greatest loss of life in any night raid during the Blitz outside London.

Yesterday, people came together from across Northern Ireland - and beyond - as Belfast city remembered those who died in the air raid 75 years ago.

A thousand shimmering candles were lit in St Anne's Cathedral as an ecumenical service was led by the Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev John Mann, and the Administrator of St Patrick's Church in Donegall Street, Fr Michael Sheehan.

The service was attended by Belfast Lord Mayor Arder Carson, Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, Finnouala Jay-O'Boyle, and representatives of the Fire Service in Dublin and Drogheda, who sent engines to the burning city.

Two of the original Merryweather Engines, which provided aid in the wake of the 1941 bombing raid, were parked in Writer's Square, just outside the cathedral.

In his sermon, Fr Sheehan recalled a "darkness which brought its own horror, suffering, heartbreak and pain; a darkness which brought, degradation, torture and death; a darkness which threatened to engulf goodness, honour, life and love and which threatened the very foundation of our humanity; a darkness which in so many places across the continent destroyed innocence".

But he said: "People emerge in every darkness who demonstrate through their actions God's goodness; people who come to ease and strengthen, support and defend the innocent, the wounded and the survivor.

"We give thanks for those lights which demonstrated courage, care, kindness and honour. The ambulance service, fire and rescue, wardens and defence units as well as ordinary good neighbours from across our divide."

The first raid of the Belfast Blitz took place on the night of April 7-8, 1941, a small attack probably designed to test the city's defences.

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.

It was followed by a devastating raid on Easter Tuesday, in which 200 Luftwaffe bombers attacked military and manufacturing targets across the city using high explosive bombs, claiming 900 lives.

It was followed by a raid on May 4-5 which claimed the lives of 150 people, before the final attack on May 5-6.

Although Belfast was the city with the highest population density, it had the lowest proportion of air shelters, with only 200 built prior to the Belfast Blitz.

Fewer than 4,000 women and children had been evacuated ahead of the raids, leaving more than 80,000 in the city.

Papers recovered after the war revealed that a Luftwaffe reconnaissance flight over Belfast in November 1940 had established that the city was defended by only seven anti-aircraft batteries, making it the most poorly defended city in the UK.

Survivor Alec Murray from the Shankill was just 10 when the Luftwaffe attacked. He lived close to the Percy Street air raid shelter which collapsed in the raid, killing many people.

"A landmine came down - a lot of people saw it coming down on a parachute," he said.

"It was like fairyland, but it was the flares that were dropping. The sirens had gone off about half an hour before."

Alec says in the days before the attack, the Nazi propagandist William Joyce - better known as traitor Lord Haw-Haw - had issued a horrifying warning to the people of Belfast.

"He said people in Belfast will not be rolling their Easter Eggs down the Cave Hill - they will be coming from the sky," Alec said.

"When we came back to the house, the roof was off it. We heard that so many places were wrecked. Falls Baths was used as a mortuary - they brought a lot of bodies there.

"We went out to Percy Street the next morning. We saw a lot of dead bodies - I saw men and women just lying there."

Yesterday, a specially written prayer was read by Allan Kilgore, who was born on May 7, 1941 during what his parents referred to as the "wee Blitz".

"My father, who worked at Doagh Flax Spinning Company in Mayo Street, was on watch duty on the roof of the factory on the night of May 7/8," Allan said.

"When he went home for breakfast he called into the Royal Maternity Hospital to see if I had arrived - and I had. But he couldn't get in because the hospital was on emergency lockdown.

"A matron or a nurse held me up at the window on one of the upper storeys.

"We had a little photograph of a white blob which was the matron or nurse and a smaller white blob and that was me."

Violet Sloan was 16 and was sent by her mother to take refuge with a neighbour who lived alone in Spamount Street, where New Lodge is now.

"The sirens went and when the bombs started to drop, she got me out into her backyard into a big tin bath and she hid us in below," she said.

"The whistling of the bombs got so bad that she said 'I think we'd better go in' and we hid in the coal house beneath the stairs. Before long we heard the most awful whistling and crash - the house at our back had taken a direct hit.

"We could hear the wee dog crying when the sirens went for the all clear. Mrs Walsh lived there and she and her daughter were dead - her husband and the dog survived."

Violet's mother didn't know if she had survived because of the damage to the street.

"The kitchen and the scullery had fallen in in the house next door," she said.

"When we went outside, everybody was running about crying and everywhere there was fire. There was all rubble and bricks and mortar everywhere."

They left Belfast for four or five weeks and returned to find their house had been badly damaged.

"It had gone right through the ceiling and the bedrooms and burned the hall out," Violet said.

Joanne Andrew-Steer was just under a year old and living in Alliance Avenue with her mum, brother, her mum's best friend and her two children on the night the bombs came.

"After the third lot of bombing, she decided to take us to Dromara to relative safety," she said.

"As a tiny girl I remember us living in a two-bedroom house and you were always sleeping with half a dozen people in the bed.

"I remember whenever there was thunder my mother always hid under the bed. The blackout was on then and I thought everybody had black windows.

"I'm so grateful to have lived and I went on to become president of the Royal British Legion, representing Northern Ireland in London."

Meanwhile, Harry Gilmour witnessed the Belfast Blitz at the age of 10 from his home in the rural townland of Aughrim.

"We were wakened by the sound of the planes coming overhead but we didn't know what it was. We were all at the bedroom window," he says.

"I could see Belfast on fire at that time - I could see every bomb that was dropped. We could hardly believe it was happening. We were all scared to death.

"The whole countryside was in darkness and all I saw was a glow in the sky. We could see the flash of every bomb that went off.

"I remember the evacuees arriving the next morning up from Belfast. Anybody that had any room around the country took one or two. The blacksmith's wife took in six evacuees.

"They came to our school, Aughrim Public Elementary School and we had to have desks up in the corridors because there were so many people there. They were arriving on milkfloats and everything - it was terrible."

Dean Mann said the indiscriminate bombing of the people of Belfast in 1941 was commemorated with an anguish that is still real.

"The image of St Anne's amidst the smouldering ruins after a night of destruction from the air is more powerful than many words for me," he said.

"The indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Belfast, or anywhere for that matter, is something we commemorate with an anguish that is still real these 75 years on. 

"We recall the fear, the death, the injury, the ruination, the many, to this day, whose lives were affected by those few nights that obliterated parts of our city."

The Northern Ireland War Memorial is recording the memories of those involved in the attacks as part of its Belfast Blitz 75 project. Dr Susan Kelly can be contacted at 028 9032 0392 ext 2 or through www.niwarmemorial.org.

Belfast Telegraph

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From Belfast Telegraph