National Nurses Week

National Nurses Week

Following our recent posts about the Fire Service and the RUC during the Blitz, today marks the beginning of #Nationalnursesweek and so we are sharing some information about nurses during the Blitz.

A wing of the Ulster Hospital on Templemore Avenue was struck by high explosives and caught fire during the Easter Tuesday Raid on the 15th/16th April and the patients were all safely evacuated.

Three weeks later during the Fire Raid of the 4th/5th May the hospital found itself in the centre of a badly hit area in east Belfast. The hospital was hit again but fortunately the patients were elsewhere after their evacuation on Easter Tuesday. At the moment of impact however an ambulance had just arrived and was caught in the blast, further injuring the patients it was carrying.

Elanor Elizabeth Aicken, 37, a Matron at the hospital was recommended for her devotion to duty during the Fire Raid.

In addition, the ambulance depot on the Holywood Road was hit by a high explosives during the Easter Tuesday Raid, burying those inside and during the Fire Raid the same depot again was hit.

Auxiliary Nurse, Denise Forster, 21 and Stretcher Bearer, Samuel Campbell, 45 both received recommendations for their rescue work and devotion to duty at the depot on the 4th May 1941.

Despite these incidents, no nurses are known to have been killed in the line of duty during the Blitz and only one Red Cross stretcher bearer is known to have been killed;

Thomas Harvey, 39
Injured 16 April 1941 at Percy Street and Tyne Street and died at Royal Victoria Hospital on the 8 May 1941.

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on National Nurses Week

The Belfast Blitz – 5th/6th May 1941

The Belfast Blitz – 5th/6th May 1941

On the night of the 5th/6th May 1941, Belfast endured what was ultimately the last air raid on the city.

Described by the Luftwaffe as a ‘nuisance’ raid, a small number of planes dropped incendiaries and high explosives in east Belfast. The worst incident occurred when a mine destroyed two shelters, ten houses and a school at Ravenscroft Avenue and Avondale Street. In total, 14 people were killed in this raid.

Over the course of the Blitz there were approx. 1,000 deaths across Northern Ireland, the vast majority of which were civilian.

The below video lists those that died in Northern Ireland as a result of enemy action in April and May 1941.

Blitz Memorial Reel
Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Belfast Blitz – 5th/6th May 1941

The Royal Ulster Constabulary – Belfast Blitz 1941

The Royal Ulster Constabulary – Belfast Blitz 1941

As with all the emergency services, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC – today the Police Service of Northern Ireland) found itself stretched and tested by the Belfast Blitz.

Five officers were recommended for their heroism during the Easter Tuesday Raid on the 15/16 April 1941;

Constable Alexander McCusker and Constable William Brett for rescue work at Ottawa Street and Ohio Street at Belfast on 15 April 1941.

Constable Robert Moore and Constable Alfred King for rescue work at Vere St and Sussex St on 15/16 April .

Detective Sergeant Denis Michael Cremin for rescue work at Eastland Street at Belfast on 15 April 1941.

Constable McCusker’s George Medal is pictured below with his 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-18, Allied Victory Medal, Defence Medal and RUC Service Medal (Courtesy of the PSNI Museum –…/our-history/police-museum/).

Constable McCusker’s Medals

The worst single incident for the force occurred during the Fire Raid on 4th /5th May 1941 at Glenravel Street Barracks where initial reports suggested that three men were trapped.

In fact, the barracks had taken a direct hit from a high explosive bomb and five men in total lost their lives;

Constable Martin Robert Armstrong, 24
Constable Hugh Campbell, 22
Constable William (Pete) James Lemon, 20
Constable James McKenna, 21
Constable Robert Reid, 22

As can be seen in James McKenna’s personnel card pictured below with his portrait (by kind permission of the McCaughey Family) they had all recently been transferred from the RUC’s training depot at the beginning of the year to bolster police numbers in the city.

