Northern Ireland

Events held to mark Belfast Blitz

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Media captionPhilomena Henry and Peggy O'Callaghan came to Belfast to remember their sister Suzie Henry who died in the Blitz - weeks before her 16th birthday.

A series of events are being held at the weekend to mark the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz.

Up until 1941, Belfast had remained unscathed during World War Two. But on 15 April 1941, 200 Luftwaffe planes bombed the city.

About 1,000 people were killed and bombs hit half of the houses in the city, leaving 100,000 people homeless.

It was the worst wartime raid outside of London in the UK.

On Saturday, families from across Northern Ireland gathered at the War Memorial gallery in Belfast for a Blitz-themed open day.

Organisers said it was important to preserve the memories of those who lived through the Blitz for future generations.

Joanne Campbell's grandfather served as a firefighter during the Belfast Blitz. She said he did not like to talk about it until near the end of his life.

Image caption Joanne Campbell said her firefighter grandfather was saved by the intervention of a Salvation Army woman

"He told me in the Easter Tuesday blitz he was at the docks and there was very heavy bombing and he was left with the fire engine to pump water out of the [River] Lagan," she said.

"He was doing that and a Salvation Army lady came over and said 'come and get a cup of tea', which he thought was quite unusual.

"He said she was so insistent and she must have been his guardian angel because he actually did go and get a cup of tea and when he came back, there had been a direct hit on the fire engine and there was just a crater where it was.

"He would have been killed and my mother wasn't born until the 1950s, so I wouldn't have been here either."

John Bell was one when the bombs hit close to his family's Belfast home. He travelled from County Leitrim for the War Memorial event.

"Apparently I was under the table when the bombs were coming down - they put me under the kitchen table with one of those tin basins on my head, not that that would have been much protection," he said.

"But thankfully our street wasn't touched."

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Image caption On 15 April 1941, 200 Luftwaffe planes bombed the city leaving 1,000 people dead

He added: "It was very interesting to come down and see it all."

Philomena Henry and Peggy O'Callaghan came to remember their sister Suzie Henry who died in the Blitz - weeks before her 16th birthday.

"My sister was coming back to Belfast to start work - she'd have been 16 at the end of that month," she said.

"When she got off the train the air raid started and my aunt brought her into a house, a friend of theirs and they were all killed in it."

She said a bomb also went into her family's home

On Sunday, an ecumenical service of commemoration for those who lost their lives will be held at St Anne's Cathedral.

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