Graphically animated photographs of the Belfast Blitz

PRONI’s document of the month for May 2017 has been selected to coincide with the anniversary of the Belfast Blitz, which took place during April and May 1941.

Belfast Blitz The chosen photographs, which are from government files created at the time, show the terrible aftermath of the air raid attacks on the city. By applying digital technology, PRONI has now enhanced the photographs, which includes animation to add realism. Images now include features such as ‘moving’ plumes of smoke from ruined buildings.

Joy Carey, Digitisation Officer said:

“These photographs, which were included in a report compiled by the Ministry of Public Security on the air raids on Belfast and their aftermath, illustrate the devastation caused to the city centre during heavy attacks during the nights of the 4th and 5 May 1941. Over the two nights 150 people were killed and more than half of the city’s housing stock was rendered uninhabitable.”

Graphically animated versions of the photographs will be made freely available to view on PRONI’s Flickr site from Thursday Friday 4 May, to coincide with the air raids of 4-5 May 1941. The eerily naturalistic moving plumes of smoke and flickering street lights in the photos are the work of Archive’s Studies student Suzanne Shouesmith. Suzanne is a Creative Computing graduate who is currently on a work experience placement with PRONI.

Archive photographer Garreth Montgomery, said:

“Suzanne graduated with a BSc Honours in Creative Computing in 2015 and her dissertation focused on the history of photography and 3D photorealism. She has a real enthusiasm for photographic archives and preservation, which fits perfectly with the digitisation work that goes on at PRONI. Her interest in the use of digital storytelling alongside archive material to promote access and engagement is evident in her Belfast Blitz animations, which we are releasing on Flickr today. 

Suzanne’s placement at PRONI is a fantastic opportunity for her to learn new skills and work alongside a multidisciplinary team of experts, but it is also an opportunity for us to experiment with our historic photographs and the new technologies which Suzanne has been studying.”

The photographs are from the Cabinet Secretariat Official War History of Northern Ireland archive at PRONI which contains hundreds of photographs illustrating the devastation caused during the German air raids during the Second World War. They can be freely consulted in the public Reading Room in PRONI’s state of the art Titanic Quarter building.  

The Belfast Blitz comprised of four German air-raid attacks on the city. The first came during the night of April 7-8, which was the smallest and most likely devised to test Belfast’s defences. The second, on Easter Tuesday 15 April, killed 900 people and injured more than 1,500. The Luftwaffe were targeting military and manufacturing targets in the city.

  • The Belfast Blitz images can be found under the cataloguing reference number CAB/3/A/68
  • Many other photographs from the archives are available to view on PRONI’s Flickr site

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