The Belfast Blitz consisted of four German air raids on the city of Belfast between April and May 1941.
During World War II, German air raids were carried out in Belfast between April and May 1941. The worst attack of the Belfast Blitz happened on this day 71 years ago.
Between the night and early hours of 7 and 8 April 1941, the first of four strategic attacks took place.
However, it was the attack on 15 April that left the most destruction and devastation in its wake.
The Belfast Blitz – four attacks by Luftwaffe air forces
The next and most fatal attack took place on Easter Tuesday, 15 April 1941. This was the worst attack of the Belfast Blitz. Behind London, it left the biggest loss of life in any night raid during the Blitz.
Until this point, Belfast had remained largely unscathed by the war. By the end of the four air attacks on the city, approximately 1,000 people were killed and thousands more injured. As well as this, thousands of people lost their homes.
Why Belfast? – targeted air raids
During World War II, Belfast was targeted because of its aircraft manufacturing base as well as its large shipyard.
On this day 71 years ago, during the most fatal attack, 100s of German bombers targeted military and manufacturing factories across the city of Belfast.
As the sirens sounded at 10 40 am in the streets, fear and panic sent shockwaves through the people of Belfast.
Interestingly, on the same night as the worst attack of the Belfast Blitz, singer of Irish ballads Delia Murphy was playing to an over-capacity crowd in the Ulster Hall.
In a remarkable display, as fear and panic set throughout the crowd, Murphy and the staff of the Ulster Hall attempted to raise the spirits of the concert-goers with sing-song and alcohol, according to Scott Edgar of the Wartime NI blog.
However, at 5 am, when the sirens sounded the All Clear, those once in blissful ignorance would emerge to discover their city ablaze.
Belfast Blitz memorial – in memory of those lost
During these terrible air raids, Belfast was completely unprepared for an attack of this magnitude. They had little in terms of defence and not enough shelters.
Many who lost their lives during the attacks were unidentified and remain so today. In Belfast, there are two monuments to remember those who were unidentified and buried in mass graves.
Both memorials are on the Falls Road in West Belfast. One is at Milltown Cemetery, and the other at City Cemetery.
Alan Freeburn, from the Northern Ireland War Memorial, wishes to shift focus away from the lack of preparedness of the city at the time and onto identifying the hundreds who remain unknown.
Using ancestry and genealogy websites and the Public Records Office, he has managed to identify 100 victims.