On Tuesday 16th April 2019 at 1.00pm, the Northern Ireland War Memorial (NIWM) hosted a public event to commemorate the Belfast Blitz.
In April and May 1941 Belfast suffered four air raids, two of which were classed as major. The event on Tuesday 16th April marked the anniversary of the Easter Tuesday raid which was the first major raid and the one most people remember. Air raid warden James Doherty who helped rescue survivors aptly describes the Belfast Blitz as ‘the most disastrous event in the history of this city.’ It resulted in the death of 1,000 civilians and the destruction or damage of over half the city’s housing stock.
Invited guests, some of whom lived through the Second World War, gathered in the museum to lay a wreath in memory of the lives lost in the Belfast Blitz. Guests included Ann McNeilly (78) who was born under a kitchen table in East Belfast during the Easter Tuesday raid. In attendance were relatives of air raid warden James Doherty (1920-2008) who wrote an account of his Blitz experience in Post 381, The Memoirs of a Belfast air raid warden. James Doherty was awarded a Defence Medal which is on display at NIWM alongside other objects relating to Civil Defence and the Belfast Blitz.
Local actress Sharon Dickson performed A Belfast Story, evoking memories of the past with this monologue based on her mother’s experience of the Belfast Blitz.
Other invited guests included interviewees from NIWM’s Oral History Project, The War and Me. The War and Me aims to collect stories and war time experiences. Through its oral history programmes NIWM has interviewed 76 people so far, but would like to learn more about the Belfast Blitz, the US Forces stationed in NI, the evacuation of children to the countryside, farming and industry, the work of air raid wardens, the Ulster Home Guard and those who enlisted and served. All stories collected are added to the museum collection and made available to researchers, school groups and the media in the future.
NIWM continues to appeal to the public to take part in the oral history program as it seeks to discover how the people of Northern Ireland were affected by the Second World War.
As an accredited museum, NIWM also welcomes donations of photographs and objects relating to the Second World War in Northern Ireland.
More information about The War and Me oral history project can be found online: www.niwarmemorial.org.
NVTV filmed our Belfast Blitz Commemoration event. The feature can be viewed by following the link: https://vimeo.com/331009540 and watching from 15.00 onwards.