80th Anniversary of the Dockside Raid

80th Anniversary of the Dockside Raid

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the Dockside Raid, the first of four air raids of what became known as the Belfast Blitz.

Fifteen men ultimately lost their lives as a result of enemy action on the night of 7/8th April 1941.

They were;

Thomas George Bell, 38

John Esdale, 72

Daniel Fee, 25

Thomas Gardener Ferguson, 53

Samuel Hoy Gowan, 35

Alexander McIlwrath Hagans, 39

Brice Harkness, 25

Peter Jones, 26

Stanley Kyle, 23

Joseph Lambert, 53

Archibald McDonald, 22, pictured with his family (centre)

John Cameron Patience, 60

William Martin Pollock, 32

Thomas Savage, 61, pictured with his wife and daughter (left)

Hugh John Stewart, 48

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 80th Anniversary of the Dockside Raid

Interviewee of the Month – March 2021

Interviewee of the Month – March 2021

Every month we highlight an interviewee and their wartime memories from our growing Oral History Collection. This month we are highlighting two interviewees, Joan MacCabe & Maureen O’Kane (W&M40), sisters who were interviewed in November 2019.

Maureen (b. 1928) and Joan (b. 1938) grew up in Belfast and lived on Fitzroy Avenue with their mother, father, and the middle sister Frances. Both remembered the Belfast Blitz, specifically the Easter Tuesday raid. Maureen who was 12 at the time told us On the night of the ‘Big Blitz’, my parents had two visitors. My sisters and I were in bed and I heard the siren. Absolutely terrified I literally jumped the stairs, opened the living room door and I just pointed. I just could not speak. I couldn’t utter a sound. I was so terrified. The visitors who lived nearby went home, my father pulled on his uniform, got on his bike and headed to the barracks. My sisters, Joan & Francis had been playing house earlier in the day and had covered the floors of the ‘under the stairs’ cupboard with large brown velvet cushions. My mother packed us and the family cat in there as waves of aircraft descended on the city. Bombs kept dropping and exploding. The noise was unbelievable and by 1.45am the city was ablaze. History records the siren as sounding at 10:40pm. The noise was absolutely horrendous and despite the blackout, if you opened the door of our hideout, you could see the red glow. Halfway through the night, I could stick the noise and confinement no longer and I absolutely defied my mother and went upstairs to the top of our three-storey house. I looked out the window and the whole city was ablaze. An extraordinary sight and a pungent smell. Next morning, we discovered our neighbours had incendiary bombs. There was no sign of my father. My mother was in a state but concealed it from us. My father arrived home on the third day, his uniform torn and singed, and told us the morgue could not hold all the bodies and the Falls Baths had been drained and St Georges Market also used.’ While Joan was only 3 at the time, she remembered sheltering under the stairs and hearing about the aftermath and her father’s experiences- ‘The stories about the baths and the market area were terrible. I was too young really to know, but you could hear people whispering about things and my father experienced all that. The bodies and going round and checking out for people and maybe trying to find the names you know.’

Strict wartime rationing affected everyone, and many families struggled to make do on rations. Thankfully Maureen and Joan’s mum was a great cook with Maureen recalling ‘my mother baked and she was an expert cook like my sister here and she would do all sorts of things with liver and I can remember, cows heart, they used to sell the hearts! Imagine! She would clean it and I don’t know what she did with it exactly but she would stuff it and roast it. We ate rabbit, roast rabbit, and I can remember there was soft meat along the backbone that was tasty and lovely. We used to always be looking for that bit of the rabbit’. Joan also remembers rationing and of particular interest to her as a small child was the fact sweets were rationed. Describing the tokens in her ration book, Joan stated that ‘Two E’s & One E’s and One D & Two E’s and you would have had hardly enough for a quarter of sweets, and you saved that for the weekend. I can remember getting a book, I was a bookworm and I would have taken the book and got into a lovely wee cosy corner with a bar of Highland Toffee which is now about a third of the size of the bar that we would have bought for three d, three penny’s! There were very very very few sweets really, the choice wasn’t great and you didn’t have the money for them and you didn’t have the coupons’.

