Tag Archives: air raid siren

Personal Accounts

The Story of Chris Noone

“I was too young to remember much about the war. VE-day occurred while we lived in Liverpool and VJ-Day after we moved to Birkenhead. Scavenging children had long cleared bombed buildings of interesting treasures before I became old enough to take part.  Eventually, once the bull-dozers had cleared the rubble and condemned houses to leave large areas of wastelands, the empty spaces served nicely as playgrounds.

post-war liverpool

Both my parents were Birkenhead born and both lived through two world wars. Father was a ‘trencher’ of WW1 whose hair turned white overnight. Mother played the violin, loved to dance, joined the Flapper movement and used powder from the bottom of the Quaker Oats tin as face powder.  “It was the good times after the bad”, she once said when huddled round the fire.  I dread to think what mother would have done had she caught me wearing short sleeved dresses and going to a dance unescorted.  I hid my dress in the outside toilet and changed after leaving the house.  You could always tell which girls on the dance floor had discarded long sleeves by the Flea bites on their arms.

wartime family
From left to right: Chris’ elder brother, Chris & his Mother.

In 1937, Hitler’s Yellow Jackets paraded in Birkenhead Park so Dad joined the Legion of Frontiersmen. He was in Spain as a correspondent for the Liverpool Echo when I was born in 1938, the only way he could involve himself in a war he thought Germany just might win this time.  He returned just before the bombing of Merseyside started.

I remember watching Laurel and Hardy in a cinema with mother when the air raid sirens sounded. The projector stopped and the lights went out. Asked to keep our seats, we remained in darkness until the all clear was given twenty minutes later. The deathly silence during this incident left its impression on me, being too young to understand why at the time. Eventually, deep sighs of relief sounded when the All Clear was given and the screen burst into life again.

 Another memory I have is in Speke Park, Liverpool. Out walking with mother, we stopped to watch a group of WAAF women preparing a Barrage Balloon. Once inflated, it started to rise. One woman failed to let go of the dangling ropes and went up with it, causing howls of laughter from me. I can’t remember now how she got down, her uprising being the only event that interested me at the time.

waaf barrage balloon ww2
Women of the WAAF in training to learn how to handle a barrage balloon.

But there is one memory that sticks out above all others. An excited elder brother shook me awake as the room vibrated with the throb of engines. An endless stream of aircraft passed low overhead, the sky seeming full of them. People have argued against this memory as Liverpool is on the west coast, but the image is too vivid. One suggestion has been an ‘aviation assembly point’ for mass gathering over Merseyside, particularly when preparing for a heavy bombing raid.

I would be pleased to know if any reader saw or has heard of such an incident in Liverpool in the days prior to D-Day.”

If any of our readers know anything about a possible gathering of aircraft over Merseyside towards the end of the war, please do let us know by leaving a comment beneath…

Events

Liverpool Blitz 70! Saturday 30th April

The first day of the Liverpool Blitz 70! event was for the most part a roaring success and we’d like to thank all those involved!  Sadly, the major disappointment was the Spitfire flypast being cancelled due to dangerous wind conditions.  We apologise to all those who were disappointed by this, as indeed we were, but it was always dependent on the weather and as there are only a handful of original WWII Spitfire fighter planes remaining we had to respect the owner’s decision.

Thanks to all those who took part in the veterans’ parade.  It was a fantastic sight to see those who survived the terror of the Blitz marching alongside military veterans young and old from the region.  We have had lots of lovely feedback from people who watched the remembrance ceremony and were very moved indeed.

All photographs courtesy of Victoria Phipps Photography

liverpool blitz 70 city pipe band

Many thanks also go to the City of Liverpool Pipe Band for their wonderful music.

liverpool blitz 70 veterans parade

liverpool blitz 70 veterans

liverpool blitz 70 garden of remembrance

liverpool blitz 70 winston churchill

Derek Herbert addresses the veterans and the crowd as former Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

liverpool blitz 70 winston churchill

liverpool blitz 70 stan boardman

A group of volunteer cadets pose for a photograph with Stan Boardman.  Stan was pleased to be asked to lay a wreath in memory of those who lost their lives during the Blitz on Merseyside, as his elder brother Tommy was killed when the Air Raid Shelter in which Stan and his family was spending the night took a direct hit.

liverpool blitz 70 blitz and pieces

Blitz and Peaces entertain the people of Liverpool with a wartime sing-along in front of the Spitfire on Williamson Square.

liverpool blitz 70 fire appliance

The Merseyside Fire Service Museum have two fire appliances on display on Church Street, both of which were used to put out the blazes in Liverpool during the Blitz of World War II.

liverpool blitz 70 st julie's dance group

Local girls from St. Julie’s Catholic High School perform various blitz-themed dance routines.

liverpool blitz 70 punch and judy

The 6th generation of the Codman family perform a very entertaining Punch and Judy show.  The Codman family’s original 180 year old stage was well remembered by many Liverpudlians as it has been used to perform this much loved show since the Victorian era.

liverpool blitz 70 re-enactor

liverpool blitz 70 wwii re-enactors

More photographs to come soon but don’t forget tomorrow is the last day of the Liverpool Blitz 70! event and we like to go out with a bang!  Please come down, enjoy the entertainment and show your support for these wonderful veterans’ charities… we hope to see you there tomorrow!

History

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?

History

The Sound of the Air Raid Siren

Air raid sirens first sounded the warning in London in September 1939 shortly after the outbreak of war with Germany.  During the May Blitz of 1941, the frightening sound of the air raid siren could be heard across Liverpool several times each day.

world war II air raid poster

The “Carter” air raid siren, manufactured by Gents of Leicestershire was used exclusively in Britain throughout World War II.  The sirens made a very loud and long signal or warning sound. For an alert, the siren sound pitch rose and fell alternately, whereas the “All Clear” was a continuous sound from the siren.

When people heard the siren they would stop what they were doing and make for shelter.  Shelters varied from underground stations, to smaller prefabricated Anderson and Morrison shelters.  If the bombing seemed light, many people preferred to stay in their homes under the stairs.  Government warning messages describing how best to react if the siren sounds, were broadcasted to the general public over the wireless and at the pictures.

Volunteer air raid precaution (ARP) wardens would protect civilians from the danger of air-raids as much as possible during a bomb attack; directing people to the nearest shelter and using their knowledge of the local area to help find and reunite family members who had been separated in the mad rush to escape the bombing.