Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Blitz: The night death and destruction rained down on city

By Lesley-Anne Henry

On this day 70 years ago almost 1,000 people died in a night Belfast would never forget.

The Blitz of Belfast on April 15, 1941, was the biggest single loss of life in any UK city outside of London during the Second World War.

Around 180 Luftwaffe aircraft pounded Belfast with 203 metric tonnes of high explosive, 673 bombs and 29,000 incendiaries in an attack lasting hours.

A further 1,500 people were injured and 56,000 houses — half the city’s housing stock — were badly damaged, leaving 15,000 families homeless.

During the war Harland and Wolff built more than 150 Royal Navy ships including aircraft carriers HMS Formidable and HMS Unicorn, as well as cruisers HMS Belfast and HMS Penelope.

Belfast shipyards also built or converted at least 3,000 naval vessels, repaired more than 22,000 and launched 140 merchant ships.

The linen mills also contributed to the war effort and produced millions of military uniforms. Hence, Belfast was a prime target.

But the city was not prepared for the bombardment on Easter Tuesday.

Northern Ireland Prime Minister Basil Brooke had to ask Eamon de Valera’s neutral Eire to help with the devastation.

Much of the city was reduced to rubble.

Thousands of children were evacuated to all over the province, wrenching families apart for the duration of the war.

Tribute to the 900 souls who perished in the Belfast Blitz, April 1941 (PDF)

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