James McKenna’s personnel card
James McKenna

A survivor of the incident, Hugh Ross recalled his experience:

‘After a time the station was hit by a bomb and the building collapsed over the tables. Pete Lemon spoke and said to me “We are badly trapped. We will hardly get out alive.” Shortly after that another bomb landed close by and we were covered with more rubble and I remember getting a mouthful of dirty, limey water apparently coming from a huge water tank at the rear of the station. I was able to speak to Pete but he never replied. I could hear some of my comrades’ voices shouting, but that only lasted for a minute or so, and that is when I though we all might die. I must have panicked at that stage as I thought I was in a deep valley and that a river on top had burst its banks and was filling the valley with water and that I was going to drown. We were all dug out some time later – I don’t know how long it took…[and] I was treated in the Mater Hospital.’

Such was the devastation of the blast that by the 7th May, three of the bodies were still to be recovered.

Yet the incident could have been much worse if it was not for a sergeant reporting to the District Inspector that it was too risky to have so many men sheltering under the reinforced tables in the station.

As a consequence, many were moved to nearby air raid shelters instead.

The men stationed at the RUC Barracks on Chichester Street also had a lucky escape when a high explosive bomb struck the corner of the building but deflected into the street. (pictured below courtesy of Belfast Telegraph)

RUC Barracks on Chichester Street (Photograph courtesy of the Belfast Telegraph)

In total 11 RUC personnel lost their lives during the Blitz, the other six being;

Special Constable Samuel John Duffy, 21
Special Constable Maurice William Howe, 21
Special Constable John (Jackie) McCombe
Constable James Meaklim, 38
Special Constable James Thompson, 36
Detective Sergeant Robert J Wilson, 42

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Royal Ulster Constabulary – Belfast Blitz 1941

24th London General Military Hospital – 4th/5th May 1941

24th London General Military Hospital – 4th/5th May 1941

Between July 1940 and October 1945, the 24th London General Military Hospital was situated within the buildings and grounds of Campbell College in east Belfast.

Changing rooms became operating theatres and x-ray rooms, baths were fitted in the classrooms and huts were erected within the grounds. By October 1945, 34,000 servicemen had been treated at the facility.

During the Fire Raid on the night of 4/5 May 1941, the school turned hospital was hit by high explosive bombs.

Three huts, including an officer’s mess were destroyed and three others along with the North Block were set alight. Pictured below are photos from the Imperial War Museum that show the damage sustained (© IWM H 9479, H 9480, H 9481 and H 9482)

23 men lost their lives as a result;

Hugh Emrys Bonnell, 35
Herbert Montague Brooker, 23
Montague James Burbage, 23
Leonard Charles Christian, 26
Douglas Denholm, 21
Eric Dennant, 21
Herbert Gay, 26
Leon Guglielmazzi, 25
John Thomas Harris, 25
Edward V Hemelryk, 48
Daniel Rees Jones, 25
Stephen Henry Francis Jones, 52
Felix Marasi, 25
John McCunnie, 22
James Simon Moore, 25
Harry Norman Pickup, 22
Ivor John Rees, 45
Norman Leslie Seaward, 30
Kenneth Lawrence Shaw, 23
Archibald Herbert Sanderson Stewart, 36
Joseph Tobin, 38
Thomas Waddington, 26
Richard Fowler Ward, 39

In addition, a civilian, Mary Jane Close, 58 was injured at 35 Westbourne Street and died later that day at the hospital.

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 24th London General Military Hospital – 4th/5th May 1941

The Belfast Blitz – 4th/5th May 1941

The Belfast Blitz – 4th/5th May 1941

On the night of the 4th/5th May 1941, Belfast suffered its second largest raid of the Belfast Blitz.

As with the Easter Tuesday Raid many German planes, around 25%, failed to reach their designated target of Belfast due to poor weather conditions. However, above the city itself the sky was cloudless and presented the perfect conditions for bombing.

