Monthly Archives: April 2011


Welsh Dragon Spitfire over the River Mersey!

The organisers are very excited to be able to include the Welsh Dragon Spitfire in this weekend’s programme of displays and celebratory entertainment.  At 14:30 on Saturday 30th April this original 1940s fighter plane will perform a dramatic display above the famous River Mersey!

welsh dragon spitfire display river mersey

Privately owned by Anthony Hodgson, Spitfire PT462 was built at the Vickers Supermarine Castle Bromwich factory.  This Mark IX aircraft is judged by many to be the best of all.  PT462 was delivered to RAF Colerne in Wiltshire in July 1944, serving in action with 253 Squadron.  After war service in France, Yugoslavia and Italy, PT462 was sold in 1952 to the Israeli Air Force.  Converted into a two-seater during rebuild, this Spitfire took to the air once again in 1987 and was purchased by Anthony ten years later.

Anthony learned to fly at Liverpool Airport in the 1970s and operates from a sloping grass airstrip at Bryn Gwyn Bach near Denbigh.

welsh dragon spitfire display river mersey liverpool

Such historic flights are rare, with few remaining Spitfires in airworthy condition.  Event Organisers express gratitude on behalf of the people of Liverpool for helpful assistance from the CAA and Liverpool John Lennon Airport for regulatory approval.

Quite a crowd is expected along the Liverpool waterfront.  Weather permitting, the Liver Birds will hear the roar of that Merlin engine as the 67 year old Spitfire pays its own tribute to the May Blitz and the Spirit of Liverpool.


Liverpool’s Chinese Community during the Blitz

This is a guest article by Francesca Aiken, Assistant Exhibition Curator for Global City


Seventy years ago this month, a devastating aerial bombardment struck Liverpool, ending lives, demolishing homes and displacing whole communities. It is in tribute to “the spirit of an unconquered people” that Liverpool’s Anglo-Chinese community were part of the effort to keep calm and carry on, piecing back together not just buildings but homes and livelihoods.

Pitt Street, 1915, shaped by tall converted warehouse buildings and cobbled streets, stretches out under the constant watch of St Michaels Church spire, busy with dozens of Chinese businesses, from boarding houses to grocers and tobacconists. This was the birthplace of Liverpool’s Chinese community, the destination for seamen from all over the world including Spain, the Philippines, Italy, the West Indies and Scandinavia – to name just a few. To the people who lived and grew up there, this was ‘world’s end.’ Pitt Street was the place to go, bustling with shops and cafes all within easy reach of the docks. Kwong Shang Lung was one of the city’s earliest grocers to specialise in Chinese food, trading from 1915 until the bombs fell in 1941.

During the Second World War the local population swelled to take on thousands of seamen working for Britain’s war effort, including up to 20,000 Chinese seafarers – risking their lives on Merchant Navy convoys. Pitt Street became a comfort zone for thousands of transient seamen to while away their two weeks of shore leave, and for the many resident Chinese to manage Liverpool life with their partners and children.

14 Pitt Street Liverpool 1941
Image courtesy of Maria Lin Wong

Elsie Kuloi was just six years old when Edward Chambré Hardman stopped to photograph her as she perched on an anonymous Pitt Street step. The family lived on Dickinson Street, and when the war came, their top floor flat was less than desirable when the sirens sounded. Elsie and sister Lan, then in their teens, were not evacuated but would go with their parents to stay at a neighbours on the ground floor. Out of curiosity Lan stayed behind, only to witness St Michaels Church take a direct hit from an incendiary bomb. She watched it fall, streaking down to earth and was terrified by what she saw. Hundreds were killed in Pitt Street and Cleveland Square alone, including 30 people at 14 Pitt Street, next door to where Kwong Shang Lung served his customers.

At the end of Pitt Street was a large open area called Cleveland Square where the RAF would inflate an enormous barrage balloon to ward off dive bombers and force enemy aircraft to fly higher into anti-aircraft fire. By 1940 there were 1400 similar balloons across the UK and the spectacle of watching it being lifted above its tether of thick metal cable was something the whole street came out to see. Barrage balloons however could not prevent bombs falling from higher up in the sky and in May 1941 Cleveland Square and Pitt Street were levelled to the ground. Merseyside was stunned by the loss of life and the enormous fissures of wasteland now riddling the city centre.

Similar to the famous “bombed out church” just round the corner, the spire of St Michaels survived a direct hit on the surrounding buildings and, what took German bombers minutes to destroy, took the City Council days to pull down completely. To many this was an even greater tragedy for the community. Built in 1816 at a cost to local parishioners, St Michaels was a part of local life which dominated the Pitt Street skyline. Today the congregation survives, meeting regularly at St Michael in the City, on the spot where Pitt Street once thrived. The whole area is now given over to quiet residential streets, semis and bungalows.

