Belfast Telegraph

Flashback to Belfast in wartime as Oval marks the Blitz

By Rebecca Black

Two vintage fire engines from Dublin and Drogheda which came to Belfast in her hour of need as it burned following the Nazi bombing raids were back on the streets of the city last night for a poignant remembrance of the Blitz.

The distinctive bells sounded along the Newtownards Road as the old vehicles proudly followed a parade of participants in historical costume - including the Home Guard and nurses.

Members of the public lined the streets to see the spectacle which was led by the pipes and drums of the Royal Irish Regiment from St Patrick's Church to Dee Street and then on to the Oval where an evening of special events took place.

The grounds of the east Belfast football stadium were transformed with the display of a full-size replica Spitfire, anti-aircraft guns and a Second World War searchlight.

A film was shown and music from the 1940s was enjoyed by crowds of people before the evening turned more sombre with a memorial service to remember those who lost their lives during the Luftwaffe raids. Members of the Emergency Services, the Polish community, the Royal Irish Regiment, Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Association, Glentoran FC, Crusaders FC and Distillery FC were among those who laid wreaths.

The Belfast Blitz Remembered event was organised by the Glentoran Community Trust to mark the 75th anniversary of that night of terror.

It is estimated that 100 people in east Belfast were killed when German bombers targeted the area on May 4, 1941. The Oval itself was so badly damaged by the bombs that it took almost a decade to rebuild.

Vice chair of the Trust, Sam Robinson (below), said that Glentoran and people who live in the area have always been mindful of the horror of that evening.

He explained that German bombers had targeted the Oval believing it was an oil storage facility.

"We have always been mindful of this history in east Belfast. May 4 was a hugely significant night both for the club and east Belfast," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Glentoran's grounds were completely flattened by the bombs - it took almost nine years to rebuild them.

"Between Easter and May 4, 1941, almost 1,000 people were killed in Belfast by German bombs, in east Belfast well over 100 died.

"Many people in this area remember a relative who died in the Blitz, including members of Glentoran."

Mr Robinson welcomed the attendance of the two veteran fire appliances from Dublin and Drogheda which rushed to Belfast to help fight the flames.

They were representatives of the some 71 firemen with 13 fire tenders who travelled from Dundalk, Drogheda, Dublin and Dun Laoghaire to Belfast.

"We have tried to bring together all who played a significant role helping people and this city during the Blitz," Mr Robinson said.

Belfast Telegraph


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