It is therefore unknown exactly how many bombers attacked Belfast that night. Estimates range from 50 to 204 aircraft however their primary targets were the same as Easter Tuesday, Belfast Harbour.

Compared to Easter Tuesday, the Fire Raid was short and sharp, a concentrated attack that lasted around two hours. 237 tons of high explosives were dropped along with 96,000 incendiaries, which is why it became known as the Fire Raid.

With perfect conditions for bombing, most of the bombs landed in the target area. None of the Luftwaffe’s primary targets came through unscathed. Pictured below is a page from ‘Der Adler’, a Luftwaffe magazine dated 27 May 1941 (NIWM collection – NIWM:2019.2475) showing before and after photos of the harbour area along with clearly identified targets.

‘Der Adler’ a Luftwaffe magazine dated 27th May 1941 showing before and after photos of the harbour area along with clearly identified targets (NIWM collection – NIWM:2019.2475)

Some bombs did however fall again on the residential areas of the city in north Belfast and unlike on Easter Tuesday, the lower Newtownards Road in the East of the city sustained extensive damage. Witham Street, Westbourne Street, Donegore Street and Ravenscroft Avenue are just some the streets that were badly affected in this area.

In addition, commercial property in the city centre was gutted as fires grew out of control and swept through areas such as North Street, Chichester Street, Castle Lane, Castle Place, Waring Street and Bedford Street. Even City Hall was hit with the ballroom and offices in the east wing sustaining damage (pictured below courtesy of Belfast Telegraph). On Bridge Street only the Northern Whig was left standing.

City Hall

Based on the latest research conducted by NIWM, 209 people lost their lives as a result of enemy action on the night of the 4th/5th May 1941.

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Belfast Blitz – 4th/5th May 1941

Firefighter’s Memorial Day 2020

Firefighter’s Memorial Day 2020

Rather fittingly, on the anniversary of the eve of the fire raid on Belfast in May 1941 in which an estimated 96,000 incendiaries were dropped on the city, we are marking Firefighter’s Memorial Day #FMD2020 #WeRemember

During the blitz, the Fire Service (today the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service) played a crucial role in not only putting out fires caused by the bombs but also in rescuing and helping people. Professional firemen were assisted by volunteers in the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS).

Pictured below from the NIWM collection are the helmet, boots and axe that belonged to Leading Fireman Frederick Butler who drove a fire engine during the Blitz and an Auxiliary Fire Service helmet. Also pictured are a selection of photographs showing the conditions and hazards that fire fighters had to deal with during the Blitz (courtesy of The Belfast Telegraph).

They were also aided by volunteers called Fire watchers. It was their job to keep watch on the roofs of buildings and to quickly put out a fire before it grew and needed the attention of the Fire Service or AFS. When an incendiary bomb landed they would smother it with sand or put out the flames using a stirrup pump before it could spread.

However it was not just local men that helped fight the fires during the Blitz. The image below shows the Minister for Public Security, J. C. MacDermott inspecting members of the Glasgow Auxiliary Fire Service who had volunteered to help in Belfast after the fire raid on the 4/5th May 1941 (courtesy of Belfast Telegraph).

Minister for Public Security, J.C. MacDermott inspecting members of the Glasgow Auxiliary Fire Service who volunteered to help in Belfast after the fire raid on the 4/5th May 1941.

Firefighters from Éire also volunteered to cross the border and help fight the fires in the stricken city. On display in the Northern Ireland War Memorial museum is a Dun Laoghaire Fire Brigade Helmet on loan from the Dublin Fire Brigade.

In memory of those Firefighters and Fire Watchers who lost their lives in April and May 1941.