Instead of dispersal, the old Anglo-Chinese community shifted, making Nelson Street the new centre of activity. As early as 1944 proposals began to surface for a new Chinatown development, as architect C Z Chen stated regarding a permanent focal point for the 486 Chinese born residents:

“The idea behind it was to express the community spirit – one big family. It would not mean the segregation of the Chinese, for an attractive Chinatown would encourage visits from their English friends and would help strengthen Anglo-Chinese friendship”

This early Anglo-Chinese community, probably the oldest of its kind in Europe, was rocked further by repatriation events in 1946, where a combination of slashed wages and Home Office trickery forced or coerced many Chinese seamen to leave. Some, not knowing they had the right to stay, had homes, partners and children in Liverpool. At least 200 were ‘rounded up’ in night time raids. In the ‘50s, it was their children who played in the ruins of old Pitt Street. In the 1970s, despite the arrival of families from Hong Kong, the area was again unsettled by City Council demolition programmes and many early 19th century buildings that had survived the war turned to rubble.

What exists today in Nelson Street is the legacy of that early community, with the children of those first Anglo-Chinese families still meeting round the corner in what would have been Pitt Street. The strong Chinese character of that early global community is now firmly established within Liverpool with the regeneration of a Chinatown district in the 1990s after decades of slow decline. The Chinese Imperial Arch, the largest of its kind outside mainland China, is a proud symbol of the growth of the Liverpool Chinese community from those uncertain days in May 1941 and marks the entrance to an area once home to seafarers from all over the world.

East meets West – The Story of Shanghai and Liverpool opens in the Global City Gallery, part of the new Museum of Liverpool, on July 19th.


Introducing Northern Forties!

Northern Forties are a British 1940s re-enactment group with a mixture of civilians and military personnel.  The group consists of a number of like-minded individuals who have lots of fun dressing up in wartime period clothing and their members come from as far afield as Harrogate in Yorkshire, across to Lincolnshire and Norwich to the east, Conway in North Wales and Northamptonshire in the South Midlands.  The Liverpool Blitz 70 organisers are very pleased to have over 20 members of the group taking part in our 70th anniversary event!

northern forties

Northern Forties will be based on Williamson Square for the duration of the event, representing a broad range of civilian and military persons who each had their own role to play in the war effort.  Visitors will find members of the RAF, Royal Navy and Army, as well as evacuees and Land Army girls. Some may even catch a glimpse of a downed Heinkel Bomber Pilot having been apprehended by the Police!

WW2 anniversary northern forties


Keep Calm and Carry On!

There were eighty air raids on Merseyside in total, with an especially concentrated series of raids in May 1941; the May Blitz.  The Corn Exchange which had stood on Fenwick Street for over 130 years was destroyed during the night of 2nd/3rd May. The bombs left only the entrance standing.  When traders next arrived at work they found their offices had been flattened.

Blitz Corn Exchange

Blitz Street Business Liverpool

Undeterred, they first conducted their business as best they could on the street, later moving to local coffee houses so they could continue trading more comfortably.  This situation was not unusual; the civilian population learned to be flexible and roll with the punches in order to keep Liverpool working, but it wasn’t easy…

world museum liverpool
Blitzed galleries at the World Museum Liverpool
6 May 1941 Church Street Bookshop
An independent bookshop is obliterated on Church Street 6th May 1941
Blitz Church Street Liverpool
A wider view on the same Church Street facade - notice the bookshop in the lower right corner
Blitz LMS Good Station Caryl St
Employees recover what they can from the LMS Good Station on Caryl Street
street meeting liverpool blitz
Officials conduct their meeting in the street surrounded by rubble
Blitz Uni Eng
University of Liverpool Department of Engineering
Blitz Wallasey Town Hall
The Interior of Wallasey Town Hall after an air raid
nelsonst-byringst bootle cotton warehouse
A cotton warehouse on the corner of Nelson Street and Byring Street, Bootle
princes st bakery liverpool 1940
Princes Street Bakery in Bootle 1940
scotland road 1940
Men work to clear the bomb damage on Scotland Road 1940

Could you carry on in the face of such devastation?  If you arrived at your place of work to find it had disappeared overnight, would you be able to Keep Calm and Carry On?


Veterans Parade on Church Street

Whether you’re a veteran of the Blitz on Merseyside or a veteran of War, we invite you to join in our parade through Liverpool City Centre at 10:30am Saturday 30th April…

liverpool blitz 70 veterans parade

The objective of the Liverpool Blitz 70 event is to remember all those who lost their lives in the air raid attacks on Liverpool and the surrounding area, but also to celebrate the ‘Spirit of Liverpool’.  The organisers, D-Day Revisited, invite civilian veterans of the Blitz to join military veterans from the region in an official parade through the centre of Liverpool.

