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PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2009 10:42 pm 
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In early 1941 Belfast had less than half the recommended number of anti-aircraft batteries, no searchlights, and less than ten public air-raid shelters. The NI Government had refused to believe that Northern Ireland was a valid German bombing target, despite Derry being the first port of call for convoys arriving from the United States, the significant development of the Belfast shipyards and the aircraft factory, and their increasing role in supporting the British war effort. Belfast was the most unprotected city in Britain in 1941, however other cities in Northern Ireland had no protection at all.

John MacDermott (Minister of Public Security) warned the NI Government in March, 1941 that attacks could take place during the next full moon (7th-16th April).

A small German bomber force attacked Belfast on the night of 7th April, 1941, and destroyed the Harland & Wolff fuselage factory, a large timber yard and damaged the docks. Air raid warning sirens sounded only after the first bombs fell. The German aircrews reported on the almost non-existent defences on their return to base in France.

On Easter Tuesday (15th April, 1941) in the late evening, 180 Junkers JU88 and Heinkel HE111 bombers flew in across the Irish Sea. The few anti-aircraft batteries fired, and Hawker Hurricane fighters of 245 Squadron were scrambled from Aldergrove. The air raid sirens were sounded at 10:40 PM.

The bombers dropped first parachute flares, then followed them with incendiaries and parachute land mines - in total 203 metric tons and 800 firebomb canisters were dropped on the city. The narrow streets of New Lodge, the Lower Shankhill and the Antrim Road north of the city suffered the brunt of the attack rather than the intended industrial targets. The parachute land mines, designed to penetrate the reinforced concrete and steel of factories and workshops, instead fell on closely-packed Victorian terraces, with dire consequences.

A bomb fell on the Belfast telephone exchange at 01:45 AM, cutting off contact with the mainland and with the local anti-aircraft batteries. The batteries fell silent for fear of hitting friendly fighters - however ironically these had been withdrawn shortly before, and the bombers continued to attack the city for another two hours, largely unopposed.

Around 140 fires raged across the city. The War Office responded to a call for aid from the Ministry of Public Security, and sent 42 pumps and 400 firemen by destroyer and Admiralty ferry from Glasgow, Liverpool and Preston.

John MacDermott sent a railway telegram to De Valera in Dublin requesting assistance at 04:35 AM, (the telephone lines were out), and De Valera responded by despatching 13 fire engines manned by 70 volunteer firemen from Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, Drogheda and Dundalk.

The Luftwaffe also attacked other targets which lay on their flight path. Two large parachute mines were dropped on the Buncrana Road near Derry around midnight - one fell in a field however the other completely destroyed ex-servicemen's homes in Messines Park, killing 15 people and leaving 150 homeless. Around an hour later Newtownards airfield was bombed, killing 10 guards, and at the same time 14 bombs were dropped on Bangor, killing 5 people and injuring 35.

On the 16th April in the Falls Road Swimming Baths the pool was drained to make space for over 150 bodies, which lay there for three days awaiting identification. Another 250 bodies were laid out in St Georges Market - of these, 151 were identified and 92 taken away for burial by friends or relations. On 21st April, 1941 the remainder were buried in mass graves at the City and Milltown Cemeteries. The official total was 745 dead and 430 seriously injured, yet the actual death toll was in excess of 900 - no other city with the exception of London had suffered so many deaths from a single raid.

German bombers struck again on the evening of Sunday 4th May, 1941, and between 9:45 PM, and 1:55 AM dropped nearly 9,000 incendiary bombs and 237 tons of explosives almost exclusively on the harbour, the shipyards and the aircraft factory (the northern side of High Street, the City Hall banqueting rooms and other buildings were also destroyed or severely damaged). The number of deaths from this raid was however surprisingly low (191), however by this time over 50% of the city’s housing was either destroyed or badly damaged. Harland & Wolff subsequently laid a claim for £3M for bomb damage, the largest amount claimed by a single firm in the entire war.

By early May over a quarter of the city’s population of 415,000 had left to avoid the threat of the bombing and had made their way into the surrounding countryside. By the end of the month the number had grown to over 220,000, and 20,000 were sleeping rough on Cave Hill each night. Some 10,000 crossed the border and arrived in Dublin. Of those who remained, 40,000 had to be put up in Rest Centres, and over 70,000 given meals each day in emergency feeding centres.

Jim


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 12:11 am 
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Thanks for that Jim, I was six when all that happened and still have vivid memories of The Blitz to this day..........................


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 12:17 pm 
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Thanks, Jim - the house where my grandfather lived in Belfast was, I believe, damaged in the Blitz (Earls Court Terrace). It's good to have the information to add to my files.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 2:14 pm 
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My grandfather, John Connolly (from Church St. Rostrevor) was killed in the blitz on Belfast 1941 together with his in-laws. Luckily his wife and children had been evacuated to Rostrevor and survived.

http://www.cwgc.org/search/certificate.aspx?casualty=3162738


http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/reels/nai002248669/


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 8:07 pm 
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I recall vividly coming out of the Air Raid shelter and seeing the devastation on the street where I lived. I found our small terrier at the top of the steet under rubble. A few days later we were removed first to Dungannon and then to Warrenpoint. Bad memories but all my family survived.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 8:15 pm 
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Hi George, your family and ours came to the Point about the same time, didn`t do us any harm ......................


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 24, 2010 10:44 pm 
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Hello,
Sorry, let me introduce myself, I'm Michael C. When I mentiooned in my last post that my grandfather's wife and children "survived" after evacuation to Rostrevor, I meant they had survived the war because of their peaceful existence in Rostrevor! Thanks to all the Connollys of Rostrevor and the Point for their support at that time to the Belfast branch as I remember in this poignant anniversary year. Special regards to cousins Brian, Eileen and all the family.
Michael


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 9:41 pm 
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Hi Northbrook, Aways good to read data from you. I think we lucked out when we ended up in Warenpoint. When I go home it is always to the Point. It is a unique place.


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