16 April 2005

BBC - History

War and Peace

The Belfast Blitz 1941

The aftermath of the Blitz in Belfast ©

On the evening of Easter Tuesday, 15 April 1941, 180 German bombers attacked Belfast and continued for several hours, dropping a total of 203 metric tons of bombs and 800 firebomb canisters on the city. All contact with a squadron of Hurricanes was lost and the Luftwaffe did not sustain a single loss. At the height of the raid a message was sent to de Valera by railway telegraph to send help. He agreed immediately and fire engines sped northwards. About a thousand people were killed. No city, save London, suffered more loss of life in one night's raid on the United Kingdom.

The Germans returned on the night of 4-5 May and inflicted devastating damage on the city's industries, but the loss of life was less than before since so many citizens had fled to the countryside. Sir Wilfred Spender estimated that 100,000 people had left the city before the second raid, and this figure rose to 220,000 by the end of May 1941. A month later Hitler began his invasion of Russia along a 900-mile front, and the Germans did not return to Northern Ireland. Because of its geographical position, Northern Ireland played a crucial role in the protection of convoys and Derry became the biggest anti-submarine base in the Atlantic.

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