In 1942 Maureen was sent to a boarding school in Ballycastle and for the most part this was the end of her war as it didn’t really affect her any longer, saying that ‘we got no news at school about the war. I can remember one girl, her father was an officer in the Navy and I can remember her being called aside and going home, her father had lost his life’. Maureen was still in Ballycastle when VE Day celebrations took place in 1945 and didn’t remember any parties. Joan, who was still in Belfast, remembered a street party but that she was unfortunately too sick to attend; ‘I think I was seven when it ended. I was in bed in the front bedroom in our house with bad tonsillitis which I was tortured with, it was recurring all the time. Some of the ladies in the street decided they would have a street party. Mrs Carlisle and her sister Isabelle… everybody brought out chairs and whatever tables that they had and made a grand dining area in the street and I suppose all the women had baked and all that. I was lying in the bed looking out forlorn and I could see all the girls and the boys on the street, all having a ball and the food! Like things that you’d never seen before, cakes, big cakes and all and I can remember looking out and I can remember Isabelle catching my eye. She was a lady and she wasn’t married and she lived next door to her sister. She looked up and caught my eye and shortly after that, a plate arrived up to the bedroom with a wee selection’.

Do you remember the Easter Tuesday air raid? Or perhaps you attended VE Day celebrations? If you or a family member has memories of Northern Ireland during the Second World War and would like to share your story, please get in touch with our Project Co-Ordinator Michael by emailing or give him a call on 07588634847.

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Interviewee of the Month – March 2021

Blitz 80 Reminiscence Packs

Blitz 80 Reminiscence Packs

2021 marks the 80th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz.

Our Blitz 80 Reminiscence Packs highlight objects and stories from the museum collection to create an engaging and multi-sensory experience for community groups and care homes.

They include reminiscence guidance, first-hand accounts of the Belfast Blitz, a CD of wartime music by Karen Diamond and a commemorative craft activity.

They have been designed for use with people of various ages and are ideal for connecting people with the past and creating conversations about life.

Reminiscing can be an enjoyable pastime and beneficial for older adults and people living with Dementia.

To pre-order a FREE Blitz 80 Reminiscence Pack for your community group or care home, email

Kindly sponsored by Belfast City Council.

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Blitz 80 Reminiscence Packs

Blitz 80 Primary School Packs

Blitz 80 Primary School Packs

2021 marks the 80th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz. Help your class to explore the events of 1941 with newspapers, photographs, maps and stories from people who lived at the time.

With our Blitz 80 Primary School Packs, children can learn about life before, during and after the air raids, using our museum collection as the focus for learning.

These resources have been carefully designed for teachers who are bringing the Second World War to life for children aged 7-11 (Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 classes).

Teachers, to pre-order a FREE Blitz 80 Primary School Pack for your school, email

Kindly sponsored by Belfast City Council.

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Blitz 80 Primary School Packs

Blitz 80 Lecture Series

Blitz 80 Lecture Series

The Northern Ireland War Memorial and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland invite you to a series of presentations to mark the 80th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz.

The Belfast Blitz consisted of four German air raids that took place during the Second World War in April and May 1941. This joint series will explore different facets of the Blitz and showcase archives and artefacts in the possession of PRONI and NIWM.

Belfast’s experience of the Blitz by Dr Brian Barton

Thursday 8th April 2021 at 2:00pm via Zoom

Brian Barton has lectured at the College of Business Studies, Belfast, 1971-1994, tutored in modern history with the Open University, 1995-2013, and was a research fellow at Queen’s and at Churchill College, Cambridge. He has written or edited fourteen books on twentieth century Irish history and politics. His most recent publications include: The Belfast Blitz; the City in the War Years (Ulster Historical Foundation 2105), and The Secret Court Martial Records of the Easter Rising (The History Press, 2010), and he co-authored, with Michael Foy, The Easter Rising (The History Press, 2011). He co-edited with Patrick Roche, and contributed to, The Northern Ireland Question; Perspectives on Nationalism and Unionism (Wordzworth Publishing, 2020). He also contributed chapters on Northern Ireland to A New History of Ireland, Vol. VII, Ireland 1921-1984, produced by the Royal Irish Academy (Oxford University Press, 2003).

