On the evening of Easter Tuesday, 15 April 1941, over 150 German bombers left their bases in northern occupied France. They were heading for Belfast.

At 10:40 pm during the night of the 15 April, the air raid sirens sounded. Some accounts state that flares were dropped by the Germans to illuminate their targets. The first bombs were heard against the city’s waterworks. Bombs also hit the dockyard area. Public buildings destroyed or badly damaged that included Belfast City Hall’s Banqueting Hall, the Ulster Hospital for Women and Children and Ballymacarrett library, the latter two located on Templemore Avenue in East Belfast. The city centre was hit with streets like Bridge Street, Rosemary Street, Waring Street, North Street and Donegall Street significantly damaged. 

In all, the Germans dropped around 230 tons of high explosive bombs and 30,000 incendiary devices. Nearly 900 people were killed and around 1,500 injured. Apart from raids on London, Belfast suffered the greatest loss of life in any night raid during the Blitz of 1940-41.[1]

During the same operation, Derry was also hit, killing 15, and so was Bangor, east of Belfast, where five people were killed.

Major Sean O Sullivan, an Irish Army intelligence officer, in Belfast to observe the raids, reported to Dublin that he had talked to Professor Flynn, Chief Casualty Officer for Belfast, about the wounds suffered. O’Sullivan reported that ‘that the greater number of casualties was due to shock, blast and secondary missiles, such as glass, stones, bits of piping…In the heavily ‘blitzed’ areas people ran panic-stricken into the streets and made for open country. As many were caught in the open by blast and secondary missiles, the enormous level of casualties can be accounted for. It is perhaps true that many save their lives running but I am afraid a much greater number lost them…’[2]

[1] BBC News | NORTHERN IRELAND | The Belfast blitz i http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/1269206.stm s remembered Accessed 5.4.22.

[2] Cited in Stephen Douds, The Belfast Blitz, The People’s Story (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 2011), p.69.