Wreaths laid at mass graves to Belfast Blitz victims on 80th anniversary

Wreaths were placed on mass graves in two Belfast cemeteries today to remember those who lost their lives during the deadly German air raids in April and May of 1941.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 5:16 pm
Lord Mayor of Belfast Alderman Frank McCoubrey laying a wreath at Milltown Cemetery while piper Matthew Wilson plays Abide With Me

The most devastating raid on the city took place 80 years ago, beginning on April 15 and carrying on for five hours into the early hours of April 16.

Nearly 1,000 people, the majority civilians, lost their lives during the raids over Northern Ireland.

Most died in Belfast, but Londonderry, Bangor and Newtownards airfield were also bombed. Many casualties are buried within Belfast cemeteries, namely Milltown, City Cemetery, Dundonald and Carnmoney.

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The Shore Road was left in ruins after the Blitz

Due to the carnage and destruction of the events, it was not always possible to identify the victims of the raids so there are two mass graves, one in Milltown Cemetery and the other in City Cemetery.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast Alderman Frank McCoubrey and Trustees of the Northern Ireland War Memorial placed wreaths on the two mass graves today.

Piper Matthew Wilson, performed Abide with Me at the graveside commemoration, a hymn many survivors remember singing while taking shelter during the raids.

Matthew attends Campbell College, which was requisitioned as a Military Hospital (24th London General Hospital) during the Blitz, and where 24 lives were lost during the air raids.

Alderman McCoubrey said: “We remember almost 1,000 people, mainly civilians, who lost their lives in the Belfast Blitz.

“There were four devastating Luftwaffe raids on Belfast in April and May 1941. The major raids, now known as the Easter Tuesday and fire raids are remembered most vividly.

“In some cases, entire families lost their lives, while others were left homeless and mourning the loss of loved ones, their lives changed forever.

“It’s important that we continue to mark the anniversary of the Blitz, to take time to pause and reflect on this major event in our city’s history, and the tragedy suffered by so many of our citizens.”

Another wreath laying ceremony took place within the Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum on Talbot Street.

Michael Long, High Sheriff of Belfast and Trustees of the Northern Ireland War Memorial took part in an act of commemoration.

Last night homes across Belfast could see two searchlights in the night sky, being beamed from the grounds of City Hall.

Belfast’s world-famous shipyards that were contributing to Britain’s war efforts, made it a target for the Luftwaffe.

• Read more about the Belfast Blitz in our eight-page supplement tomorrow

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Alistair Bushe