This event is taking place on Zoom. Visit the following link to book your place now:

The Morning after the Night Before: Emma Duffin’s tour of Blitzed Belfast April 1941 by Trevor Parkhill

Thursday 15th April 2021 at 2:00pm via Zoom

Emma Duffin had served in Egypt and France as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse in the First World War, during which she kept an extensive diary. She was recruited as VAD Commandant at Stranmillis Military Hospital in the Second World War. She was scheduled to deliver a talk in the Oldpark area on 16th April 1941. Having survived the Easter Tuesday night bombardment and not receiving news that her talk was cancelled, she intrepidly set off, on foot, through extensively damaged north Belfast. This appropriately illustrated talk is based on her measured yet strikingly descriptive diary entries.

Trevor Parkhill MBE retired from NMNI/ Ulster Museum as Keeper of History in 2012, a post he held from 1995. Prior to that he worked in the field of archives, first with the Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin and then (1974-1995) in PRONI. His range of publications includes A Nurse in the Belfast Blitz, published (2016) by the NI War Memorial.

This event is taking place on Zoom. Visit the following link to book your place now:

Putting the Pieces Together: Exploring the Blitz through archive images, film and first-hand accounts by Ann Donnelly, Janet Hancock and Jenny Haslett

Thursday 22nd April 2021 at 2:00pm via Zoom

Archivists and heritage experts will discuss and explore some of the artefacts and resources that are available at Northern Ireland Screen, Northern Ireland War Memorial and PRONI. This session will include presentations by:

Ann Donnelly: Access and Outreach Office at Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive

Janet Hancock: Deputy Head of Public Services, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

Jenny Haslett: Museum Manager at the Northern Ireland War Memorial.

This event is taking place on Zoom. Visit the following link to book your place now:

Faces of the Blitz by Alan Freeburn

Thursday 29th April 2021 at 2:00pm via Zoom

Utilising the collection of the NI War Memorial and never before released images Alan Freeburn will share the personal stories and individual circumstances of those killed during the Luftwaffe Raids in April and May 1941. Alan is the Collections Officer at the NI War Memorial, Talbot Street, Belfast.

This event is taking place on Zoom. Visit the following link to book your place:

Hands Across the Border: Assistance from southern fire brigades by Las Fallon

Thursday 6th May 2021 at 2:00pm via Zoom

A look at the roles of southern firefighters in assisting Belfast in the Blitz. Stories from the history of the Dublin Fire Brigade and anecdotes gathered by the speaker from veterans of those events.

Las Fallon, fire service historian and author is a retired firefighter with Dublin Fire Brigade where he worked for 32 years. He is the author of ‘Dublin Fire Brigade and the Irish Revolution’ (2012), ‘The Firemen’s Tale: the burning of the Custom House, 1921’ (2015) and ‘The Great Liberties Whiskey Fire: Dublin’s forgotten calamity of 1875’ (2019). He has written articles for numerous newspapers and magazines including ‘Firecall’ and ‘An Cosantoir’ (the Irish Defence Forces magazine). He has appeared in TV and radio documentaries on aspects of fire service history with RTE, TG4, BBC and various independent producers. He was voluntary curator of the Dublin Fire Brigade Museum from 2008-2011.

This event is taking place on Zoom. Visit the following link to book your place now:

All talks will take place on Zoom at 2pm. Further details can be found on Eventbrite by searching ‘Blitz 80‘.

Registration closes one hour before the event and an invite link will be sent to everyone registered one hour before the beginning of the event.

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Blitz 80 Lecture Series

We’re Recruiting!

We’re Recruiting!

We have a vacancy for a Collections Assistant to cover maternity leave of one year to commence at the end of May 2021.

The primary role of the Collections Assistant is to work collaboratively with the Museum Manager to document, catalogue, and care for the museum collection. The Collections Assistant will also undertake research relevant to the collection, increase access to the collection, and develop the collection in line with our priorities.

