Belfast’s War Memorial Gallery will shortly be displaying a vivid and extremely poignant memorial to the German Luftwaffe’s terrible blitz on Belfast in 1941.
During two major bombing raids and a third smaller attack, an estimated 1,000 people lost their lives as hundreds of tons of deadly explosives and countless thousands of incendiaries devastated the city’s streets, buildings and the shipyard quays.
Many homes, shops and manufacturing works around the Lagan were demolished and several ships were sunk. A copy of the original Ordnance Survey map used by Hitler’s air crews to target their lethal bombardment is on show in the gallery from April 15.
The Stadtplan von Belfast measures 110cm by 70cm and is overprinted with a German hit list of important targets. Outlined and highlighted in red marker pen on the faded, patched together document are the Luftwaffe’s principal objectives (Einzelobjekte) including the docks, railway stations, reservoirs and the Victoria Barracks.
German pilots and navigators, peering through their goggles at Stormont (Parlamentsgebäude undo Ministerien) and the City Hall (Stadthalle), must have wondered while they released their bombs on the shipyard (Werft von Harland and Wolff) how a German surname became associated with such a strategic enemy target! Did a finger pause momentarily on a bomb-release button?
Museum Curator Ciaran Elizabeth Doran told me: “The original map was found in Gatow airfield in Berlin by the RAF when they arrived there in 1945.”
From her wealth of local cartographical knowledge, Ciaran Elizabeth picked out a pickle factory near the Stranmillis roundabout.
The 72nd anniversary of the blitz will be marked by the laying of a wreath on the War Memorial in 21 Talbot Street (beside Belfast Cathedral) at 11am on Monday. Members of the public, and anyone with family memories of the blitz, are invited to attend the short ceremony, and to see the map which will be on view to the public for at least a month.
If readers have any memeories or passed-on accounts of the blitz that they’d like to share on Roamer’s page, please send them to the address below.
Reproduced from the Belfast Newsletter, Friday 12th of April 2013.