Belfast Blitz VIDEO: ‘I watched a landmine descending from sky, coming directly at us’

The almost arbitrary nature of who lived and who died during the blitz can be illustrated by this remarkable tale.

Cecil Rutledge, now 87 and living in Carryduff, was a 12-year-old boy at the time of the Belfast air raids.

Cecil Rutledge

Cecil Rutledge

He lived in the city’s south, but on the night of April 15 he was staying with his grandfather in the Bellevue area of north Belfast, high above the shoreline of the lough.

The back door of the house looked out across the lough, in the direction of Holywood.

When the sirens sounded, he watched what unfolded from there.

“The Holywood hills were on fire,” he said.

“The lough was lit up, like a big lamp was shining on it.

“The next thing was the planes coming in. Just flight after flight of planes over that Holywood side of the lough. Bombers – I couldn’t distinguish what.

“It was flight after flight – just like you’d see birds flying along.”

Bombs also fell on the Whitewell area of north Belfast, not far from him, with some landing on fields where new crops had just been sown.

“We’d been watching it for a while, and went to the front of the house to see if there was anything there,” he continued.

“We looked up and there was this landmine coming down on a parachute.

“It was only 200ft up, it seemed to me.

“It seemed to be coming direct to us.

“All of a sudden the wind caught it, and took it out towards Belfast. It blew up at Ben Madigan Park.”

But for that gust of wind, he and his grandfather may well have died.

“It was touch and go!” he laughed. “Me, or somebody else.”

The following day, he saw a long line of people leaving the city along the Whitewell Road, many laden with belongings.

He recalls one man carrying a budgie, and nothing else.

When he sees scenes on television of refugees, he said he is reminded of those images.

He noted that within a couple of decades the Troubles came along too, and that when it came to the Nazis “at least you knew where the bombs were coming from – the planes were above dropping bombs. But in the Troubles, bombs could go off anywhere.”

Returning to the blitz, he concluded: “It saddens me to think of the loss of life.”

He said that it also saddens him to see people who today have so much, but who are not as content as those he knew in wartime days who had so much less.

Belfast Blitz VIDEO: Marketplace filled with corpses in scenes ‘defying description’

Belfast Blitz VIDEO: ‘Our home collapsed around us – all we had left were melted coins’

Belfast Blitz: Attacks united city and led to hopes of less sectarianism, says historian

Belfast Blitz: List of 75th anniversary events

Belfast Blitz: Carnage has never been adequately commemorated says councillor

Belfast Blitz: ‘I watched from a hedge as the city burned below me’