At airfields in France, the Luftwaffe were planning an attack on Belfast. Reconnaissance missions had flown over Belfast since July 1940 over Belfast to identify targets for any potential raid. Belfast contained many important industrial and military targets:
- James Mackie & Sons. They were a supplier of 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft shells.
- Harland and Wolff shipyard. It was one of the largest shipbuilding yards in the world and built many warships. The Belfast shipyards built or converted over 3,000 navy vessels and repaired more than 22,000.
- Short Brothers aircraft factor. They built the four engine Shorts Stirling bomber.
- Linen factories such as The York Street Flax Spinning Co.; Brookfield Spinning Co.; William Ewart’s Rosebank Weaving Co.; and the Linen Thread Co. that made uniforms and coverings for airplanes (e.g Hurricane, Mosquito).
Also, by April 1941, the Blitz had been going for seven months and the Germans had not yet hit Belfast. They saw that it had few defences and with 7 AA defences, it was probably the least defended city in Britain.
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).