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16 October 2014
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WWII - Belfast Blitz. A young soldier's experience

Article by Francis Johnston.

Greater Belfast

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Personal memories by Francis Johnston
2057380 Lance Corporal, The Lincolnshire Regiment

Francis Johnston 2057380 Lance Corporal, The Lincolnshire Regiment
L/Cpl Johnston.F
After what seemed like just a few minutes the incendiary bombs came pouring down. There wasn't nearly enough equipment or personnel to deal with the resulting fires. The already grave situation became much worse when the dockside timber-yards caught alight and were soon blazing out of control.

Then came the big 1,000 pound bombs, also then called "land mines". These were responsible for enormous damage to the city. One such bomb made a direct hit on one of our Nissen huts and gouged a fifty-foot crater in the ground, leaving no sign that there had ever been a hut. The vacuum, created by the explosion, sucked all the surrounding huts towards the crater and many uniforms and personal items were simply never seen again. A couple of comrades and myself were in a sandbag emplacement, where we had only one weapon against the entire overhead enemy, a single (WW1) Lewis machine-gun. Of course we kept firing it until our ammunition ran out but we knew that it was a fairly useless exercise. I also remember hearing the big guns on the Ark Royal, which was docked in Belfast at the time, being fired at the bombers. Being honest, we saw no visible success from that effort either.

Docked ship powerless to retaliate -  Belfast Blitz 1941
Docked ship powerless to retaliate - Belfast Blitz 1941

One humorous incident lightens my memory of that solemn night. In the middle of all the mayhem a young, very drunk sailor came staggering along the dockside with a cigarette in one hand and a bottle in the other, singing "I Belong to Glasgow". He was quite oblivious to what was going on and was miraculously unscathed.

With morning came the full reality of the destruction. The timber yards that had burnt so fiercely lay as smouldering ruins. We could see too that there were fire hoses lying around nearby and we were told how they hadn't fitted the hydrants and so had proved useless. Although we couldn't see it, it was easy to guess what the rest of the city might look like.

As a serving soldier I'd had experience of other air raids in the north of England but I could compare none of them to the ferocity of the Belfast Blitz and I do still feel that I was very lucky to be alive when it was all over.

YOUR RESPONSES

Jennie Henshaw - Mar '07
The article was very interesting. It was nice because it had lots of onformation in it. it was interesting listening all about the bombs and what was happening at that time, and how he felt about the blitz. Thankyou. Jennie Henshaw Aged 10. x

Kyle Pointer, aged 10 - March '06
The article was very interesting in 1st person. it was nice because it was as if you were in my house and i was reading your brain as if it was a book. it was interesting listening all about the bombs and what was happening at that time.

 

Other Blitz memories

"I hear a long, high-pitched whistling sound which grows louder and louder and then the most tremendous explosion......" Ruth McCart describes the blitz as "My most memorable Easter" .


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