April 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz in World War II. Northern Ireland had been barely touched by the war up until the 7th of April 1941. It was believed that the city was too far north for German bombers to reach and it was therefore very poorly protected. Sadly the belief proved to be inaccurate and the city was heavily hit by four attacks.
The first of these came on the night of 7th April. The attack targeted the docks and destroyed a factory manufacturing aircraft. It is believed that this first bombing was designed primarily to test the defences of the city.
A larger attack followed on 15th April when up to 200 planes were involved in the bombing. The waterworks of the city were targeted initially to prevent fire fighters from tackling blazes across the city. Large parts of Belfast were heavily damaged, including 55,000 homes, 2 hospitals and 11 churches. Over 900 people lost their lives.
A third attack hit the city three weeks later on the evening of 4th May. This time the 250 German bombers focused on Harbour Estate and Queen’s Island, destroying the valuable docklands. So many incendiary bombs were used that the attack was referred to as the Fire Blitz. The number of casualties as a result of the attack exceeded 150. A fourth and final raid came the following evening.
The second attack on Belfast was the worst wartime raid on Britain outside of London. It was commemorated on the 75th anniversary with a weekend of services including one at St. Anne’s Cathedral and another at the War Memorial. During the former 1,000 candles were lit to symbolise the lives lost.
Belfast City Council is said to be considering a permanent memorial to the Blitz. The piece would commemorate the lives lost as well as the contributions of so many in the wake of the attacks to help save lives. If plans go ahead the piece would become one of several memorials across the UK, including the one in London and the new plans for a trail in Sheffield. As creators of adults and childrens headstones, we look forward to seeing how these plans develop and to the design that will be chosen.