WHEN DEATH RAINED ON THE BONE
A Heinkel He111 which was used to bomb Belfast.
It is now well over half a century since Hitler’s Luftwaffe flew over Belfast bringing with them death and destruction. Today when we look back at the period we have an almost romantic image of what it must have been like and how exciting it must have been. Lets get real! The whole episode must have been extremely terrifying. Try an imagine sitting in your house with hundreds of planes flying overhead dropping ton upon ton of bombs and you not knowing where they are going to land.
At the moment I am working on a Blitz Tour of Belfast and I can tell you that it is one of the most fascinating local historical subjects we have. If we covered the whole city then we can only give a basic all over history but if we focus in on individual districts then we can get into a bit more detail.
The most heavily bombed area during the Blitz was the New Lodge as Victoria Military Barracks was a prime German target but all around it many other areas were hit and hit hard.
The Waterworks were not bombed by mistake. It was a deliberate
target, as the German’s wanted to wipe out the water supply and return on a fire raid.
Today there is a myth that the Germans mistook the Waterworks for the Docks but this is a load of nonsense. Flying at that height the Germans would have been lucking seeing the Waterworks never mind thinking it was the Docks. The fact of the matter is that the Waterworks were a deliberate target as they intended to disrupt the water supply before returning on a fire raid. The plan was for to have no water supply to fight these fires and that is why there were large water basins constructed all over Belfast.
In an attempt to fight the fire raids large water basins were built on the bombed sites. This one is at the junction of High Street and Bridge Street.
Another area which got it pretty hard during the Blitz was the Bone. On the main raid the German planes had flown over the City Centre and Docks towards the New Lodge and Waterworks and then turned westward to attack the mills. There was no direct bombing carried out as the option they had chosen was what was referred to as carpet bombing and which was the worst.
Ballycarry Street was almost wiped out and extensive damage was done in Gracehill Street, Louisa Street, Walton Street, Sylvan Street, Ballynure Street and Ballymena Street. The human cost was tremendous with almost 30 people killed and scores badly injured. Many were left homeless as what was their homes moments before had been reduced to a burning pile of rubble.
Although it must have seemed like an eternity it was all over in a few minutes as the German’s set off on a bombing mission on Liverpool. However for Belfast it was not over as the Luftwaffe returned a short time later.
Hundreds were killed in Belfast and the following is a list of those from the Bone who were killed:-
- John McErlean Glenview Street
- Miss R. Murray 89 Gracehill Street
- Margaret Murray 89 Gracehill Street
- Catherine McCaffery 85 Gracehill Street
- Alexander Crothers 23 Louisa Street
- Sarah McFall 33 Louisa Street
- Joseph McFall 33 Louisa Street
- Joseph McFall (Jun.) 33 Louisa Street
- Martha Reid 33 Louisa Street
- John Lennon 32 Louisa Street
- Catherine Hamilton 18 Walton Street
- Catherine Walsh 20 Walton Street
- Annie Brown 22 Walton Street
- Sarah Hillock 26 Sylvan Street
- D. Mateer 28 Sylvan Street
- F. Mateer 28 Sylvan Street
- William Douglas 8 Ballynure Street
- Adam McAteer 14 Ballynure Street
- Martha McAteer 14 Ballynure Street
- John Gray 18 Ballyclare Street
- Sarah Gray 18 Ballyclare Street
- William McDowell 20 Ballyclare Street
- Audrey Skelton 20 Ballycarry Street
- Samuel Skelton 20 Ballycarry Street
- S. Weldon 17 Ballycarry Street
- Georgina Jackson 11 Ballymena Street
- Thomas Jackson 11 Ballymena Street
- Thomas Jackson (Jun) 11 Ballymena Street
- John Bell 21 Ballymena Street
Throughout the city the clear up operations were a tremendous task and in the Bone area the old dam at Wallace’s Brickyard was chosen as an landfill site. Rubble from the bombed buildings and houses was dumped here as well as rubble from the Gallagher Tobacco Factory in York Street which in turn led to the problem of children searching for tobacco. The rubble of the Jubilee Hospital was brought here and thereafter the site became known as ‘The Jubilee Hills’ but today they are known as ‘The Bone Hills.’
The cleared sites at Ballynure Street, Ballyclare Street and Sylvan Street were eventually replaced with new houses while the rubble from Gracehill Street was cleared leaving it a waste ground until recent years. The site of St Sila’s Church was cleared and a garage built in the late 1950’s. And as for the outcome of the war - well the rest is history!
Ballycarry Street and Ballynure Street.