Belfast during the Blitz Essay

Free State’s neutral status. The use of the Northern ports became even more important following the fall of France in June 1940 as Britain stood alone against Germany In the West. The naval bases in Belfast, Learn and Deere were used by British ships to escort convoys carrying essential supplies from the US and airbases were used to search the seas for enemy forces. At the same time, Northern Ireland provided a training ground for over 100,000 American forces In preparation for D-Day landings in Normandy. However, aiding Britain in this way, as well as producing such British war materials, made Northern Ireland a real target for German attack.

Belfast city was to suffer most with German attacks leaving a devastating impact. Northern Ireland’s and Belfast’s preparation for war & “lack of preparation” In stark contrast to elsewhere in the united Kingdom, the lack of a sense of war urgency and lack of war preparation in Northern Ireland was evident up to 1941. Of course, measures such as rationing, censorship. Identity cards and travel restrictions were introduced. But, no conscription, low numbers Joining the armed forces, food Ewing relatively plentiful, and up to April 1941, no bombs falling, all led to a feeling among many people that the North was only “half In the War”.

Similarly, many believed that IN was too remote and far from the theatre of war and from the government at Westminster, for the Luftwaffe to bomb them. Northern Ireland had grown complacent; the Free State’s neutrality encouraged the view that the city of Belfast (although at war) would not be attacked. The fact that Belfast had avoided bombing till April 1941, while 30,000 had already died In Britain – also encouraged a ere dangerous belief that Belfast was Immune to the worst effects of war Little had been done to properly defend the city of Belfast. P until the fall of France in June 1940, preparations and putting in place air-raid precautions had been voluntary and as a result Ineffective. By the spring of 1941, Belfast only possessed twenty-two anta- aircraft guns (6 light, 16 heavy), and there were only enough public air-raid shelters for 25% of the population. In fact, the Minister for Home Affairs – Dawson Bates, had not Insisted on compulsory air-raid shelters, fearing that local unionist councilors loud be annoyed. There were NO searchlights and only a few Barrage Balloons in Belfast. Northern had one squadron of fighters based at Lauderdale, which was not any attack.

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This was to prove detrimental to the city of Belfast in April 1941. Industry during the war years (economy) A positive impact of World War II could be seen in relation to the economy. Northern Ireland, unlike the South, prospered economically during the War, replacing the depression of the sass’s with economic growth and expansion. Northern Ireland, and especially Belfast, was important in producing war materials for the British, which benefited the economy substantially. In Belfast, the Harlan and Wolff shipyard rapidly increased its production to meet demand, producing 1 50 warships and 123 merchant ships.

The Short Pros and Harlan aircraft factory expanded, building 1,500 Bombers and 500 tanks during the war years. Across the North, linen industries also prospered, diversifying to supply war materials also, such as uniforms, parachutes, tents and so on- Belfast’s textile and clothing industry contributed significantly to the province-wide output of 2 million flax fabric parachutes and 200 million yards of cloth for the forces; during the war, 90% of British serviceman’s shirts were produced in Northern Ireland.

Collectively munitions producers in the city produced 75 million incendiary bullets, 50,000 bayonets and various fittings, including components for the Mulberry floating docks used during the Normandy invasion. One-third of the ropes required by the War Office (a quarter of a million tons) were made at Belfast rope-works; in addition, it manufactured 50,000 camouflage and cargo nets. In terms of AGRICULTURE – Basil Brooke, Minister for Agriculture introduced a compulsory tillage scheme which pushed the amount of land under crops from 500,000 acres to 800,000 acres. Farmers prospered – because the UK gave them high prices for their produce.

Cattle numbers increased from 750,000 – to 900,000 and even ordinary families began rearing their own chickens! ( poultry production rose by 7. 5 million across the province) Unemployment decreased sharply, from about 25% in the sass’s to 5% during the war years. This demonstrated the positive impact of the war. However, in Belfast, the negative impacts were to far out-weigh the positive. Belfast as a Target / Initial Bombings By now, the German leadership was preparing for an assault on Belfast; focusing articulacy on the city’s expanding munitions producers, its increasingly active docks and its vital public utilities.

The Luftwaffe had taken aerial photographs during reconnaissance missions and had drawn up maps and detailed instructions which indicated the positions of targets of strategic importance. One radio broadcast from Hamburg (“Lord Haw Haw’) announced that there would be “Easter eggs for Belfast”. An attempt was made to strengthen Northern Ireland’s defenses- but unfortunately the action had come too late for Belfast! Minister of N’, John Andrews expressing his concerns that Belfast was so poorly retorted. “Up to now we have escaped attack.

So had Glycoside until recently. Glycoside got its blitz during the period of the last moon. There [is] ground for thinking that the enemy could not easily reach Belfast in force except during a period of moonlight. The period of the next moon from say the 7th to the 16th of April may well bring our turn. ” Unfortunately, McDermott was proved right and the feeling of complacency was shattered fully with the events of April and May 1941 as a series of air raids really brought home to the people the effects of “total war”.