Thomas George Bell, 38 – Fire Watcher
Thomas William Carroll, 31 – Fire Watcher
Hugh Castles, 33 – Auxiliary Fire Service
John Creaney, 41 – Fireman, Merchant Navy
John Esdale, 72 – Fireman
Daniel Fee, 25 – Fire Watcher
Samuel Hoy Gowan, 35 – Fire Watcher
Alexander Hagans, 39 – Fire Watcher
Brice Harkness, 25 – Auxiliary Fire Service
Archibald McDonald, 22 – Auxiliary Fire Service
John Forsythe Millar, 42 – Fire Watcher
Samuel Nesbitt, 74 – Fireman
William Martin Pollock, 32 – Fire Watcher
Thomas Savage, 61 – Fire Watcher
George Spence, 17 – Auxiliary Fire Service

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Firefighter’s Memorial Day 2020

VE Day 75 Learning Resources

VE Day 75 Learning Resources

Next week marks 75 years since the Second World War in Europe ended. We had exciting plans to celebrate this important anniversary, but like many organisations we have had to rethink all those plans as we stay at home to save lives and protect our NHS.

However, there is still lots we can learn from VE Day in 1945 and we hope that we can share the same positivity and good will of those who celebrated 75 years ago. We would like to share these VE Day stories with you and encourage you to mark this special anniversary in your own way, with your families at home.

Check out the free learning resources we have created to help inspire your own VE Day party in your home or garden. You can find them by selecting the ‘Learning’ tab along the menu of our website and then visiting ‘Learning Resources’. Banish boredom with our fun and educational learning opportunities for home learners.

You will find hints and tips to help you host your own VE Day party while staying safe at home. Learn how to make colourful bunting and paper chains. Check out our wartime recipes and learn some new wartime songs. Try your hand at translating VE Day headlines into Morse Code and share them with your friends. Visit our YouTube Channel to learn how to make a Dig for Victory poster and a VE Day fruit or flower crown to wear on your head at the party.

How to make a Dig for Victory poster – NIWM Craft Challenge with Hannah Ferguson

Together we can show how thankful we are for those who fought fiercely to protect us during the Second World War, and all of those who are working to protect us now.

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on VE Day 75 Learning Resources

Sing for Victory CD

Sing for Victory CD

We love meeting people through our dementia friendly ‘Sing for Victory’ workshops. Singing can improve brain activity, wellbeing and mood, so we have worked with music therapist Karen Diamond to create this workshop based on songs from the 1940s. Participants are encouraged to sing along to Karen’s live piano performances and enjoy reminiscing in the museum. 

Music Therapist Karen Diamond

We want to keep in touch with our older visitors while we are closed so we have produced a FREE Sing for Victory CD and accompanying songbook for older people to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes. The CD features 18 wartime songs to raise morale. We have also included suggested chair-based exercises based on the British Gymnastics Foundation’s Love to Move programme.

Page from the Sing for Victory Songbook

Get in touch if you know someone who would like a CD and look out for our ‘VE Day Remembered with Music and Memories’ short film which will be added to our YouTube Channel next week. This short film combines our favourite songs along with VE Day memories we have collected through The War and Me oral history project. 

Find out more at:

#MuseumFromHome #niwarmemorial #NIWM

Posted in Blog, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sing for Victory CD

VE Day 75 Craft Challenge

How to make a Dig for Victory poster – NIWM Craft Challenge with Hannah Ferguson

We have been working with artist Hannah Ferguson to create online Craft Challenges for all ages to enjoy in time for the 75th anniversary of VE Day on 8th May 2020.

In our first tutorial, Hannah and her son Ralphie show you how to create a Dig for Victory poster using odds and ends from their recycling bin.

Hannah holding the cardboard template she has created from odds and ends from her recycling bin
A Dig for Victory inspired poster made using odds and ends of cardboard, crayons and water soluble paints

Head to our Youtube Channel to check it out or watch below:

How to make a Dig For Victory poster – NIWM Craft Challenge with Hannah Ferguson

Let us know how your creations turn out by tagging us using the hashtag #niwarmemorial on social media.

#DigForVictory #Learningathome #CreateTogether #VEDay75 #MakeDoandMend #MuseumFromHome

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on VE Day 75 Craft Challenge