Belfast Blitz: ‘We could hear the exploding bombs and were terrified’

The 'Antrim Road in Belfast after the 1941 blitz
The 'Antrim Road in Belfast after the 1941 blitz

The interesting memories of the Belfast Blitz that you are publishing have triggered some of my own recollections, which I thought I would share.

There are three events that I recall from the time, when I was aged 10.

Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

In what must have been the first air raid, we had for some reason moved to my grandmother’s house in 20 Cyprus Park, east Belfast. We all took shelter in the broom cupboard under the staircase. My eldest brother John continued to sleep and we could not get him out of bed. We could hear the exploding bombs and were scared, nay terrified. In those early days I collected newspapers and waste paper in an old pram from neighbours for the war effort.

The second event was returning from Portrush, perhaps on Easter Tuesday morning. Looking back, it is interesting that during that difficult time we still had a car and were able to take a short weekend break. As we drove down the Antrim Road, above, we were shocked to see the burnt-out homes and smoking rubble. My younger brother Roger recalled that the lions had escaped from Bellevue Zoo.

The following month the family ‘evacuated’ to the Killyleagh area, where I witnessed the final air raids from afar. In the blackout I had a clear vision of watching spellbound the brilliant glow and flashing lights 20 miles away in Belfast. We were in a cottage in Lisnaw, Clea Lake in Co Down.

One final memory was visiting our cousins, the Secker family, in 3 Knockdarragh Park near Stormont. An incendiary bomb had gone through their roof to the ground floor and the hole through three floors was evident for some time. They had a Morrison Shelter, which was basically a metal table-tennis table under which they crawled to safety.

Dr Sidney Lowry, Crawfordsburn, Co Down

Letter to the editor

DUP and SF both want hard border No part of the United Kingdom has more cause to remain a part of the European Union than Northern Ireland, a truth reflected in the fact that 56% of the population voted Remain in the referendum. Since then, according to all recent opinion polls, the percentage of voters favouring Remain has risen significantly. At the same time, trust in the DUP and its leadership has fallen within the Protestant and unionist community. Yet nothing, including the restoration of the Stormont Executive, is more important to the DUP than getting Britain out of the EU. The party, unlike the Tories and Labour, is 100% in favour of Brexit, and the harder the better. Why is this? My firm belief is that the party yearns for the return of a hard border, seeing in the imposed re-division of the country the chance to distance Northern Ireland from the Republic and thus underline its Britishness. The scandal in this is that the DUP’s shameless masquerade as the sole political representatives of the people of Northern Ireland has been accepted and endorsed by the Tory leadership which thinks it needs the party’s ten votes to secure some form of Brexit. Sinn Fein’s stubborn refusal to back down on absentionism is at the core of the problem. The Shinners, I suspect, also want a hard border, but for the opposite reason – to force a united Ireland years before its time. I ’m still trying to work out which of the two parties I despise more. Walter Ellis, Brittany Short slogans can be mis-interpreted I am rather surprised that Simon Coveney TD is so put out by the banner ‘England get out of Ireland’ in New York City St. Patrick’s day parade. Fine Gael like to proudly claim that they are the party of Mícheál Ó Coileáin. In the book ‘The Path to Freedom’, Ó Coileáin wrote in his essay ‘The Proof of Success’ — “The coming and the presence of the English had deprived us of life and liberty. Their ways were not our ways. Their interests and their purposes meant our destruction. We must turn back again the wheels of that infamous machine which was destroying us. We must get the English out of Ireland.” It is worth reading that essay and the others in the Path to Freedom to see how frequently Ó Coileáin wrote about England’s control over Ireland and how it ruined the Irish nation. I get the feeling that Ó Coileáin would have been very much in agreement with the banner. Is Mr Coveney’s disapproval of the banner in any way related to the latest opinion polls that show support for Fine Gael and Sinn Féin went up? What better way for Fine Gael to continue to win support than attack Sinn Féin. It’s not like the banner was unveiled for the first time this year. Some have argued that the ‘England get out of Ireland’ message means the people in Ireland with a British identity would have to get out of Ireland. I can understand why some think that is the message being delivered, it is probably written the way it is for reasons of brevity. If a longer message was required it might go something like ‘Dear UK government, please withdraw from Ireland in an orderly manner.’ The famous slogan ‘Ulster says n’ is also short and powerful but it doesn’t indicate what Ulster is saying no to. These short slogans leave themselves open to being misinterpreted which does not help with political discourse. Is mise, le meas, Seanán Ó Coistín, Trier, Germany Airport delays are well known by now Security at Belfast International Airport is unbelievable slow and is a management problem that needs urgent attention. The gentleman in your article in the News Letter (‘Scores of passengers miss flights,’ March 12) who missed his flight, must have his head in the sand. All advice since 9/11 is to be in airport at least two hours before departure. Wesley Wright, Larne