| 3.9°C Belfast

Close

Premium

Belfast Blitz: Luftwaffe's bombing raid to test city's defences ahead of terrible onslaught that was to come

More than 1,000 people were killed when the Nazis launched their biggest air raids outside London 80 years ago this month. Yet only now is the city planning a permanent memorial to the dead, writes Brian Barton

We are now approaching the 80th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz. With ample justification, Jimmy Doherty described it in his book, Post 381: The Memoirs of a Belfast Air Raid Warden, as "the most disastrous event in the history of the city". It was unprecedented, traumatic, tragic and, for most, entirely unexpected. Belfast was ill-prepared when the Blitz began: it had too few shelters and anti-aircraft (AA) guns; fighter aircraft only equipped for daytime operations; no searchlights and few of its citizens had been evacuated.

In Pictures: Belfast during the Blitz 1941 Close

Sam Bargewell’s destroyed Belfast home after the blitz in 1941

Sam Bargewell’s destroyed Belfast home after the blitz in 1941

Belfast air raids. April/May 1941: Belfast Telegraph offices boarded up and Central Library on Royal Avenue. AR 21

Belfast air raids. April/May 1941: Belfast Telegraph offices boarded up and Central Library on Royal Avenue. AR 21

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. NEWTOWNARDS ROAD.
April/May 1941. Tamar Street and Dee Street experienced the full force of the blitz. The area shown is partly cleared, with air raid shelters taking place of demolished houses. AR 125.

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. NEWTOWNARDS ROAD. April/May 1941. Tamar Street and Dee Street experienced the full force of the blitz. The area shown is partly cleared, with air raid shelters taking place of demolished houses. AR 125.

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS.HIGH STREET.
4/5 May 1941. High Street after being blitzed. AR 76.

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS.HIGH STREET. 4/5 May 1941. High Street after being blitzed. AR 76.

The streets of Belfast during the Blitz

The streets of Belfast during the Blitz

Belfast’s empty streets during the coronavirus crisis, and (right) the Belfast Blitz in 1941

Belfast’s empty streets during the coronavirus crisis, and (right) the Belfast Blitz in 1941

The scene of devastation in east Belfast after the blitz of 1941

The scene of devastation in east Belfast after the blitz of 1941

The Luftwaffe’s bombings of Belfast in 1941 caused widespread damage

The Luftwaffe’s bombings of Belfast in 1941 caused widespread damage

The gravestone to Emily Douglas and her five children, who
died when German aircraft blitzed Belfast with bombs in 1941

The gravestone to Emily Douglas and her five children, who died when German aircraft blitzed Belfast with bombs in 1941

Belfast during the Blitz

Belfast during the Blitz

A police officer and a soldier inspect the aftermath of a German air raid at Portman Street on September 19 of the same year

A police officer and a soldier inspect the aftermath of a German air raid at Portman Street on September 19 of the same year

Getty Images

High Street after being blitzed in May, 1941

High Street after being blitzed in May, 1941

Bleak picture: St Anne’s Cathedral just after the Blitz

Bleak picture: St Anne’s Cathedral just after the Blitz

Evacuees wait to be taken to safety

Evacuees wait to be taken to safety

Soldiers see at first hand the devastation wrought on Duncairn Gardens by the Luftwaffe

Soldiers see at first hand the devastation wrought on Duncairn Gardens by the Luftwaffe

A huge crater at Ravenscroft Avenue off the Newtownards Road after the Blitz of 1941

A huge crater at Ravenscroft Avenue off the Newtownards Road after the Blitz of 1941

May 4/5, 1941, looking towards York Street following the Blitz clean-up operation

May 4/5, 1941, looking towards York Street following the Blitz clean-up operation

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. SOLDIERS.
4/5 May 1941. Soldiers playing gramophone. AR 151.

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. SOLDIERS. 4/5 May 1941. Soldiers playing gramophone. AR 151.

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. YORK ROAD.
4/5 May 1941. Removing furniture. AR 211.

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. YORK ROAD. 4/5 May 1941. Removing furniture. AR 211.

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. CHILDREN EVACUATED. April/May 1941. Children being evacuated at the railway station. AR 60.

World War 2:  VE - Day.  Crowd listening to Prime Minister Winston Churchill's broadcast at Belfast City Hall.  (08/05/1945)

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. SOLDIERS.
4/5 May 1941. Soldiers taking refreshments. AR 151.

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. SOLDIERS. 4/5 May 1941. Soldiers taking refreshments. AR 151.

Typical female munition worker at "Combe Barbour".  22/11/1941

Typical female munition worker at "Combe Barbour". 22/11/1941

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. YORK ROAD.
4/5 May 1941. Londonderry mobile canteen at demolition squad. AR 211.

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. YORK ROAD. 4/5 May 1941. Londonderry mobile canteen at demolition squad. AR 211.

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. THORNDIKE STREET.
15/16 April 1941.Debris after the bomb. AR 175.

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. THORNDIKE STREET. 15/16 April 1941.Debris after the bomb. AR 175.

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. SHORE ROAD.
4/5 May 1941. Spreading the rubble. AR 160.

WORLD WAR II: BELFAST AIR RAIDS. SHORE ROAD. 4/5 May 1941. Spreading the rubble. AR 160.

/

Sam Bargewell’s destroyed Belfast home after the blitz in 1941

In part, this was because the city was thought to be too insignificant and remote from Germany to merit elaborate preparations. Its long immunity from attack encouraged the hope that it might escape altogether and there was a feeling that Hitler might respect Ireland's neutrality and so desist from bombing it.


Top Videos



Privacy