On the night f the 7th of April, the first attack took place, when six German bombers hit the harbor area, killing thirteen people over a three and a half hour attack. This became known as the Dockside Raid. However, even this raid failed to shake public complacency and the government focused on reassuring the people that little damage had been done, instead of preparing for the larger attack which lay in store. 1 5th – 16th April Raid – Easter Tuesday Raid Evacuation of Belfast On the night of 1 5th April, wave after wave of 180 German aircraft dropped bombs for close to 5 hours, on the almost undefended city.

They dropped on average 2 bombs per minute. Most missed the harbor and docks, instead hitting densely packed working class houses and resulting in huge human suffering. The death toll was thought to be around 900 with 600 people seriously injured. The city’s inadequate mortuary services were overwhelmed and as a result public baths (on the Falls Road and Peters Hill) and a large fruit market (SST. George’s) had to be improvised to cope with the dead. 55,000 houses were damaged leaving 100,000 temporarily homeless. Fear and panic reached epidemic proportions in Belfast and people sought protection room the bombs by evacuating the city.

With so many people made temporarily homeless and the fear of future attacks, many of Belfast’s poor simply left the city each evening, fearing night raids, and waited the night in fields or barns. This became popularly known as “ditching” Many of the people who left were very poor and they brought a greater recognition of poverty in inner city Belfast – as one witness recounted ” Belfast slum dwellers are pretty far down and to those not used to seeing poverty and misery at close quarters the effect is overwhelming. The smell s terrible and they don’t even use the lavatories, they Just do it on the floor, grown- ups and children’.

She said she had been given the Job of finding private billets for the evacuees and she was By late April, an estimated 100,000 people had fled the city. Help from Dublin / Brief Co-operation The Northern government struggled to deal with the German air raids. During the intense bombing on the 16th April, 140 separate fires blazed around the city. The Northern Ireland Minister for Security, John McDermott, sent a message to Dublin requesting assistance. Although in breach of strict neutrality, De Valier agreed at as clear and highlighted well in newspapers in the North, even those predominately Unionist.

It could be said that a brief period of co-operation between North and South was witnessed, something which had not been contemplated before this since the foundation of the Northern state in 1920. May Attacks (FIRE RAID) / Immediate effects in Belfast / Criticism of government A further German raid occurred on 5th-6th May (fire raid), although casualties were significantly lower as the harbor and dockyards were the main areas hit. Two-thirds of Harlan and Wolff was totally destroyed, leading to six months of restoration fore production could begin again.

During the course of 3 hours, roughly 100,000 incendiary bombs were dropped, followed by high explosives, from an estimated 200 aircraft, mainly on the central, northern and eastern portions of the city. The number of fatalities reached almost 200, and once more the unidentified bodies were brought to SST George’s Market. As a result of all the raids, it is estimated that up to 1,100 people died in Belfast, over 56,000 homes were badly damaged or destroyed and over EYE million worth of damage was done to property across the city.

The widespread extraction would require a programmer of reconstruction in the post-war years, something which fell to the new government of Sir Basil Brooke. The bombing blitz on Belfast had led to increasing criticism of the Unionist government under Graviton and Andrews. Therefore, in May 1943, a new government under Brooke took charge, and in the post-war years, the new Prime Minister set about re- organizing the government, as all the older men were replaced by new.

It was not until August 1941 that most of those who had evacuated Belfast, returned. They had quickly become bored with country life and irritated by the increased distances they ad to travel to work. Moreover, they were encouraged to come back by the fact that Luftwaffe attacks on British cities had ceased from mid-May, and the belief that, after Hitler had launched Operation Barbarous against Russia (26 June 1941), Germany’s bombers had transferred to the Eastern Front.

USA Troops- training and effects on IN economy/society By 1942, life in IN was returning to normal and Belfast City became an increasingly important base for naval vessels engaged in the Battle of the Atlantic, its port was used for the import of war materiel especially from the US and, after a slow ginning, war production in its industries steadily accelerated, having only been temporarily disrupted by the air raids.

Later, as many as 250,000 US soldiers trained in Northern Ireland for the Normandy Landings. They spent almost 75$ million dollars in developing Northern bases and in general contributions to the economy. Danceable, cinemas and hotels competed for the business of these well-off, dancing, smoking, poker-playing American men – & for many local women romance blossomed with the Yanks’. (etc) Further Consequences of the War in the North: Belfast city had suffered greatly during the Blitz and war years.

In the course of the four Luftwaffe attacks on Belfast, lasting ten hours in total, 1,100 people died, over temporarily homeless and EYE million damage was caused to property at wartime values. The suffering and loss of life did however, temporarily bring together Protestant and Catholic communities – although this unity was short-lived and ended as the war itself ended. The war years did lead to closer ties between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain. Winston Churchill paid many tributes to the unionists and promised that “Ulster’s contribution to the war effort would never be forgotten”.

He stated: “But for the loyalty of Northern Ireland and its devotion to what has now become the cause of thirty governments or nations, we should have been confronted with slavery and death, and the light which now shines so brightly throughout the world would have been quenched”. As a result, Northern Ireland was to benefit greatly in the sass’s and sass’s under the Welfare State. The war reinforced and even strengthened Northern Ireland’s position within the United Kingdom. This also meant that the partition of Ireland was furthered economically and politically.

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