With the second year of war the blitz intensified. London was suffering the heaviest and most frequent raids. Many other major cities were being hit hard too, and millions of people found themselves homeless. Hundreds of children were orphaned, thousands more evacuated to the country or overseas. We didn’t know it then, but our turn was coming. The failure to sufficiently protect the city was about to be realised. Belfast still lacked sufficient anti-aircraft defence, fighter cover, searchlights or shelters. When the sirens first sounded on the night of April 7, 1941, people tended to ignore the danger. Some actually climbed the surrounding hills to watch the display. The first bombs began falling on Belfast just after midnight. The raid consisted of six Heinkel 111 bombers, each carrying a payload of over one thousand kilos. They dropped waves of incendiaries, high explosives, and parachute bombs. Major fires were started in residential areas of East Belfast. Factories and businesses around the city suffered moderate damage. The shipyards were hit hardest, causing severe damage.
When the all clear sounded at approximately 3:30 am, 13 people were dead, 23 were seriously injured, and many others suffered a variety of minor injuries.
Belfast had been lucky, getting off lightly on that first night of bombing. But from this first raid it seems certain the German pilots reported how vulnerable the city was, and no one imagined what lay in store just one week later. Read the continuing story of the Belfast Blitz in tomorrow’s blog