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16 October 2014
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The Belfast Blitz

we had only one weapon against the entire overhead enemy - a single WW1 Lewis machine-gun..

Belfast Blitz

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Belfast Blitz - A Young Soldier's Experience - Frank Johnston

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 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 docked Ark Royal being fired, although we saw no visible success.

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.

H&W docklands the morning after the Blitz

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.


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