For May 2016 the object of the month is a bronze statue that is currently the centre piece of our Belfast Blitz exhibition.
The bronze artwork was created by the distinguished sculptor, John Sherlock. His other work includes the life size sculptures of Harry Ferguson, who manufactured the Ferguson tractor, and Mary Peters, Northern Ireland’s Olympic gold medalist.
The half size bronze entitled ‘Blitz Survivors’ depicts a mother picking her way through the ruins of Belfast after the Blitz on the city on the night of 15/16 April 1941. There is a large pool of water on the cobbled stones at her feet, suggesting the presence of the firemen who travelled up from Dublin to attend to the fires caused by the raid. A copy of the morning’s Northern Whig newspaper lies among the wooden planks and depris behind the mother, its headline recording an estimated two hundred dead. In fact the figure currently is estimated at one thousand.
The mother and child are dressed in the period dresses worn by the women in the residential districts, which were so heavily bombed. The mother has her hair in rollers partially covered with a scarf, known as the ‘victory roll.’ The child is still clutching her teddy bear.
Why is it the Object of the Month?
The inclusion of this particular artwork in recent commemorative events to mark the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz was significant. We not only remembered those that lived through the Blitz, but those that were lost as a result.
A special event took place in the gallery of the Northern Ireland War Memorial to commemorate the 75th anniversary at 12 noon on Friday 15th April 2016. Following a one minute of silence, a floral wreath was laid by Mrs Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle CBE, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast, on the bronze sculpture.
A small posy of flowers was also placed on the sculpture by the ‘Henry sisters’ in remembrance of their sister Suzie who was lost in the raid in 1941.
A note on the Belfast Blitz
Three air raids on Belfast were carried out by the Luftwaffe in 1941. The first raid on 7th/8th April 1941 by 8 bombers destroyed the aircraft fuselage factory and damaged the docks. The second raid on Easter Tuesday 15th /16th April 1941 by 180 bombers lasted 5 hours. 673 bombs and 29,000 incendiaries fell mainly on residential areas in the docklands. The third raid on 4th /5th May 1941 by 204 bombers lasted 3 hours. The results were devastating. One thousand people died and half the housing stock was damaged.