I wonder if they’ll come tonight…

Fay Street Air Raid Shelter | 1939

Graftan Street Air Raid Shelter Damage | May 1941

Air Raid Shelters at Victoria Square Tenements

Holborn Street Air Raid Shelter | 1942

Reading Street Air Raid Shelter | 1941

St. George's Plateau Air Raid Shelter | 1948

William Brown Street Air Raid Shelter | 1944

I wonder if they’ll come to-night!
The round moon rolls in silvery light,
No sound throbs on the windless air.

For, though I tremble to confess,
I never feel more cheerfulness
Than when the German raiders fly
Like bees across the cloudless sky.
And neither pity, pain, nor terror
Will ever wean me from my error.

For oh, to hear the mad guns go,
And watch the starry night aglow
With radiance of crackling fires
And the white searchlight’s quivering spires!
For sure, such splendour doth assuage
The very cannon of its rage!

My neighbour plays a violin,
Shredding sweet silver down the din
And songs for fears to dwindle in.

But the houses shake; and the dogs wake.
They growl, they bark for warrior joy,
And seek the airmen to annoy.

Up go their tails into the air,
They gnash their teeth, and their eyes glare.
But on those cruel raiders sail,
Regardless of each quivering tail.

And one gun has a booming note,
Another has a cold in throat;
And some are mellow, and some hoarse,
And some sound sobbing with remorse;
Quite four or five ring musical,
And others very keen to kill.

You’d say that twenty champagne corks
Were popping in the city walks.
You’d say that drunken men in scores
Were smashing glass and slamming doors.
You’d say a twanging banjo string
Had snapped in twain with hammering.
You’d say that wild orchestral fellows
Were banging God’s Throne with their cellos.
A wail, a crash, like steel trays falling,
And a wind upon the Common–calling.

And over us a sound of humming
–Of hornets or bad bees a-bumming!
A devilish, strident, hoarse, discordant
Whirring of dark fliers mordant.
My soul stands still and sweats with fear.

But the Heavenly stars, all shimmering,
Dance in a giddy whirl and sing.
And other stars, of the Earth, shake sheer
From the mouths of the black guns thundering.

‘Tis like some ruining harmony
I heard in Berlin on the Spree
The day they played the Valkyrie.

Kind Heaven will comfort my wracked wits
Before I’m blown to little bits.

Poem by Herbert Edward Palmer
Photographs courtesy of Liverpool Records Office

2 Comments

  • Chris Rich
    July 25, 2012 - 18:21 | Permalink

    Nice poem, shows what the brave people of Liverpool went through during that bleak period.

    My Gran was in the AFS during that time and has told me loads of stories about her experiences, some good, some bad, some upsetting. She was based round the Speke area, does anyone know if there would be any existing service records

    Many thanks

    Chris

  • stuart currie
    March 2, 2014 - 18:50 | Permalink

    MY MOTHER AND HER 14 SIBLINGS LIVED IN LIVERPOOL IN 1940 DURING THE BLILTZ.
    HER NAME WAS MARY RAKIN. ANY ONE REMEMBER THE RAKIN FAMILY?

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