Monday, 15 April 2013
15/16 April 1941: The Luftwaffe Bombed Belfast [above] on this day. The city’s first major attack of the War was on Easter Tuesday night, 15-16 April. An estimated 180 aircraft participated in the assault, which lasted for five and a half hours (11:30 pm–4:55 am). Bombs fell on average at a rate of two per minute. There was virtually no resistance from the ground. Due to blast damage to the city’s telephone exchange the anti-aircraft guns fell silent from 1:45 am onwards. By the time of the “all clear” it had to be rung by hand-bells because of a power failure.
An Observer from Dublin, Major Sean O’Sullivan noted that:
In the Antrim Road [North Belfast] and vicinity the attack was of a particularly concentrated character and in many instances bombs from successive waves of bombers fell within 15-20 yards of one another … In this general area, scores of houses were completely wrecked, either by explosion, fire or blast, while hundreds were damaged so badly as to be uninhabitable … In suburban areas, many were allowed to burn themselves out and during the day wooden beams were still burning … During the night of 16-17, many of these smouldering fires broke out afresh and fire appliances could be heard passing throughout the night…
The Air Raid killed some 745 people, injured 1,500 and destroyed about 1,600 houses with many more damaged to a greater or lesser extent.
It was the greatest loss of life through violence on the island of Ireland in the 20th century.