List of Belfast Blitz fatalities: NI museum wants to make those who died humans again

GRAEME COUSINS visits the Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum to find out more about what is being done to honour the Belfast Blitz dead

Friday, 16th April 2021, 10:00 am
Updated Friday, 16th April 2021, 12:56 pm
The Shore Road was left in ruins after the Blitz

Eighty years ago today those people of Belfast who had survived to see the sunrise were coming to terms with the most devastating attack in the city’s history.

Production of munitions, ships, aircraft, ropes, parachutes and uniforms in Belfast made the city a prime target for the Germans.

The air raids came in April and May 1941. The first on April 7-8 destroyed the aircraft fuselage factory and damaged the docks.

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NI War Memorial staff members Jenny Haslett and the late Bill Porter are pictured in authentic wartime uniforms. PHOTO: Peter O'Hara

The second, and deadliest raid, on April 15-16 lasted for five hours and saw 180 bombers drop 673 bombs and 29,000 incendiaries on residential areas in the docklands.

The third raid came on May 4-5 unleashing 237 tons of high explosive and 96,000 incendiaries on the city and the docks.

There was a final small raid on May 5-6.

Belfast was not prepared for these attacks and the results were devastating – nearly 1,000 people died and half the housing stock was destroyed or damaged.

In early April 1941 Belfast had no searchlights, only 22 anti-aircraft guns, and one small balloon barrage. A squadron of Hurricane fighters were based at Aldergrove, but weren’t equipped for night fighting.

Only 700 public shelters had been built, each designed to hold 50 people. If fully occupied they could protect a quarter of the city’s population.

NI War Memorial Museum manager Jenny Haslett said: “In 1938 the Air Raid Precautions were set up – people volunteered as wardens or to be stretcher bearers, first aiders. There were lots of different roles in the ARP. They would have trained and met to learn about the effects of poisonous gas, teaching the public how to use their gas masks, learning how to keep people calm.

“It may have felt a little phoney – they thought they’d never have to use it. They were disregarded by people in the street, they never thought Belfast would be bombed.

“The Air Raid precautions of the blackout weren’t always obeyed. Obviously in April 1941 everyone got a rude awakening.”

Collections officer Alan Freeburn said: “34 air raid wardens died during the Blitz. Some of them were young – the ARP had teenagers who volunteered on bicycles.”

He revealed the fate of some of these volunteers: “Trinity Church spire was hit by a bomb. Right beside the church was an ARP post. There was a number of young volunteers in it who died when the spire came down.

“Young girls, 15 and 16, they had left a ceili in the Ulster Hall at the sound of the siren. They left to go to their posts and that was a cruel twist of fate – they lost their lives.”

Discussing the impressive collection of war time artefacts in the museum, Jenny said: “We get donations all the time from people, throughout lockdown we’ve been really busy with people clearing out their attics and finding things like ration books, all sorts of photographs.

“We also have a budget to purchase items at auction, the ones that get donated to you are usually more interesting.”

Alan added: “They’re the ones that come with a story, they have meaning behind them. You can put a face to a name. They’re more personal.

“Through letters you’re able to establish family links, who was related to who, why they were in Belfast at the time, the fate that was involved in them being here. Every person who was killed has a story.

“It makes you able to relate to them, even finding out what they did for a living makes you able to relate to them as a person. It’s very easy to get lost in a list of 1,000 names, there’s no personality in it.

“We want to make these people humans again by telling as much of their story as we can, sharing pictures.”

Alan was able to detail some of the families worst affected by the Blitz.

At 4 Ballynure Street, 11 members of the extended Clarke/Thompson family were killed.

At 95 Blythe Street, nine members of extended Cooke/Todd/McKee family died.

He also told the story of 27-year-old Frances Caldwell: “He was with his friends that night, he decided to go and check on his aunt and cousins. He lost his life in a cruel twist of fate, they were killed as well.

“When you look at the Commonwealth War Graves you don’t get that story.

“I look at it as a 1,000 piece jigsaw that you’ll never finish, things have been lost to time and lost to the chaos of the Blitz. You’ll never get a complete picture.”

The following is a list of names of those people who lost their lives as a result of the Luftwaffe’s air raids on Belfast in April and May 1941.

The list of 987 identified people who died during the Belfast Blitz was supplied by the Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum in Talbot Street, Belfast.

The oldest person to die was 93 years of age while the youngest fatality was a six-week-old baby boy who died on this day 80 years ago.

