Monthly Archives: March 2011

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History

Burning the Matchy

Originally opened in 1896 as Diamond Matchworks, this huge factory was taken over by Bryant and May in 1901.  The Bryant and May Diamond Match Factory, known locally as the “Matchy”, on Linacre Lane, Litherland became one of the biggest match manufacturing operations in Europe and had the reputation of being one of the best employers in the area.

bryant and may matchworks litheland 1920

On 8th May 1941 it was in full production, by the following morning it was a heap of rubble and twisted metal.  The fire and glow from the burning factory could be seen in the night sky from twenty miles away in North Wales.  This well-known photograph shows the smouldering ruins of the ‘Matchy’ after the Luftwaffe May Blitz of 1941…

bryant and may factory 1941

To increase the water being directed onto the blazing factory, the canal was used as an auxiliary water supply to fight the blazing fires.  The level of the canal was recorded as dropping by 2 feet.

bryant and may -1941

The factory never re-opened as a result of the devastating damage inflicted on the night of the 3rd May 1941 and hundreds of workers lost their jobs.

Personal Accounts

The Story of Joan Jackson

Joan Jackson lived on Raffles Road, Birkenhead with her parents and younger sister when war was declared in 1939.  She has very kindly shared her memories of the Blitz with us…

Joan Jackson and Deryck Fairhurst
Joan Jackson and D-Day veteran, Deryck Fairhurst, at Normandy with D-Day Revisited June 2009

We had numerous bombing raids over Merseyside, but the first one I remember was in 1940 around Christmas.  I would have been 16 years old at the time.  One day, after tea my mother had decided to ice and decorate some christmas cakes (she was a confectioner), when suddenly the air raid siren started to wail.  We all made our way to the air raid shelter in the back garden.  My parents had made it quite comfortable with a mattress on bricks, cups and saucers, biscuits, candles, torches and games… it had to be relatively comfortable as you never knew how long you’d have to spend in there!

As the war progressed we used the shelter more often and when the raids became more frequent we spent most nights in there.  In early 1942 a huge raid was in progress and our road received a direct hit which destroyed several houses and seriously damaged many others, including ours.  I remember my little sister was very distressed.  It sounds silly now, but I distinctly recall saying to her, “Don’t cry Barbara, it’s only a bomb!”

The damage to our house proved beyond repair and the family was forced to split up.  My parents went to Holt and I moved to Upton where I started my training to become a nurse.

History

Liverpool One 70 years ago

This aerial photograph was taken by RAF reconnaissance on 11th June 1941.  It shows clearly the severity of the bomb damage in Liverpool City Centre.  The Albert dock and Three Graces can be seen to the left of the image and the sheer devastation of the area around Paradise Street is all too obvious.

liverpool docks blitz damage 1941
© (NMR RAF/13H/UK789 110) English Heritage (NMR) RAF photography
paradise street blitz
Blitz damage on Paradise Street 1941
lord street blitz
Blitz damage on Lord Street 1941

For over 60 years after the May Blitz, the authorities struggled to find a valuable use for this once prosperous area of central Liverpool, with much of it left abandoned as wasteland.  It wasn’t until very recently when it was redeveloped as the Liverpool One Shopping District, that this area found a useful identity once again.

Events History

Punch and Judy returns to Liverpool!

As part of the 70th Anniversary of the May Blitz celebrations, Punch and Judy will be returning to the city to once again entertain the children (young and old) of Liverpool!

punch and judy

In 1860 Richard Codman, woodcarver, puppet showman and musician, arrived in Liverpool and was awarded a prime site on an open cobbled square known as the “Quadrant” between the market and Lime Street Station.  Professor Codman, as he was known, began entertaining the people of Liverpool on a regular basis with his ‘Punch and Judy’ puppet shows.

punch and judy liverpool

The shows became very popular and Professor Codman’s Punch and Judy quickly won the hearts of the people of Liverpool!

professor richard codman
Photograph courtesy of Cavendish Press ©

Richard continued his puppet shows until his death 47 years later when his eldest son, Richard Junior, continued in his father’s footsteps and kept the tradition going in Liverpool.  His second son Herbert took the show to North Wales where it enjoyed great success at the seaside!

Back in Liverpool, Richard was equally as successful as his father.  In 1922 the Sandon Studios Society, an artistic body in Liverpool, arranged for a subscription committee headed by Mr A Parry, then Chief Librarian, to commission the famous Liverpudlian sulptor H Tyson-Smith to carve a beautiful Punch and Judy booth with figures taken from ‘Punch‘ magazine as a gesture of appreciation.

punch and judy liverpool

Sadly, the famous Quadrant site no longer exists.  However, through public demand, the show was temporarily housed in St. George’s Hall and occasionally appeared in Williamson Square.

punch and judy liverpool 1951

After Richard Junior’s death in 1951, the Liverpool show was continued by his son Richard (third) and on his death in 1985, by his son Ronald Richard.  Ronald’s son Robert will succeed his father and continue the tradition as the sixth generation of the Codman dynasty.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Blitz, Professor Codman will be performing in Liverpool City Centre once again!

Events

Introducing “Blitz and Peaces”

We are very pleased to introduce “Blitz and Peaces” who will be on the streets of Liverpool City Centre entertaining and educating visitors to our great city, leaving them feeling they have had a real opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of the home front!

The Blitz and Peaces team are incredibly enthusiastic about what they do and have been busy researching the historic details of Liverpool’s experience during the May Blitz in 1941 in preparation for our anniversary event.  Dressed in various full WWII uniforms, they will no doubt capture the imagination of the young and trigger the memories of the old with their songs and stories about life in Britain on the Home Front.

BLITZ AND PEACES
Photography courtesy of J S Dyer ©

When asked why they do what they do they said, “We all love the sense of triumphant human spirit over almost insurmountable odds to ‘keep the home fires burning’ and we all marvel at the ‘save the string’ and ‘make do and mend’ re-cycling drives that were in operation during the war years.  This of course has subsequently come back into sharp focus as people realise the global importance of controlling our own waste and re-cycling used materials.

We love the ‘live for the moment, as who knows what tomorrow will bring’ ethic of people who volunteered to go in to combat in the armed services, and those thrust into danger on the home front from the bombing raids.  Men and women putting life and limb at risk by joining fire services, rescue parties and medical teams, in order to pull together as a community and help their friends and neighbours during this time of peril.

History

The Terror of the Heinkel Bombers

The Heinkel He 111 was a German aircraft designed by Siegfried and Walter Günter in the early 1930s in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles.  Often described as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing“, it masqueraded as a transport aircraft, but its purpose was to provide the Luftwaffe with a fast medium bomber.

heinkel bomber

Perhaps the best-recognised german bomber due to its distinctive “greenhouse” nose, the Heinkel was the most numerous and the primary Luftwaffe bomber during the early stages of World War II, until the dog fights of the Battle of Britain exposed its weaknesses; its poor maneuverability, weak defensive armament and relatively low speed.  Sadly, there were too few fighter planes available to defend Liverpool in the air and so the Heinkel bombers were free to undertake the intense attack on the city in May 1941 with little risk of interference from the RAF…

681 Luftwaffe Heinkel and Dornier bombers took part in the May Blitz on Liverpool; 2,315 high explosive bombs and 119 other explosives such as incendiaries were dropped indiscriminately on factories, ships, offices, warehouses, schools, businesses and homes.