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Liverpool Blitz 1940

 

 

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Liverpool Blitz

 

The Liverpool Blitz was the heavy and sustained bombing of the city of Liverpool and its surrounding area, in the United Kingdom, during the Second World War by the German Luftwaffe

Liverpool, Bootle and Wirral were the most heavily bombed areas of the country outside London, due to their importance to the British war effort. The government was desperate to hide from the Germans just how much damage they had wreaked on the ports and so reports on the bombing of the area were kept low-key. Over 4,000 residents lost their lives during the blitz, dwarfing the number of casualties sustained in other bombed industrial areas such as Birmingham and Coventry. This death toll was second only to London, which suffered 30,000 deaths by the end of the war.

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My paternal second cousin twice removed was killed at 10 Sefton Park Road in the Bombing 28 Nov 1940. Lest We Forget George Ernest Quilliam
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Liverpool, Bootle and the Wallasey Pool were strategically very important locations during the Second World War. The large port on the River Mersey, on the North West coast of England, had for many years been the United Kingdom's main link with USA destinations and this would prove to be a key part in the British participation in the Battle of the Atlantic. As well as providing anchorage for naval ships from many nations, the Mersey's ports and dockers would handle over 90% of all the war material brought into Britain from abroad, with some 75 million tons passing through its 11 miles (18 km) of quays.

Preparations for war

The evacuation of children at the start of the war, in September 1939, was a pre-emptive measure to save the population of urban or military areas from German aerial bombing. The evacuations were organised by Liverpool Corporation and though some children were transported to smaller towns nearby, many went to rural areas in North Wales and Cheshire.

The Christmas blitz

The first major air raids began towards the end of 1940 against Liverpool and Wirral, with over 300 casualties sustained to air raids by the end of the year. 365 people were killed between 20 22 December often due to direct hits on air raid shelters; for example one shelter in Durning Road was destroyed with the loss of 166 lives and in the north of the city in the early hours of 29 November 1940, 40 died when a bomb struck railway arches on Bentinck Street, where local people were sheltering.

The bombing decreased in severity after the New Year.

The May blitz

The first bomb landed upon Wallasey, Wirral, at 22:15 on 1 May. The peak of the bombing occurred from 1 7 May 1941. It involved 681 Luftwaffe bombers; 2,315 high explosive bombs and 119 other explosives such as incendiaries were dropped. Half of the docks were put out of action inflicting 2,895 casualties and left many more homeless.

One incident on 3 May involved the SS Malakand, berthed in the Huskisson Dock, which was set alight by a barrage balloon that had drifted free and had caught upon the ships upperworks. Despite valiant efforts by the fire brigade to extinguish the flames, the fire spread to the ship's cargo of 1,000 tons of bombs which exploded. The blast destroyed the dock itself and caused a huge amount of damage to the surrounding quays. The explosion was so violent that some pieces of the ship's hull plating were blasted into a park over 1 mile (1.6 km) away; casualties were few.

Bootle, to the north of the city, suffered heavy damage and loss of life. Over 6,500 homes in Liverpool were completely demolished by bombing and a further 190,000 damaged.

Today one of the most vivid symbols of the Liverpool Blitz is the burnt outer shell of St Luke's Church, located in the city centre, which was destroyed by an incendiary bomb on 5 May 1941. The church was gutted during the firebombing but remained standing and, in its prominent position in the city, was a stark reminder of what Liverpool and the surrounding area had endured. It eventually became a garden of remembrance to commemorate the thousands of local men, women and children who died as a result of the bombing of their city and region. Other architectural casualties of the Blitz included the Custom House, Bluecoat Chambers, and Liverpool Museum. However, many buildings were restored after the War, while the Custom House was unnecessarily demolished.

Those dark days had also been illuminated, too, by bright flashes of heroism. Heroism such as was displayed by a group of ten LMS railwaymen who, heedlessly, took their lives into their hands when, on the night of May 3, an ammunition train in a siding at Clubmoor was set alight. A 34 year old goods guard, George Roberts GM , was later awarded the George Medal in recognition of the leading part which he played in this heroic mass life saving affair, All along the train wagons were exploding, but the men calmly uncoupled the rear section before the flames had spread to it and shunted it out of danger. 34 year old John Guinan, though officially off duty, rushed from his home in nearby Witton Road to the scene of the disaster, and continued uncoupling wagons despite repeated and violent explosions. Signalman Peter Stringer also displayed remarkable courage for, after being blown from his signal-box, he went grimly back to it to get on with the dangerous and complicated job of shunting.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in May 1941 said after visiting Liverpool and the surrounding area, "I see the damage done by the enemy attacks, but I also see ... the spirit of an unconquered people."

1942

The last German air raid on Liverpool took place on 10 January 1942, destroying several houses on Upper Stanhope Street. By a quirk of fate one of the houses destroyed was number 102, which had been the home of Alois Hitler Jr., half brother of Adolf Hitler and the birthplace of Hitler's nephew, William Patrick Hitler. The house was never rebuilt and the whole site was eventually cleared of housing and grassed over.

Notable victims

  • Mary Lawson, film and stage actress
  • Francis William Lionel Collings Beaumont, heir to the Seigneur of Sark and RAF officer

References and Notes

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