Thorndyke Street in East Belfast is home to a large mural depicting the history of the area. Painted in October 2004, a section of the wall remembers the Belfast Blitz of 15th – 16th April 1941. That night Hitler’s Luftwaffe attacked and the east of the city was hard hit.
Thorndyke Street lies off Templemore Avenue in an area particularly affected by the Blitz. It’s on the fringe of the docks area and the heart of industrial Belfast. Luftwaffe maps show they aimed for the shipyards, rope and linen factories and gasworks. Nearby Westbourne Street, Newcastle Street and Ravescroft Avenue were all but destroyed.
The people of Thorndyke Street
The mural lists seven residents of the street who lost their lives that night. Hamilton Irvine, Hamilton and Agnes McClements and their son Hamilton Jr, Thomas William Bleakley and May and John Wherry. Joseph Bell and Phares Hill Welsh are also remembered. They lost their lives on Air Raid Precaution duties that night.
Most of those killed on Thorndyke Street died in an air raid shelter. Shelters were not always well built and the reinforced roof of this one collapsed on those inside. Around them, the street was strewn with rubble where houses once stood.
Hitler attacks Belfast
By 1941 Belfast was making a hugely significant contribution to the British war effort, a fact, which did not go on unnoticed by the Germans. During the war, Belfast built 140 ships, ten per cent of the merchant shipping of the United Kingdom. The city and province also manufactured guns, tanks, ammunition, aircraft (including 1,500 heavy bombers), two million parachutes, 90% of the shirts required by the armed forces and one-third of the ropes required by the War Office. All this made Belfast a glaringly obvious target for the Germans.
The Luftwaffe made several attacks on Belfast with including an attack by 180 bombers on the night on 15th and 16th April 1941. The principal targets were the shipyard and the aircraft factory in east Belfast. East Belfast in general and Thorndyke Street in particular, as you can see from the mural did not escape the attention of the German bombers. Across Belfast 745 civilians were killed, 420 were seriously injured and more than 1,000 less seriously.
April and May 1941 an estimated 56,000 houses were damaged, some 100,000 people were made temporarily homeless and a further 15,000 were deprived of their homes completely.
Thorndyke Street Mural – Belfast, October 2004