The second raid on Belfast took place on Easter Tuesday, 15 April 1941. Around two hundred Luftwaffe bombers attacked military and manufacturing targets in the city of Belfast. It is estimated that some 900 people died and 1,500 were injured as a result of the bombing. High explosive bombs predominated in this raid. Apart from those on London, this was the greatest loss of life in any night raid during the Blitz of 1940-41.[1]

In Trinity and Unity Street, off Clifton Street, 52 people are recorded as being killed. Trinity Street ran of Clifton Road and Unity Street crossed Trinity Street. On Trinity Street was an Air Raid Precaution post and Trinity Street Church. These streets were terrace houses, homes to the many of the city’s working class communities. James Doherty, an Air Raid Precaution Warden, described what happened.

He was out on duty on Clifton Road and ran into a number of wardens coming up Donegall Street heading for their ARP post in Trinity Street. This post was one near his own post in Cranburn Street.

He said they had been attending a concert given by Delia Murphy at the Ulster Hall. Murphy was a well-known folk singer in the 1930s who recorded popular songs such as ‘The Blackbird’, ‘The Spinning Wheel’, and ‘Three Lovely Lassies From Bannion’. She had also starred in a number of films such as ‘West Of Kerry’, which was later recut as ‘The Islandman’ and ‘Eileen Aroon’.[2]

Rita Brown, also at the same concert as the Trinity Street ARP men, said there was panic and people heard the air raid sirens. It was reported that some who had left the concert had been killed. Murphy took control of the situation and appealed to the audience to remain in the building. She then started singing and Brown said ‘We still stood listen to Delia. She kept panic down. She really had control of the crowd. I would say she saved a lot of lives. I would say she saved a lot of lives that night.’[3]

The Trinity Street Wardens were heading back to their post to report for duty and passed Doherty. He knew many of them as they were ‘close friends’ with whom he ‘served…personal friendships had developed between the wardens of the two posts’.[4] He remained with the constable when the police officer pointed to an object in the sky. Doherty, seeing the object, dived for cover, pushing the constable to the ground. He identified the object as a German parachute mine that exploded when it hit the spire of Trinity Road Church.

German Parachute Mines was originally a maritime mine intended for use against ships. The Germans found that they could be used as general purpose bombs and given their size, either 500kg or 1,000 kg, were some of the heaviest bombs in the German arsenal at the time. The mine that hit the Trinity Street Church was probably a Luftmine B 1,000kg bomb as it had a fuse long wire that dangled down ahead of the bomb that acted as a detonator that aimed to explode the bomb several metres above the ground to maximise blast damage.

Doherty said that the ‘the whole world seemed to rock; slates, bricks, earth and flying glass rained down on…But by a miracle we were alive’.[5] The bomb destroyed Trinity Road Church, the ARP warden post and many buildings on both Trinity Street and Unity Street.[6] At number 22 Unity Street, six members of the McWhinney family killed. Joseph, 45 and a railway worker, and his wife Bridget, 46 and a housewife and their four children aged 11, 14, 16 and 18. At number 26 Unity Street, the death toll was even higher. Five members of the Donnelly family were killed along with family friends Mary Henry and her niece Susan Henry. The Henrys had been away and were returning to their home in Dawson Street from the station and were invited into the Donnelly household to wait out the bombing raid (photo above)[7] The death toll continued up the street; four were killed at 28 Unity Street, 2 at 29 Unity Street and 2 at number 34. Six ARP wardens were killed, including those Doherty had spoken to earlier in the evening.

Royal Avenue

During the Easter Tuesday raid a bomb fell on Royal Avenue outside the Public Library and (former) offices of the Belfast Telegraph. It killed two members of an Auxiliary Fire Service crew were making their way to the LMS Station on the Shore Road.[8] Hugh Castles was aged 33, was injured at Royal Avenue and died same day at Mater Infirmorum Hospital. George Spence was aged 17 and an electrician as well as being a part time fire officer.[9] The library was closed from the raid until early June.[10]


[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] https://wartimeni.com/person/delia-murphy/ Accessed 5.4.22.

[3] Quoted in Documentary On One – Hidden Heroes of the Belfast Blitz (rte.ie), 13 April 2011 https://www.rte.ie/radio/doconone/646678-radio-documentary-ww2-hidden-heroes-belfast-blitz-republic-firemen Accessed 5.4.22. See also James Doherty, Post 381, The memoirs of a Belfast air raid warden (Belfast: Friar’s Bush Press, 1989), pp.26-27.

[4] James Doherty, Post 381, The memoirs of a Belfast air raid warden (Belfast: Friar’s Bush Press, 1989), p.31.

[5] James Doherty, Post 381, The memoirs of a Belfast air raid warden (Belfast: Friar’s Bush Press, 1989), pp.27-28.

[6] James Doherty, Post 381, The memoirs of a Belfast air raid warden (Belfast: Friar’s Bush Press, 1989), p.28.

[7] The Irish Weekly and Ulster Examiner, 21 June 1941.

[8] https://www.niwarmemorial.org/collections/blitz-casualties-list/hugh-castles Accessed 5.4.22.

[9] https://www.niwarmemorial.org/collections/blitz-casualties-list/hugh-castles Accessed 5.4.22.

[10] Belfast Telegraph 7 June 1941 p.2.