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.
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.
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.
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… http://liverpoolremembrance.weebly.com/
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.