Tag Archives: birkenhead

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…

Personal Accounts

The Story of Joan Jackson

Joan Jackson lived on Raffles Road, Birkenhead with her parents and younger sister when war was declared in 1939.  She has very kindly shared her memories of the Blitz with us…

Joan Jackson and Deryck Fairhurst
Joan Jackson and D-Day veteran, Deryck Fairhurst, at Normandy with D-Day Revisited June 2009

We had numerous bombing raids over Merseyside, but the first one I remember was in 1940 around Christmas.  I would have been 16 years old at the time.  One day, after tea my mother had decided to ice and decorate some christmas cakes (she was a confectioner), when suddenly the air raid siren started to wail.  We all made our way to the air raid shelter in the back garden.  My parents had made it quite comfortable with a mattress on bricks, cups and saucers, biscuits, candles, torches and games… it had to be relatively comfortable as you never knew how long you’d have to spend in there!

As the war progressed we used the shelter more often and when the raids became more frequent we spent most nights in there.  In early 1942 a huge raid was in progress and our road received a direct hit which destroyed several houses and seriously damaged many others, including ours.  I remember my little sister was very distressed.  It sounds silly now, but I distinctly recall saying to her, “Don’t cry Barbara, it’s only a bomb!”

The damage to our house proved beyond repair and the family was forced to split up.  My parents went to Holt and I moved to Upton where I started my training to become a nurse.