Lisburn fire fighters recall the Belfast Blitz
LOCAL Home Front veterans, who worked tirelessly to protect Northern Ireland from the onslaught of the German aircraft during the Second World War, have welcomed a new funding initiative, which will commemorate the part they played in the Allied war effort.
`Home Front Recall' is a three way funding initiative from the Lottery good cause distributors the New Opportunities Fund, the Community Fund, and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The £300,000 scheme will provide grants to fund activities across Northern Ireland to commemorate the part played by those on the home front during the war years - among them fire fighters, auxiliary services, fire raid wardens, dock workers, seamen, nurses - and people in many other roles.
Lottery cash will be provided to organisations such as community groups, clubs, schools and councils to fund activities such as reunions, dramas, music projects and exhibitions to commemorate the role of the Home Front veterans in Northern Ireland.
Former Lisburn man Jimmy Doherty was 21 in 1942 and his memories of the blitz in Belfast are as vivid as ever. Belfast was devastated on April 16 1941 as it bore the worst raid of any city outside London. Jimmy, 85, was on patrol that night.
He recalls: "The sirens started at a quarter to eleven and by eleven o'clock my team was on the street and that started six hours of horror, death and destruction. The warden's service did a marvellous job during the air raids. The very presence of the wardens was of great comfort to many people.
Ordinary people became heroes during that time.
I think it is marvellous that the Home Front Recall has been established to help remember the great work of many people during the war effort in Northern Ireland. I feel proud to have been a part of it."
At the start of the Second World War few people had any idea of what to expect and that included those inhabitants in Lisburn.
The widespread destruction and great loss of life that resulted from these attacks rapidly overwhelmed local fire brigades and it soon became apparent that fire services would have to be taken into state control to improve matters.
On April 15, 1941 800 incendiary bombs, 674 explosive bombs and 76 parachutes mines had been dropped. The city was devastated, with all command and control soon lost over fire-fighting efforts. Fire engines were brought from England, Scotland and the Irish Free State to help out, in addition to all the Auxiliary Fire Service units that could be spared.
Several units from Lisburn were sent to the scene and on May 8, 1941, at a special meeting of the Lisburn Urban District Council, it was said that Lisburn crew were one of the finest units in Northern Ireland, and that the Lisburn volunteers had set an example to everyone.
"It is wonderful to have this contribution for home front veterans," said Jimmy. "It was an honour to be part of the war effort and it is an honour to have this recognised by a younger generation."
World War 2 fire fighter Dick Murphy, also from Lisburn, said that it was vitally important that younger generations knew about what happened in the war. He added: "Home Front Recall is a great scheme, as it will help to remember what happened during the war years." He was based at San Souci Park fire station which was the only station in the British Isles that had two officers killed in action and three officers decorated in one night.
Walter Rader, Northern Ireland Director of the New Opportunities Fund and Community Fund said: "There are valuable lessons to be learnt for today's generations form the experience of the war effort and we can do achieve this through this scheme."