As part of a small highly motivated team it is important that the successful applicant embraces working in a positive, respectful, and team-focused environment.

The post is a 1-year fixed term contract for 40 hours a week, worked over 5 days. Your normal working hours will be 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Reasonable overtime may be expected. Holidays are 25 working days per annum with 14 additional statutory days. Remuneration and all other terms and conditions are set out in the application pack.

How to apply:

Please download the Application for Employment, Collections Assistant Job Description, Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form and NIWM Privacy Policy.

Please return a completed Application for Employment and Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form by 4pm on Tuesday 6th April 2021.

If submitting by email, please send both documents in PDF format with CONFIDENTIAL APPLICATION in the subject header to You will receive an email confirming receipt of the application.

If submitting by hard copy, please post both documents to:

The Monitoring Officer, Northern Ireland War Memorial, 21 Talbot Street, Belfast, BT1 2LD.

CV’s will not be accepted.

If you require assistance or further details about this post, please call 028 9032 0392 extension 1 and leave a voicemail message clearly stating your contact details or email

Interviews are expected to take place in the week commencing 26th April 2021.

About the Northern Ireland War Memorial:

The Council of the Northern Ireland War Memorial (Incorporated) is a registered charity in Northern Ireland (NIC 103635) and registered as a company limited by guarantee (NI 002888).

Its purposes are threefold: to provide an enduring memorial to the people of Northern Ireland who lost their lives in the First and Second World War, in particular the Belfast Blitz; to provide office accommodation for ex-service organisations; to commemorate the association of the Armed Forces of the USA with Northern Ireland in the Second World War.

The NIWM operates an accredited museum which tells the story of how Northern Ireland was affected by and contributed to the Second World War. The museum has an expanding collection and offers a range of family events and workshops for schools and community groups.

As a charity the NIWM is financially independent and is not reliant on external funding.

The NIWM is an equal opportunities employer.

Posted in General | Comments Off on We’re Recruiting!

Mother’s Day 2021

Mother’s Day 2021

For Mother’s Day we’re highlighting one of the many written accounts we’ve added to our collection about mothers. Maisie Irene Black’s wartime story was submitted by her daughter Marie Nickolette Tench.

Maisie fell in love with GI Ernest Nickolette when they met at a dance in March 1942. She became a GI Bride in March 1943 when they married at Dundonald Presbyterian Church. In 1946 Maisie sailed to the US with their baby boy Terry and began their lives in Lorain, Ohio. Maisie, who passed away at the age of 87, never lost her Irish accent.

My mom, Maisie Irene Black, was a GI Bride from Belfast, Northern Ireland. She lived at 17 Greenfield Terrace off the Beersbridge Road in East Belfast with her mom and dad, Agnes and Walter Black, and younger sister Mabel. On March 25th, 1942, Ernest Nickolette and Maisie Black met at a dance for US soldiers held at Purdysburn Hospital.  It must have been love at first sight. They danced to music by Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra; music they enjoyed and danced to throughout their lives.  Maisie was 23 years old, Ernest was 26.  She worked in downtown Belfast selling hats in the Millinery Department of The Bank Buildings, a large department store. Over the next few months they saw each other as often as possible and soon knew they wanted to marry.  Her family was very close and it must have been hard for them to accept this handsome American Catholic man as the love of Maisie’s life. But they did, and the following year on March 2nd, 1943, one year to the day after arriving in Belfast Harbour, Maisie and Ernest were married at Dundonald Presbyterian Church. Ration coupons were saved for many previous weeks so that enough eggs and flour could be on hand to bake the wedding cake. My grandmother, Agnes, made a wedding suit for my mom to wear.

