the spring of 1940 the Second World War was being waged
largely on the western front. The German Army overran
Denmark and Norway at the beginning of April; a month
later they swept over the Netherlands and Belguim, then
the Wehrmacht forged through the Ardennes reaching Paris
spectacular western advance by the Third Reich brought
Northern Ireland well within the range of German
bombers. From the summer of 1940 the Luftwaffe began
inflicting devasting attacks on British cities.
the Northern Ireland government did almost nothing
to protect the people. In May 1940, the parliamentary
secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs, Edmond
Warnock, resigned commenting that:
government has been slack, dilatory and apathetic."
such criticism, the Northern Ireland government continued
to do little but wait for Westminister to pick up
the bill for measures to protect Belfast. Even when
the Ministry of Home Affairs was informed by defence
experts that Belfast was a certain Luftwaffe target
nothing was done.
city had no fighter squadrons, no balloon barrage
and only twenty anti-aircraft guns when the war began.
There were only four public air-raid shelters, made
of sandbags, located at the City Hall, together with
underground toilets at Shaftesbury Square and Donegal
Square North. Not a single shelter was provided anywhere
else in Northern Ireland.
now know that a Luftwaffe reconnaissance mission
on 30 November 1940 brought back photographs of suitable
targets in Belfast. These included:
Werft Harland and Wolff Ltd
Tankskelle Conns Water
Flugzeugwerk Short and Harland
Grossmuhle Rank & Co
Kasernlagen Victoria Barracks"
entire city of Belfast, the Germans discovered, was
defended by only seven anti-aircraft batteries. In
short, Belfast was the most undefended city in
the United Kingdom.
March 24 1941, John McDermott, Minister for Security,
wrote to the Prime Minister, John Andrews expressing
his concerns that Belfast was so poorly protected.
to now we have escaped attack. So had Clydeside until
recently. Clydeside got its blitz during the period of
the last moon. There (is) ground for thinking that the
... enemy could not easily reach Belfast in force except
during a period of moonlight. The period of the next
moon from say the 7th to the 16th of April may well bring
McDermott was proved right. On 7th April
1941 Belfast suffered the first of three air raids.
here to see a timeline of the raids...