Liverpool always had a reputation for producing fast-thinking, brave and loyal soldiers and this reputation still stands today.  A staggering 22% of all armed forces personnel come from Merseyside and the City of Liverpool has a strong historical connection with the military.  This parade offers veterans of all ages and all conflicts an opportunity to come together and march through their own city alongside men and women who helped to keep Liverpool working throughout World War II whilst bombs were falling from the skies.

home guard world war II

It is the organisers’ belief that the factory workers, the land girls, the shipbuilders, the policemen, the firefighters, the doctors, the home guard and indeed all men and women in voluntary or reserved occupation deserve to be celebrated for their enduring efforts and spirit of defiance.  Without these people staying behind to fight on the Home Front, Britain could not have survived.

factory girls world war 2

land girls world war II

cammell lairds world war II
Shipbuilders at Cammell Lairds, Birkenhead, had a vital role to play during World War II

The parade will assemble at Williamson Square at 10:30am when the air raid siren will sound.  War veterans and veterans of the Blitz will be treated equally and parade side by side.  At 10:40 the City of Liverpool Pipe Band will lead the parade out of Williamson Square down Richmond Street, left along Whitechapel and left again up Church Street to the main stage.  Approximately 50 members of Liverpool Scooter Club will form a guard of honour along each side of Church Street and spectators must remain behind these lines.

Once the contingent has arrived at its Church Street destination at 11:00 a two minute silence will be held in memory of all who were killed 70 years ago.

church street liverpool 1941
All that remains of the junction of Church Street and Church Alley in 1941

The air raid siren will sound the ‘all clear’ to mark the end of the two minutes silence.  The Lord Mayor of Liverpool will then lead the wreath laying ceremony, followed by the Mayor of Wirral.  Chindit, George Main, was injured in Liverpool during the May Blitz of 1941 and will lay a wreath on behalf of all Liverpudlian veterans of the Blitz.  Normandy veteran, Albert Dillow, will then lay a wreath on behalf of all Wirral veterans of the Blitz.

Further wreaths will be laid by local MPs, dignitaries, veterans, representatives of Liverpool, Everton and Tranmere Football Clubs, representatives of the Police and Fire Services and representatives of local businesses.  The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Hazel Williams, will then make a speech welcoming everybody to the event.

All veterans of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces are asked to wear blazers and medals and all civilian veterans of the Blitz are kindly requested to dress smartly.  If you would like to take part and have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 01244 531 765.  For more details of the events taking place in Liverpool City Centre 30th April – 2nd May, please see our Schedule of Events.


Churchill visits Liverpool

Having declared that his greatest fear was that the western ports of Liverpool and Glasgow might be disrupted, Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited the City of Liverpool on 25th April 1941, just days before the most intense week of Luftwaffe bombing began.

winston churchill visits liverpool april 1941

Churchill understood that Liverpool was Britain’s lifeline; her strongest connection with the free world.  The Battle of the Atlantic was coordinated from the Combined Operations Headquarters at Derby House, Liverpool.  Essential civilian and military supplies were brought into Liverpool through the convoy system, and the entire Mersey waterfront was vitally important for naval repairs and shipbuilding.  For these reasons, Liverpool was a primary target for the German bombers and Churchill was keen to boost the morale of the war weary Liverpudlian people.

In May 1941, Winston Churchill famously said of Liverpool

I see the damage done by the enemy attacks, but I also see the spirit of an unconquered people.


Women at War!

Charming video courtesy of Blitz and Peaces


Bombing of the Co-op Shelter, Bootle

After a long week of round the clock bombing, the sirens sounded again on the night of 7th May 1941, warning civilians of yet another attack on Bootle.  On Stanley Road, locals made their way to the air raid shelter in the basement of the Co-operative Store at number 340.  People rushed through the entrance of the Lancashire and Cheshire Billiards Hall next door, on the corner of Ash Street and Stanley Road, to gain access.  As usual families carried bundles of bedding, food and drinks with them as they didn’t know how long the raid would last.

By the time the bombers were flying over Liverpool, the Co-op shelter was full to capacity.  A high explosive hit the building blowing out the front wall and the upper floors collapsed onto those sheltering beneath.  Survivors climbed through the emergency escape hatches around the shelter’s perimeter.  It was recorded that some escaped by using the tunnels which led to Little Strand Road opposite.

stanley road co-op shelter
Junction of Stanley Road and Little Strand Road after the High Explosive bomb hit

Sadly many tragically lost their lives in this shelter.  It is said the basement was limed and sealed, which was often the preferred course of action to prevent the spread of disease.  Later the bodies were exhumed and taken to the temporary mortuary in the gymnasium at the Marsh Lane Baths.

marsh lane baths gymnasium
The Marsh Lane Baths Gymnasium became a temporary mortuary in 1941

The following night the gymnasium building received a direct hit from an incendiary bomb and was raised to the ground by fire.  At the time it held 180 corpses awaiting burial and 40 of these were never identified, including several who had been killed in the Co-op shelter.  The remains were later buried in a communal grave at Bootle cemetery.

In 1988 the Ash Street Tenants and Residents Association erected a plaque in memory of the victims of the Co-op bombing in a memorial garden near the site of the tragedy.  In 2009 the memorial garden was restored and re-dedicated as a fitting tribute from local people in memory of those who died…

ash street war memorial

Many thanks go to Anthony Hogan for his major contribution to this article.  His website is a fantastic resource for anybody interested in learning more about what life was like in Liverpool during the Blitz…