The Bombing of Mill Road Hospital

Mill Road Hospital was originally built by the West Derby Union Board of Guardians as a workhouse for the sick and poor, but by 1891 it had been renamed Mill Road Infirmary.  It remained a general hospital until the Second World War when during the Blitz it was vital in treating those injured in the bombing raids across the city.

mill road hospital liverpool
Photograph courtesy of Liverpool Records Office
mill road maternity hospital
Photograph courtesy of Liverpool Records Office

On 3rd May 1941 the hospital itself fell victim to the german bombing.  The maternity ward was hit killing many mothers and their new babies…

Alice Rafferty, 26, wife of Francis Rafferty was killed along with her 2 day old daughter Joan.

Amy Lilian Davies, daughter of William Davies of 54 Gaerwen Street, was killed aged 21 along with her 1 day old son Brian.

Hugh Knox of West Derby lost his wife Grace, 25, and his son Hugh, aged 7 days, when the bomb landed on the Hospital.

Charles and Mary O’Brien were told their daughter Norah, 27, and their grandson John, just 3 days old, had both been killed at Mill Road.

Private Lawrence Foy of the Pioneer Corps lost his wife Edith at the tender age of 23, along with his newborn son, Lawrence.

At just 19 years of age, Joyce Honour Bell lost her life along with her 7 day old baby Susan.

mill road hospital blitz
Photograph courtesy of Liverpool Records Office

The ward adjacent was full of wounded soldiers, but amazingly none of them were hurt.  A number of medics and nurses were reportedly killed whilst operating on a man who miraculously survived.  Several drivers were killed in the ambulance room, along with many other members of staff and patients.  Three of the ward blocks were totally destroyed.

mill road hospital blitz
Photograph courtesy of Liverpool Records Office

mill road hospital liverpool blitz

The building was declared unsafe after the bombing and Mill Road patients had to be transferred to Broadgreen Hospital where 610 beds were made available.  An untiring effort was made to rescue survivors and one nurse was found alive after 12 hours.  Then the grim task of bringing out the dead began.  It became clear that several of the bodies could not be recovered and so military soldiers were brought in to fill the area in question with lime cement.  Approximately 80 people were killed at Mill Road in May 1941, although the true figure is likely much higher.

Leonard Findlay had been appointed Hospital Superintendent in 1937.  He received the George Medal for bravery during the German Air Raids on Liverpool in May 1941.

Gertrude Riding started work at Mill Road in 1910 and was Matron for 21 years until her retirement in 1948.  After the raid in question she is said to have worked tirelessly to rescue an Auxiliary Nurse and a Chaplain who had been trapped beneath the debris, despite having injured her eye which she later lost.  Gertrude was awarded the OBE for her services during the war.

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…


Note from the Liverpool Blitz 70! Event Organisers:

The term “celebration” does not sit comfortably with the Organisers of the Liverpool Blitz 70 event.  Learning of this tragic loss of life at Mill Road Hospital makes clear in one’s mind the importance of quiet reflection and tribute to those who were killed long before their time 70 years ago.  However, the spirit of selflessness in a time of crisis and panic demonstrated by Gertrude Riding and Leonard Finlay is very deserving of celebration.  We the British people are still very keen and capable of this willingness to put others before ourselves when they are in need of help… we all heard similar stories of selflessness quite recently in the aftermath of the July bombings of 2005.

The “Blitz Spirit” is a term coined during an era when there was much opportunity amidst the devastation for British people to help one another and demonstrate what defiant stuff we are made of, but it still applies today.  Time is all that separates us from the people talked about in stories and anecdotes from the Home Front in 1941… they were just like you and I, going about their day to day business and trying to make the best of every situation.  Let us be inspired by their courage and generosity to each other.


  • October 28, 2011 - 17:35 | Permalink

    In fact, much of the information comes from my book ‘A History of Mill Road Hospital’ (1993), which has a full chapter on the war period. A great deal of new research was made into the events, and after an appeal on local radio, dozens of letters were received from patients and staff who experienced the November and May strikes on Mill Road first hand, which I was able to incorporate into the book.
    The book is now out of print, although copies are held in the main local libraries.
    A free download copy is available on my website:

    Mike Royden

  • Sinead Finnie
    March 26, 2012 - 19:14 | Permalink

    This is so sad, the article should be put in the national papers. I was surprised that some of the mothers were unmarried at that time, I thought that was very unusual?

    • Victoria
      March 27, 2012 - 10:27 | Permalink

      Thank you for your comment Sinead. It was still considered socially unacceptable for unmarried women to have children in the 1940s, but the intensity of the blitz and the thought that one’s days might be numbered did lead to a steep incline in the number of illegitimate children being born across the country. The information about individual cases was sourced from Anthony Hogan’s website where you’ll find many more details.

  • Mrs. R.W.
    September 29, 2012 - 22:51 | Permalink

    I knew two young teenagers who were killed in Mill Road hospital when it was bombed. They came from Landseer Road, Everton which had been hit by a landmine. Their mother was killed instantly in the house and an older teenager was taken by ambulance to Ormskirk hospital. These two; Vincent and Eileen, were taken by ambulance to Mill Road and it was hit the same night.

    • martin
      June 2, 2016 - 14:03 | Permalink

      My dad’s family lived in Landseer Road. When I was small (1950s) we used to visit – half the street had gone and Gran told us how the rest had lost their roofs and how people had lived under tarpaulins for ages. The parachute mine seems to have caused relatively few fatalities, for such a big bomb.

  • Ann Procter (nee Garland)
    October 27, 2013 - 15:31 | Permalink

    I was born on June 4th 1941 and my mother Joan Garland always told me that I was supposed to be born in Liverpool, but the hospital was bombed. Consequently I was born at Ormskirk, in what my mum always referred to as a mental hospital, with patients wandering around here and there! I am going to try to find out more about that…
    I found your article most interesting.

  • rose m brookes nee fahey
    March 7, 2015 - 13:07 | Permalink

    Hi Ann, I was born on the 5th of June 1941 in Oxford Street maternity. My mother told me that they were all very conscious of the Mill Road tragedy and worried greatly about further raids.

  • n. chapmans
    September 18, 2015 - 22:42 | Permalink

    My nan was talking about the land mine that hit Mill Road hospital today. Her father, George Purse, was a nurse there and was with the Matron when the building was hit. He was under the debris for three days, she remembers. She also said the target was apparently Ogden Tobacco Factory.

  • Steve Clements
    August 3, 2016 - 08:32 | Permalink

    My mother was pregnant at the time with my sister Pauline. My mum and dad had the opportunity to go to Burleydam in Cheshire and stay with a relative to escape from the bombing rather than give birth at Mill road. My mother and sister would more than likely have been killed. My sister would not have been born and I would not exist. I was born 1949 and this event was often talked about when I was a child. I remember having damaged items in our home which were caused when my parents lost their house to a land mine which blew out all the window and door frames whilst they sheltered beneath the stairs. My father worked on Wellington Bombers and spent a period in the Home Guard protecting AA rocket batteries.

    Any sound of sirens would terrify my mother and only as I matured did I understand why.
    Very futile and sad events indeed. The sad story of the hospital was a childhood memory for me. I sometimes would think of it whilst playing in a bomb crater framed by the gate posts and walls of the once existing house in Anfield. The target here had been the railway line, along which unexploded bombs were found for years after the war. This past event would also bring out memories of two Canadian Service men who were introduced to my mum and were both killed in Normandy some short time later. Great sadness indeed.

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