Ernest, or “Nicky” as Maisie fondly called him, was already stationed in England and because of his rank she was soon able to join him. They lived in a cottage in St. Austell, Cornwall, near his camp. The following year, 1944, he was sent from England to France and she returned to Belfast with a baby on the way.  The 467th Engineers arrived in Normandy on D-Day +1 , June 7, 1944, where their assignment was to clean, recondition and reassemble all of the engines of the vehicles on Normandy Beach and then move them to another location, another battle. In a Blackout situation they drove the tanks and trucks with no headlights on through the Black Forest of Germany and then on to Luxemburg. On Christmas Eve of 1944, Ernest was reading the Stars and Stripes, an American newspaper written for the soldiers, when he read about his son, Terence, who was born in Belfast on December 9, 1944. Ernest (Nicky) immediately requested a furlough to return to Belfast and be with his wife and son. He was granted a 7-day leave on March 14, 1945 to finally meet his new-born son, Terence.

When the war ended in 1945, our GI Dad was sent home and was later discharged from the US Army, having served his country for 5 years. He immediately started the process for Maisie and son Terry to join him to begin their life in Lorain, Ohio.  Ernest returned to his job as a machinist at the Thew Shovel Company and because of his service to his country he was credited with an additional 5 years of seniority. Maisie and 14-month-old Terry joined him on February 26, 1946 after sailing on a ship filled with other GI Brides and many small children. I have often wondered how she had the courage to leave her family in Belfast and get on that ship with a small baby to cross the ocean to begin her life in America.  Housing was hard to come by after the war ended so for several months they shared a house on Apple Avenue in Lorain, Ohio with patriarch Dominic Nickolette, Gilda (Ernest’s sister), her husband Tony and their young son Ronnie. Gilda taught Maisie to cook many delicious meals. In Belfast the food had been rationed so Maisie was not able to experiment with cooking during the war. Needless to say, this Irish lass learned to cook Italian foods.

Maisie, Marie, Terence with Maisie’s mother visiting America in Autumn 1955.

On March 25, 1947 (the anniversary of the day they met at the dance at Purdysburn), daughter Marie was born. Maisie, Ernest and Terry brought their new baby home to a house of their own. They raised their two children in Lorain. In 1950, Ernest fulfilled a promise made to Maisie’s family that he would send her back for a visit as soon as he had the money saved. They sailed across the Atlantic on a Cunard/White Star Line ship, the “Britannic”. When the three of them returned to Lorain many weeks later, Terry, age 5, and Marie, age 3, had Irish accents! After Terry and Marie grew up and finished their education, the trips to Belfast were more frequent. Visits to America by Maisie’s sister Mabel and husband Bill became more frequent as well. Cousins Rhoda and Isobel each made visits to the USA and the family was able to be reunited nearly every two years, keeping their close ties. Today, the next generation, the cousins, are keeping the family ties close by visiting each other whenever possible.

Maisie and Ernest

Maisie lived to age 87 and had been a widow for 18 years when she passed in 2007. Ernest, her beloved “Nicky”, had passed in 1989. She missed him every single day and never really adjusted to being a widow. Maisie was happiest being around young people and always encouraged them to travel to Northern Ireland. Maisie and Ernest had a remarkable war time romance and enduring love story. They are greatly missed by friends and family on both sides of the ocean.

If your mother or grandmother has any wartime memories to share or if you would like to submit a written account on their behalf, please get in touch with our Oral History Project Coordinator, Michael, at or give us a call on 07588634847.

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Mother’s Day 2021

World Book Day 2021

World Book Day 2021

This World Book Day we are excited to introduce you to Susie Shaw, the illustrator behind our upcoming children’s book: Jeannie’s Adventure to the Countryside.

‘Hello, I am Susie Shaw, a graphic designer and illustrator based in Hillsborough. I love mixing collage and watercolours to bring characters to life and tell a story through pictures. I am currently working with the Northern Ireland War Memorial to bring to life a story of evacuation during the war; Jeannie the Hen’s big adventure to the countryside! It is such an exciting project and I love how this can potentially open up conversations about this era and our history in Northern Ireland.’

The illustrated book will be freely available later in the year and is suitable for under 5s. 📖 Find out more on our website:

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on World Book Day 2021

Interviewee of the Month – February 2021

Interviewee of the Month – February 2021

Our interviewee of the month for February is Victor Maddalena (W&M21) who was born in Belfast in August 1936. While Victor and both his parents were born in the United Kingdom, his family were proud to be part of the Italian community in Northern Ireland.  Being an Italian in Northern Ireland during the Second World War was difficult with Victor remembering that his parents felt out of place at times; ‘It was a them and us sort of thing. I didn’t notice anything and never had any problem with the people here… so it might just have been during the bit of the war when we were at war with Italy’.

