The Blitz: Belfast City Hall in darkness to mark 80th anniversary

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image captionThe lights were turned off at Belfast City Hall as a mark of respect on Thursday night

Belfast City Hall plunged into darkness on Thursday evening to mark the 80th anniversary of the Blitz in the city.

Some 1,000 people were killed and about 100,000 were left homeless when German bombers attacked in 1941.

Eight decades on, the devastation is being marked in a number of ways across Belfast.

As a mark of respect, two searchlights beamed from the grounds of City Hall from 21:00 BST on Thursday.

image captionTwo searchlights beamed from the grounds of City Hall from 21:00 BST

Belfast was one of 16 cities across the UK to suffer as a result of the Blitz during World War Two.

The Luftwaffe carried out four raids on the city between 7 April and 6 May 1941, with Easter Tuesday witnessing what is thought to have been the worst wartime raid in the UK outside London.

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image captionThe scene in Belfast after the 1941 blitz

On Thursday, Belfast Lord Mayor Frank McCoubrey laid wreaths at mass graves in the City Cemetery and Milltown Cemetery, which hold the unidentified remains of many of those killed during the raids.

A lone piper played during the short ceremonies, which were organised by the Northern Ireland War Museum, in line with current Covid-19 restrictions.

image captionLord Mayor Frank McCoubrey (centre) laid a wreath at the City Cemetery

Mr McCoubrey was joined by Northern Ireland War Memorial Chairman Ian Wilson and trustee Lt Col CT Hogg.

The lord mayor said it was appropriate to remember this part of the city's history.

"It had a devastating impact, not only in terms of the tragic loss of life, but also leaving thousands of people without a home," he said.

"Some of our older generation will still have vivid memories of the Blitz; stories of bravery, hardship and survival."

Belfast was largely unprepared for a bombardment of such a scale on 15 April 1941, the worst night of the attacks.

media captionBelfast Blitz: When 200 German bombers attacked the city

Many in Northern Ireland thought that Belfast was outside the range of the Luftwaffe.

The Germans, however, saw the city as a target due to the shipyards that were contributing to Britain's war efforts.

Poor visibility on the night meant that the accuracy of the bombers was hampered and the explosives were dropped on densely populated areas of Belfast.

The east wing of City Hall itself was extensively damaged.

"The lord mayor at that time had the foresight to request the removal of the stained glass windows and they were stored in the basement of Mount Panther House in County Down, " Mr McCoubrey said.

"Remarkably, the ones in the Great Hall today are the original windows."

A piece of shrapnel, believed to have come from the incendiary device that struck city hall, is on display at the building as part of its visitor exhibition.

The iron spike was found in the central courtyard of the building on the morning following the bombing.

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