In the aftermath of the 15/6 April raid, statutory, charitable and welfare organisations were busy trying to rehouse, provide and care for those injured and/or made homeless as a result of the attack.

Moya Woodside (above) was a home visitor for the Belfast Welfare Committee and a campaigner for wider access to birth control. She was also a reporter for the Mass Observation project and kept a daily diary. As part of her work for the Belfast Welfare Committee, she assessed claims made from people to see if the qualified for assistance. On 28 April 1941, she wrote in her diary about a case two bedridden infirm old ladies. Nothing could be done for them as they were not homeless but had no personal care to help them get up, eat and wash. As a consequence of their status, the Poor House would not accept them. Woodside recorded that ‘eugenically speaking, of course, such people would be getter off dead…’[1] On 2nd May 1941, she noted that at the weekly meeting of the Welfare Committee they only had 7 cases rather than the usual 25 to 30, reflecting how deserted Belfast had become.[2]

ARP Warden James Doherty and his colleagues also worked to help those affected by the bombing. He noted that though the ‘rescue operations were finished…the wardens were still faced with a growing amount of welfare work and inquiries. They were responsible, as far as it was possible, for the identification of the homeless and others entitled to help from the welfare services, and they continued to issue homeless certificates and other documents’.[3] These documents included identity papers, required by law and ration books, that enabled people to get their allocated food rations (an example below).

Doherty recalled ‘there will always be scoundrels who will take advantage of any situation to advance their own selfish ends. Even the blitz with all its horrors and suffering was no exception to the rogues and the greedy. On the contrary, it was their intention in the confusion that existed, to get as much as they could as quickly as possible. On our part we took the action of these leeches as a challenge and we used all our resourcefulness to thwart their plans’.[4]

ABOUT

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] Cited in Stephen Douds, The Belfast Blitz, The People’s Story (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 2011), p.115.

[2] Cited in Stephen Douds, The Belfast Blitz, The People’s Story (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 2011), p.116.

[3] James Doherty, Post 381, The memoirs of a Belfast air raid warden (Belfast: Friar’s Bush Press, 1989), p.75.

[4] James Doherty, Post 381, The memoirs of a Belfast air raid warden (Belfast: Friar’s Bush Press, 1989), p.75.