Belfast was poorly prepared for the blitz compared with cities in Britain, few children had been evacuated, air raid shelters were sparse and defensive arrangements weak. Yet the Harland and Wolff ship building yards and Northern Ireland’s strategic role in the battle of the Atlantic made it a likely target.
When German bombers struck on the night of the 15th/16th April the effects were disproportionate. At least 1,000 people died. Over 56,000 homes were damaged leaving almost a quarter of the population homeless. Some thought that the reflection off the reservoir had fooled the pilots into thinking that they were near the docks. In fact, the waterworks had been deliberately targeted. Fire crews found that their hoses were of little use in the inferno because the water pressure was very low. Fire crews came from south of the border, from the neutral state of Ireland, and stayed for up to three days to help fight the fires.
Image | Clearing up after the Belfast Blitz