The ‘trekkers’ and ‘ditchers’ were Belfast residents who slept in the countryside around Belfast and walked or commuted into the city during the day for work. People feared another attack and thought they were safer sleeping outside the city than in it (city map below). They Royal Ulster Constabulary reported that most trekked two miles beyond the city boundary.
For many, the distances they had to travel were considerable. Bob Bell commuted three hours each way to Belfast from Donacloney near Lurgan. Eva, a shop assisatant, rose at 6am to get to work and returned at 7.30pm.
While many working class people lived in ditches and barns, many middle class people rented houses or lived in hotels. The Secretary of a Member of the Stormont Parliament wrote a doggerel mocking these well to do ‘ditchers’. He titled it the ‘The Yellow Convoy’
They sing the songs of Ulster with all their lusty might,
But do not think of Ulster’s ‘grit’ when bunking off at night?
The leave before the black-out in cars which travel fast,
To make quite sure of sweet repost before the ‘raiders passed’.
Then the go off to business to do their little bit,
By urging all to ‘work like Hell’ while they prepare to flit,
They need sing songs of Ulster these lily-livered lads,
For men like these will always please Old Hitler and his Cad.
John MacDermott, the Stormont Minister of Public Security, believed the ‘trekkers’ and ‘ditchers’ were evidence of the poor public will to fight and support of the war effort. MacDermott concluded that the bombing raids had affected the ‘morale of the people [and it is]…impossible to resist the conclusion that the morale of the city is not first class…in some ways definitely disappointing’.
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).
 Brian Barton, Belfast in the War Years, Belfast in the War Years (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1989), p.162.
 Cited in Stephen Douds, The Belfast Blitz, The People’s Story (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 2011), p.117.
 Brian Barton, Belfast in the War Years, Belfast in the War Years (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1989), p.235.
 Belfast Telegraph, 26 April 1941, p.6.
 Brian Barton, Belfast in the War Years, Belfast in the War Years (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1989), p.236.
 Brian Barton, Belfast in the War Years, Belfast in the War Years (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1989), pp.230-231.