There were many local Italians not as fortunate as Victor and his family. They had a number of friends who were deported; ‘If you were Italian here and you didn’t have a British passport you were deported, you were put on a boat and sent to Australia and all this carry on’. While Victor’s family were safe from deportation many other local Italian families were broken up when their fathers or husbands were deported for the duration of the war. Victor recalled that ‘mother would have taken us to Portrush every year to visit ‘the Forte’s in Portrush. Angelo Forte, he was deported. Nancy, his wife, was left to run their big café there.  Nancy was a relative of mother’s and we used to go to Portrush to see her. We always stayed there for a couple of weeks, messed about down the sand, the big dunes and made sandcastles and stuff kids do. We did a lot of fishing.’

Victor and his family ran the City Café on Queen’s Square next to the Albert Clock and lived in a flat above the shop. Victor doesn’t remember much about the first major raid on Belfast on the 7th/8th April 1941 but remembers what his parents said, ‘I’ll tell you how bad it was …. In the cafe, there were sailors, and they were torpedoed at sea somewhere and they were at the cafe. When the Blitz started, their nerves got the better of them and they were rolling about the floor. Now this is only a story I heard I never saw it, but it must have been pretty bad. The whole place was shaking every time the bombs came down. There were whistling bombs and you could hear them getting louder and louder and then BOOM! The whole place went. The aul’ building we were in, there were big archways that the doors were in and big thick walls and we were stuck under the arch for protection in case the roof came down.’

Shortly after the first raid, Victor and his family left the City Centre and moved to Deramore Street off the Ormeau Road to escape future raids. It was there they were living during the infamous Easter Tuesday Raid on the 15th/16th April 1941. ‘We were up there, and the Blitz started. My uncle Ernest had a motorbike and sidecar, and he took us way up to Carryduff away out of the road from the Blitz and we spent the night in a farmer’s barn, a big hay barn. The sidecar had a toolbox at the back of it and me and my cousin sat with our legs in the toolbox… my parents and all… a whole load of people in this sidecar and maybe we weren’t all fitting in. My brother says that he remembers flares coming down and popping on the road when we were driving up, but I didn’t see them’.

This Belfast Telegraph photograph was taken from the top of the Albert Clock shortly after the air raids. It shows the corner of Waring Street and Victoria Street and if you look closely you can see Belfast Cathedral in the background. Nearby, much of High Street was reduced to rubble.

Thankfully Victor and his family all survived the Blitz.  In later years Victor was able to visit Casalattico in Italy where some of his family originally came from.

Do you have any memories of the air raids on Belfast? Perhaps you were evacuated away from the city and spent the war in the countryside? If you have memories of the Second World War that you wish to share, please get in touch with our Oral History Project Co-ordinator Michael by email or call us at 07588 634847.

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Interviewee of the Month – February 2021

Mapping the Blitz

Mapping the Blitz

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the ‘Belfast Blitz’, a defining moment in the history and development of Belfast City.

The Northern Ireland War Memorial and the Centre for Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Geomatics at the School of the Natural and Built Environment, Queens University Belfast are pleased to announce the launch of a new and exciting project, ‘Mapping the Blitz’.

Based on an original Stadt Plan Von Belfast held by the NI War Memorial that identifies Luftwaffe targets in the city, the project will digitally map information relating to the Blitz including those killed by enemy action in Belfast, Derry/Londonderry, Newtownards and Bangor, bomb locations and site damage, with other historical information taken from primary sources.

The result will be an interactive web map freely available online that will help facilitate a deeper understanding of the Luftwaffe raids on Northern Ireland 80 years ago through this new visual overview.

Additionally, a lecture series involving historians and the project coordinators will be hosted later in the year.

Follow the project on social media using the hashtag: #BelBlitz80.

For more information on the project contact: Alan Freeburn – or Conor Graham –

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Mapping the Blitz