In the Belfast Telegraph, it was announced that the Ulster Government had decided that ‘in the interests of the war effort’ that people should only take a short break over the Easter period (11 April was Good Friday).[1] Many doubted whether the people of Ulster were ‘doing their bit’.

Major Speir, retiring chairman of the Area Board for Northern Ireland, believed that ‘employees, employers and Government Ministries and Boards in Northern were not making their fair contribution to the war effort’.[2]

There was a significant amount of evidence to substantiate this view. A Mass Observation researcher came to Northern Ireland to report on the war effort. He found that there was a ‘lack of war urgency and relative lack of anxiety are most striking in Ulster…unmistakable’. He wrote that ‘Ulster is in the war, psychologically it is not fighting it’. He noted that rationing causes grumbles and anybody ‘who is keen on the war effort is liable to feel uncomfortable in Ulster’.[3]

In 1940, Harold Wilson, Secretary of Churchill’s Cabinet’s Manpower Requirements Committee and future UK prime minister, arrived in Northern Ireland to report on war production. He found industry and workers depressed and apathetic. Unemployment had risen while it had fallen in England. He concluded that Northern Ireland was making little contribution to the war effort.[4]


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 Telegraph, 5 April 1941, p.5.

[2] Northern Whig, 3 April 1941, p.4.

[3] Brian Barton, Belfast in the War Years, Belfast in the War Years (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1989), pp.48-49.

[4] Brian Barton, Belfast in the War Years, Belfast in the War Years (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1989), pp.47-48.