Belfast Telegraph

Veteran recalls Belfast Blitz fight

A bucket of water, a container of sand and an unusable fire extinguisher were all one veteran had to fight the flames of the Belfast Blitz, it has emerged.

Vance Rodgers, 88, was charged with putting out city centre blazes as the bombs rained down in April 1941.

Mr Rogers was among survivors who gathered on Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of the disaster.

A wreath was laid inside the war memorial building in Talbot Street by Belfast City High Sheriff Ian Adamson.

Mr Rogers, who was then aged 18 and had only been working as a firefighter for a matter of weeks, said: "We were called fire watchers and we were supposed to put fires out.

"I was with another man armed with a bucket of water, a bucket of sand and a fire extinguisher. The title of fire watcher was more apt, there was not any danger of putting incendiary bombs out with a bucket of sand and water, and we never did find out how the fire extinguisher worked."

Belfast was virtually unprepared for the massive attack aimed at the city's dockyards. Nearly 1,000 people died as a result of the bombing and 1,500 were injured. Half of the houses in Belfast were damaged.

Esther Fyffe, 78, still has a set of darkened and faded molten pennies minted the same year as the attack, rescued from the wreckage of her north Belfast home. She was just eight years of age and, with her panicking younger brother Roy, was taken to hide under the stairs and later under a table by her mother.

"We were only down half an hour when the house fell," she said. "I was able to get out and shout for help. My mother was trapped. My brother was blown off her knee, she did not know where he was. Roy said: 'Mummy don't leave me'."

Eventually, her mother brought her brother out from the rubble and they made their way to safety, the mother lying on top of her children when air raid wardens shouted to them to take cover. Every time her brother went through a tunnel afterwards, he panicked, she said.

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