The newspapers reported that the Westminster Government attempt to open theatres on Sundays had been defeated.[1] It was also reported that two soldiers had been sent to prison for theft. Joseph Cunningham was sent sentenced for three years. Rifleman John Hands was also sent to prison for stealing watches valued around £9.[2]

These soldiers were part of a garrison of 100k that the British government had stationed in the province by April 1941. These troops had a dual purpose. Firstly, to defend Ireland against possible invasion by German troops, who may use the province as a staging post in any invasion of Britain. Secondly, to be used in any possible occupation of the Free State if the Irish government was deemed too sympathetic to the Nazi government.[3]

Lord Craigavon, the Northern Irish prime minister, had called on the British government to invade the south in 1940. He wanted to overthrow the elected Irish government and install a British military governor in Dublin. Craigavon believed Eamon de Valera, the Irish prime minister, had fallen under Nazi influence and that he needed to be removed. He argued that non-English troops should be used as to do so would resurrect memories of the British forces during the Irish War of Independence, notably the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries. Both these units committed units committed extra-judicial killings, burnings and theft during the war and gave great propaganda to the IRA and Sinn Fein during the conflict.

In response to this history, Craigavon wrote that ‘to meet the susceptibilities of the south the British forces might best be composed chiefly of Scottish and Welsh divisions…A military governor should be then be appointed for the whole of Ireland with his HQ in Dublin.” Churchill rejected this plan but with German occupation of France in 1940, serious planning took place for a potential invasion of Ireland.[4]

ABOUT

Between 7th April and 6th May 1941, four aerial bombing raids on Belfast killed over 900 people, injured 1,500 and damaged about half of the city’s homes. Thousands were made homeless and over 100,000 residents fled to the country. This period in Belfast’s history has become known as the Belfast Blitz. To mark the 81st anniversary, key events each day over the Blitz period are being retold here on this website and also on Twitter (@drtomstours).


[1] Belfast Newsletter, 2 April 1941, p.3.

[2] Belfast Newsletter, 2 April 1941, p.6.

[3] Brian Barton, Belfast in the War Years, Belfast in the War Years (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1989), pp.69-70.

[4] https://winstonchurchill.org/resources/in-the-media/churchill-in-the-news/churchill-had-plan-to-invade-nazi-ireland/ Accessed 29.3.22.