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Addis, Mary (59)

Aicken, Alexander (56)

Aitken, Jane (51)

Allister, Martha (48)

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Anderson, Isabella (47)

Anderson, William John (17)

Anderson, Elizabeth (59)

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Andrews, David Harold (36)

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Atcheson, Eliza (85)

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Baird, David (57)

Ball, Samuel (66)

Balance, Agnes (60)

Ballantine, Ethel (27)

Ballantine, William Vincent (30)

Balmer, James (26)

Barr, James Alexander (60)

Barr, Jeannie (64)

Barr, Elizabeth (Bessie)

Barr, William Cathcart (32)

Beattie, James (29)

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Beggs, Phyllis Irene (22)

Bell, Thomas George (38)

Bell, Joseph (45)

Bell, Hannah (56)

Bell, John (23)

Bell, Thomas (46)

Bellamy, William (28)

Belshaw, Robert (43)

Bennett, Robert (66)

Bennett, Catherine (58)

Benton, William (19)

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Bingham, Thomas (16)

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Black, Evelyn (14)

Black, Hessie (23)

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Bothwell, Ernest (3)

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Boyd, Elizabeth Kate (70)

Boyd, Hugh (18)

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Boyd, Jessie (21)

Boyd, Sarah Jane (69)

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Bradley, Everhilda (45)

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Bradshaw, David Kennedy (12)

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Brady, Mary (78)

Brady, George Robert (Bob) (76)

Braniff, William (18)

Brennan, Margaret (40)

Briggs, Leonard (37)

Briggs, Rowland William (8)

Briggs, James (Jack) (10)

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Brooker, Herbert Montague (23)

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Brown, Stephen (36)

Brown, Mary Jane (91)

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Brown, Georgina (18)

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Burke, Samuel (18)

Burleigh, Betty (21)

Burton, Sarah (74)

Burton, Harold Edwin (24)

Byrne, Eliza Sarah (56)

Caldwell, Francis Ernest (27)

Cameron, Annie (72)

Campbell, Margaret (70)

Campbell, Elizabeth May (Lily) (18)

Campbell, Roberta (Ruth) (4)

Campbell, Arthur McLean (10)

Campbell, Margaret Christina (9)

Campbell, Hugh (22)

Campbell, William (42)

Carleton, Dona (3 months)

Carlisle, Alexander (19)

Carroll, Thomas William (Tom) (31)

Carson, Martha (26)

Carson, Edward (4)

Carson, Eileen (3)

Carter, Joseph (45)

Carter, Mary Ann (37)

Carter, Sarah (Sadie) (14)

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Carter, Mary (9)

Carter, Joseph (Joe) (6)

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Cash, Mary Ann (66)

Castles, Hugh (33)

Christian, Leonard Charles (26)

Christy, James (29)

Christy, Margaret (28)

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Church, Hannah (53)

Cinnamond, Arthur Moore (69)

Clarke, Robert (Bobby) (26)

Clarke, Jeremiah (49)

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Cooke, John (7)

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Cooke, Thomas (22)

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Cooke, Mary Jane (43)

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Corr, Mary Ann (49)

Corr, Annie (79)

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Corry, Elizabeth (10 months)

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Creaney, John (41)

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Curry, William John (52)

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Danby, Alice (32)

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Davey, Matilda (61)

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Doherty, Sarah (67)

Doherty, James (40)

Dojan, John (11)

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Donnelly, Susannah Hope (69)

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Donnelly, Hugh (50)

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Dornan, Harriet (Cissy) (30)

Dornan, Harriett (70)

Douglas, William (Billie) (8)

Douglas, Emily (29)

Douglas, Sarah (Sally) (12 months)

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Douglas, James (Jim) (7)

Douglas, Samuel (Sammy) (9)

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Dowds, Maureen (6)

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Duffy, Sarah Ann (50)

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Duffy, Josephine (12)

Duffy, Kathleen (21)

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Duffy, Patrick (27)

Duffy, Patrick (47)

Dunlop, Agnes (18)

Dunlop, Elizabeth (42)

Dunwoody, Henry (58)

Dunwoody, William (63)

Dunwoody, Edith (50)

Dunwoody, Isabella (60)

Elkin, Mary (May) (29)

Elkin, Alexander McNeill (Alex) (34)

Elkin, William Ronald (Ronnie) (5)

Elkin, Alexander Norman (1)

Elliott, Samuel Stewart McComb (32)

Erskine, Cecil (16)

Esdale, John (72)

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Faux, Christopher Youraba (49)

Fee, Daniel (25)

Ferguson, Thomas Gardener (53)

Ferguson, Mary Jane (Jean) (14)

Ferguson, Elizabeth Shaw (45)

Ferguson, Agnes (21)

Ferguson, Richard (10)

Ferguson, Andrew (45)

Ferguson, Andrew (3)

Ferguson, Charles (13)

Ferris, Daniel (66)

Finlay, Robert (Bobby) (22)

Finnegan, John (64)

Finnegan, Kathleen (55)

Fisher, Rose (65)

Fisher, Martha (40)

Fisher, John Joseph (42)

Flack, George (70)

Flack, Mary (80)

Fletcher, James (Jim) (46)

Fletcher, Martha (81)

Flood, Thomas (21)

Flynn, Kenneth (10)

Flynn, Rosemary (18)

Flynn, Agnes (45)

Flynn, Ambrose (50)

Forbes, Martha (41)

Forbes, James (Jim) (16)

Forbes, Norman (12)

Forbes, Elsie (17)

Forbes, Sadie (10)

Forbes, James (55)

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