17 April 1941 (Thursday) – Belfast 1941 Blitz Diary

The Irish Times editorial on 17 April reported that: ‘Humanity knows no borders, no politics, no differences of religious belief. Yesterday for once the people of Ireland were united under the shadow of a national blow. Has it taken bursting bombs to remind the people of this little country that they have common tradition, a common genius and a common home? Yesterday the hand of good-fellowship was reached across the Border. Men from the South worked with men from the North in the universal cause of the relief of suffering.’

The Belfast Telegraph reported that the Prime minister had said the morale of the people of Belfast had been ‘magnificent’.[1] However, many citizens were not thinking about the war effort or the fact that the bombing had brought them closer to their neighbours, they were leaving town. Moya Woodside recorded in her diary on 17 April 1941 that : ‘Evacuation is taking on panic proportions. Roads out of town are still one stream of cars…People are leaving all parts of town and not only from the bombed areas. Where they are going or what they will find when they get there nobody knows. This business presents a problems of a first proportion to Stormont. Belfast is the only large town in Ulster, most of the country towns have also been bombed and there is absolutely no provision for the reception and feeding of those vast numbers…’[2]


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, 17 April 1941, p.3.

[2] Cited in Stephen Douds, The Belfast Blitz, The People’s Story (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 2011), pp.90-91.