Today In Irish History – The Belfast Blitz, 15 April

We tend, at least in the South, to think of Ireland as some kind of neutral island during the war. Indeed the latest and by far most popular text on the period, know as The Emergency here, uses a similar phrase to describe us (Claire Wills: That Neutral Island). That neutrality didn’t of course prevent Ireland from receiving a few blows at German hands.

By far the most devastating of these blows came from German bombers one night in May 1941 when the North Strand, North Circular and Summerhill were all hit by bombs. The death toll was over 20 and 80 or so were injured (nicely and succintly covered in Sean McMahon’s Bombs Over Dublin). But that was nothing to the pounding Belfast received.

The raid that happened on this day 78 years ago is remembered as the Easter Tuesday raid and started with a strike on the waterworks followed by incendiary devices. The fires these started could not contained because of the original waterworks attacks.

In all some 200 bombers took part in the raid and there were almost 1,000 killed. For a lengthy extract on the Blitz read this page here.

One positive impact of the attack was a degree of Irish unity, De Valera condemned the attack and Southern Irish firemen served in the city in the immediate aftermath of the bombings.

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