When Adolf Hitler unleashed his bombing campaign over Britain, the people of Northern Ireland believed they were beyond the Nazis’ reach. On the 70th anniversary of three deadly raids in 1941 which proved them wrong, survivors of the Belfast Blitz remember the horror which devastated both their lives and their city. BBC Northern Ireland marks this anniversary with a new one-hour documentary The Belfast Blitz to be shown on BBC One Northern Ireland on Monday 18 April at 9pm.
The film made for BBC Northern Ireland by Hardy Pictures features personal testimonies from 10 eyewitnesses to the Blitz, ranging in age from 78 to 100 years old, some of whom experienced terrible losses, with stories which include being pulled alive from a bombed air raid shelter and narrowly escaping the flames which devastated the city.
The documentary is based around all three raids – the Dockside Raid on 7 and 8 April 1941, the Easter Tuesday Raid on 15 and 16 April 1941 and the Fire Raid of 4 and 5 May 1941.
Nearly 1,000 people lost their lives during the Easter Raid alone, the greatest loss in a single night outside of London.
The film reveals how ill equipped the city was for such devastating air attacks.
Rich archive of Belfast in the 1930s is included in the documentary, which also features interviews with local author Brian Barton, social historian Juliet Gardiner and Chris Goss, a specialist on the Luftwaffe.
To help recreate what it was like at the time, the documentary makers have vividly created animated maps and 3D-imaging of the city based on original Ordnance Survey maps.
Using modern technology, the film provides a record of streets now long gone and the areas hit during the raids.
The maps are a window into the city as it faced aerial bombardment and also highlight how badly hit the Cathedral Quarter was during the raids – St Anne’s Cathedral and the Northern Whig were among the only buildings left standing.
Luftwaffe target files held in the Imperial War Museum in London also terrifyingly demonstrate just how well the German Command knew the city.
The Belfast Blitz is narrated by Amanda Burton.
Andrea McCartney, producer/director of The Belfast Blitz, said: “The devastation and terror of the Blitz still remains vivid in the minds of Belfast’s senior citizens. It’s hard to imagine today 200 Luftwaffe bombers circling overhead, dropping bomb after bomb on the city. We’ve been fortunate enough to find 10 survivors who brilliantly recall their experiences of the raids and whose stories are a fitting tribute to the 70th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz.”
The Belfast Blitz is on BBC One Northern Ireland, Monday 18 April at 9pm.