William Joyce (known as "Lord Haw-Haw") announced in radio broadcasts from Hamburg that there will be “Easter eggs for Belfast”.
On Easter Tuesday, April 15, 1941, spectators watching a football match at Windsor Park noticed a lone Luftwaffe Junkers Ju-88 aircraft circling overhead. There was no military response. Distillery F.C. defeated Linfield F.C. by 3 goals to 1.
That evening up to 200 bombers left their bases in Northern France and the Low Countries and headed for Belfast. There were Heinkel He 111s, Junkers Ju 88s and Dorniers.
At 10:40PM the air raid sirens sounded. Accounts differ as to when flares were dropped to light up the city. The first attack was against the city's waterworks, which had been attacked in the previous raid. High explosives were dropped. Initially it was thought that the Germans had mistaken this reservoir for the harbour and shipyards, where many ships, including HMS Ark Royal were being repaired. However that attack was not an error. When incendiaries were dropped and the city burned, the water pressure was too low for firefighting.
Wave after wave of bombers dropped their incendiaries, high explosives and land-mines. Altogether 203 metric tons of high explosive bombs, 80 landmines attached to parachutes, and 800 firebomb canisters containing 96,000 incendiary bombs were dropped on the city.
There was no opposition. In the mistaken belief that they might damage RAF fighters, the 7 anti-aircraft batteries, ceased firing. But the RAF had not responded. The bombs continued to fall until 5AM. 56,000 houses (more than half of the city's housing stock) were damaged leaving 100,000 temporarily homeless. Outside of London, this was the greatest loss of life in a night raid during the Blitz. A stray bomber attacked Derry killing 15. Another attacked Bangor killing 5.
By 4AM the entire city seemed to be in flames. At 4:15AM John MacDermot, the Minister of Security managed to contact Basil Brooke (then Agriculture Minister), seeking permission to seek help from the Eire Government. Brooke noted in his diary "I gave him authority as it is obviously a question of expediency". Since 1:45AM all telephones had been cut. Fortunately, the railway telegram from Belfast to Dublin was still operational. The telegram was sent at 4:35AM, asking the Irish Premier, de Valera for assistance.
On 16 April 1941 Belfast was devastated as it bore the worst air raid of any city outside London.
That evening as the people of Belfast enjoyed the remains of the Easter holiday, 200 German bombers were taking off from French airfields with a deadly cargo.
PBS on WWII