Belfast Blitz

Memories of the Belfast Blitz remain strong among those interviewees old enough to understand what was going on. There were two major air raids in Belfast in the spring of 1941, the first on Easter Tuesday night in April and the second on the first Sunday of May. In all, over 1,100 people were killed and tens of thousands lost their homes.

Wilma McVittie’s father was in Belfast the day after one of the air raids and saw the bodies piled up. Sheila Herdman’s uncle, William Davison, a timber merchant who lived on the Lansdowne Road in Belfast, had a fortunate escape when shrapnel came through one of his windows into an airing cupboard. Cahal Boyd was at a ceilidh in the Ulster Hall on Easter Tuesday evening. He and his companions found it impossible to leave Belfast that night, but found shelter in St Mary’s Hall. The next morning the blue car they had travelled in was completely grey with dust. Every road they tried to travel home on was blocked, but eventually they made it back to Toome via Larne.

Both Doagh and Whitehead were close enough to Belfast for their residents to have been aware of what was going on. Eithne McKendry remembers her mother bringing her and her siblings down to a cupboard under the stairs for safety during the air raids, while Sarah McTrustry recalls hiding in the coal hole. Isabell Cooper recalls her family going up to the back of a field and her father taking with him the large trunk in which he kept important documents. Trevor Monteith remembers that during the night his father took him up to the ‘Bla Hole’: ‘I can clearly remember sitting up there and just watching the dockland ablaze’. Brian McKenna’s father told him that he had seen Belfast on fire from the White Rocks at Whitehead. Paddy O’Donnell remembered that some of the older boys went to the top of Muldersleigh Hill, where Whitehead Golf Course is now, and watched the bombs exploding during the Blitz. In Doagh, James McAdam remembers the skies lit up during the air raids. Mary Moore still has vivid memories of the air raids: ‘It was rough now, you could have been ris’ out of your bed whiles’. Those who lived through the Blitz never forgot the experience. Leith Burgess’ mother, who had been in Belfast during the Blitz, made sure that the fire in their home was put out every night before going to bed.
South Antrim Living Memories Project wishes to acknowledge the assistance of: