Tag Archives: blitz

Personal Accounts

The Story of Joseph Gallagher

We were very pleased to receive this account from Gill McCarthy (née Gallagher) about her grandfather who tragically lost his life working to extinguish the fire caused by the SS Malakand explosion…

My grandfather, Joseph Gallagher, was the only fireman to be killed when SS Malakand exploded.  He was working with his fellow firefighters to extinguish the fire when the ship exploded.

fireman death ss malakand 1941
Letter of condolence from Walton Hospital 5th May 1941

The blast was so powerful, that debris was scattered over many miles across the city.  My grandmother Delia recalled when she was travelling to the hospital looking for news of her husband the air above the city was full of fine dust from the explosion which turned the daytime sky dark. Parts of the ship were found up to 2 miles from the Huskisson Dock where it was moored when it exploded.

ss malakand explosion
The scene of devastation which followed the explosion of the SS Malakand.

My grandfather was previously a seaman and ironically decided to join the AFS (Auxiliary Fire Service) as it was considered a less hazardous job for a father of two young children.  He left a widow, Delia Gallagher, and two small sons Peter and Thomas aged 3 and 6 when he died in 1941.

fireman joseph gallagher
Joseph Gallagher with his sons Peter and Thomas.

The family lived at 52 Vulcan Street in Garston and after Joseph’s death they lived on a modest widow’s pension from the Fire Service.  Shortly after Joseph was killed his wife Delia lost her sight which made the family’s already difficult life even more challenging.

My father told us that after the war ended he can recall the men returning home from to the streets of Garston, but he hid under the stairs of the house as it was too upsetting for him knowing that his own father would not be coming home.

National Fire Service Liverpool Roll of Honour

The SS Malakand explosion is well documented in history books but Joseph Gallagher’s death fighting the fire on board the ship was not recognised fully until quite recently.  My sister Julie contacted a fire service historian after reading an article in the Liverpool Echo which referred to an unknown fire fighter who died trying to extinguish the fire on the ship.  This ultimately led to my grandfather being recognised on a Roll of Honour in a ceremony in 2012 at Merseyside Fire & Rescue Services Heritage Centre in Bootle.  Prior to this, he had not been named as the fireman who had heroically sacrificed his life.  This ceremony meant a lot to us – my parents Peter and Mavis Gallagher and myself who all attended the service.

On my father’s wishes, we are currently in the process of donating some of my grandfathers letters and memorabilia to the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Services Heritage Centre.  

joseph gallagher liverpool fireman
Joseph’s Union Card 1940-1941

I will be taking my two young daughters with me to show them their great grandfather was a hero who helped to save many lives.

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

Merseyside Fire Service Museum at LB70!

merseyside fire service museum liverpool blitz

We are very grateful to Danny Murphy and all other members of the Merseyside Fire Service Museum who gave up their time to bring their 1940s Fire Engines into Liverpool City Centre as part of the 70th Anniversary Blitz Commemorations…

merseyside fire service museum liverpool blitz

merseyside fire service museum liverpool blitz

merseyside fire service museum liverpool blitz

merseyside fire service museum liverpool blitz

merseyside fire service museum liverpool blitz

merseyside fire service museum liverpool blitz

merseyside fire service museum liverpool blitz

All photographs courtesy of Victoria Phipps Photography

Events

Blitz Anniversary Veterans’ Parade

The organisers of the Liverpool Blitz 70! event invited all Liverpool’s veterans of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces to walk alongside veterans of the Blitz on Merseyside on the morning of Saturday 30th April to mark the 70th anniversary of the May Blitz.  Our objective was to bring the old and the young together in memory of those who lost their lives on the Home Front in 1940 and 1941.

A generation which ignores history has no past and no future.” – Robert Heinlein

All photographs courtesy of Victoria Phipps Photography

liverpool blitz 70 parade

The City of Liverpool Pipe and Drums Band led the contingent through Liverpool City Centre.

liverpool blitz 70 parade

liverpool blitz 70 parade

liverpool blitz 70 parade

liverpool blitz 70 parade

liverpool blitz 70 parade

liverpool blitz 70 parade

Crowds gathered to watch as veterans and dignitaries prepared to lay wreaths  in memory of those lost during the Blitz on Merseyside.

liverpool blitz 70 parade

liverpool blitz 70 parade

A minutes silence was observed at 11am and broken by the sound of the air raid siren ‘all clear‘; a sound which will have brought back memories for so many.

liverpool blitz 70 wreath laying

The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, the Mayor of Wirral, Chindit veteran George Main and Normandy veteran Albert Dillow all laid wreaths to honour those who lost their lives 70 years ago.  George Main lost friends and was injured during a bomb raid on Liverpool and was taken to Clatterbridge for treatment.

liverpool blitz 70 wreath laying

liverpool blitz 70 wreath laying

liverpool blitz 70 wreath laying

Liverpool veteran, Craig Lumberg, lost his sight during the Iraq conflict.  He was proud to lay a wreath in memory of the Blitz casualties of his hometown.

liverpool blitz 70 wreath laying

WWII veteran Larry Taylor laid a wreath on behalf of the Royal Air Force Association Northwest.

liverpool blitz 70 wreath laying

Comedian Stan Boardman laid a wreath in particular memory of his older brother, Tommy, who was killed whilst the family were sheltering during an air raid on the Wirral.

liverpool blitz 70 wreath laying

Mary and James McCartney met in Liverpool during an air raid in 1940… she was a nurse & midwife and he worked as an inspector at an engineering works which manufactured shell cases.  He also volunteered as a fireman by night.  They married in April 1941 and had two sons shortly after: Paul and Michael.  If it hadn’t been for the Blitz they might never have met and the course of music history might have been dramatically different.  So on the 70th anniversary of the May Blitz, Mike McCartney laid a wreath on behalf of both McCartney boys.

liverpool blitz 70 winston churchill

Derek Herbert concluded the opening ceremony by addressing the veterans and reciting an extract from Winston Churchill’s famous VE Day speech…

Events

Liverpool Cathedral Blitz Memorial Service 18th May

A date for your diaries…

A service to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the May Blitz will be held at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral on Wednesday 18 May 2011.  All members of the public are welcome.
Arrival: 7:00 pm Service: 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm

This service recalls the events of 70 years ago when Liverpool and Bootle suffered sustained damage during the May Blitz.  It will include an act of remembrance, reflects on the years of reconstruction and reconciliation since the War years, and looks forward with hope to the future.

The preacher will be the Dean of Liverpool and others taking part include the Lord Mayor of Liverpool and the Mayor of Sefton.

Admission to the Cathedral, Car Park, and Service is FREE

For further details please contact Canon Myles Davies by telephone on 0151 702 7203 or email myles.davies@liverpoolcathedral.org.uk

liverpool anglican cathedral 1937
During the Blitz on Merseyside the Anglican Cathedral was still under construction, but became the tallest building in the City by its completion in 1978.
Events Press

Liverpool Blitz 70! in the Press

Liverpool’s favourite newspapers, the Liverpool Echo and the Daily Post, both featured an article about our opening ceremony on Saturday 30th April…

LB70! liverpool echo

LB70! Daily Post

Thanks to both papers for their support!

History

Liverpool’s Chinese Community during the Blitz

This is a guest article by Francesca Aiken, Assistant Exhibition Curator for Global City

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Seventy years ago this month, a devastating aerial bombardment struck Liverpool, ending lives, demolishing homes and displacing whole communities. It is in tribute to “the spirit of an unconquered people” that Liverpool’s Anglo-Chinese community were part of the effort to keep calm and carry on, piecing back together not just buildings but homes and livelihoods.

Pitt Street, 1915, shaped by tall converted warehouse buildings and cobbled streets, stretches out under the constant watch of St Michaels Church spire, busy with dozens of Chinese businesses, from boarding houses to grocers and tobacconists. This was the birthplace of Liverpool’s Chinese community, the destination for seamen from all over the world including Spain, the Philippines, Italy, the West Indies and Scandinavia – to name just a few. To the people who lived and grew up there, this was ‘world’s end.’ Pitt Street was the place to go, bustling with shops and cafes all within easy reach of the docks. Kwong Shang Lung was one of the city’s earliest grocers to specialise in Chinese food, trading from 1915 until the bombs fell in 1941.

During the Second World War the local population swelled to take on thousands of seamen working for Britain’s war effort, including up to 20,000 Chinese seafarers – risking their lives on Merchant Navy convoys. Pitt Street became a comfort zone for thousands of transient seamen to while away their two weeks of shore leave, and for the many resident Chinese to manage Liverpool life with their partners and children.

14 Pitt Street Liverpool 1941
Image courtesy of Maria Lin Wong

Elsie Kuloi was just six years old when Edward Chambré Hardman stopped to photograph her as she perched on an anonymous Pitt Street step. The family lived on Dickinson Street, and when the war came, their top floor flat was less than desirable when the sirens sounded. Elsie and sister Lan, then in their teens, were not evacuated but would go with their parents to stay at a neighbours on the ground floor. Out of curiosity Lan stayed behind, only to witness St Michaels Church take a direct hit from an incendiary bomb. She watched it fall, streaking down to earth and was terrified by what she saw. Hundreds were killed in Pitt Street and Cleveland Square alone, including 30 people at 14 Pitt Street, next door to where Kwong Shang Lung served his customers.

At the end of Pitt Street was a large open area called Cleveland Square where the RAF would inflate an enormous barrage balloon to ward off dive bombers and force enemy aircraft to fly higher into anti-aircraft fire. By 1940 there were 1400 similar balloons across the UK and the spectacle of watching it being lifted above its tether of thick metal cable was something the whole street came out to see. Barrage balloons however could not prevent bombs falling from higher up in the sky and in May 1941 Cleveland Square and Pitt Street were levelled to the ground. Merseyside was stunned by the loss of life and the enormous fissures of wasteland now riddling the city centre.

Similar to the famous “bombed out church” just round the corner, the spire of St Michaels survived a direct hit on the surrounding buildings and, what took German bombers minutes to destroy, took the City Council days to pull down completely. To many this was an even greater tragedy for the community. Built in 1816 at a cost to local parishioners, St Michaels was a part of local life which dominated the Pitt Street skyline. Today the congregation survives, meeting regularly at St Michael in the City, on the spot where Pitt Street once thrived. The whole area is now given over to quiet residential streets, semis and bungalows.

Instead of dispersal, the old Anglo-Chinese community shifted, making Nelson Street the new centre of activity. As early as 1944 proposals began to surface for a new Chinatown development, as architect C Z Chen stated regarding a permanent focal point for the 486 Chinese born residents:

“The idea behind it was to express the community spirit – one big family. It would not mean the segregation of the Chinese, for an attractive Chinatown would encourage visits from their English friends and would help strengthen Anglo-Chinese friendship”

This early Anglo-Chinese community, probably the oldest of its kind in Europe, was rocked further by repatriation events in 1946, where a combination of slashed wages and Home Office trickery forced or coerced many Chinese seamen to leave. Some, not knowing they had the right to stay, had homes, partners and children in Liverpool. At least 200 were ‘rounded up’ in night time raids. In the ‘50s, it was their children who played in the ruins of old Pitt Street. In the 1970s, despite the arrival of families from Hong Kong, the area was again unsettled by City Council demolition programmes and many early 19th century buildings that had survived the war turned to rubble.

What exists today in Nelson Street is the legacy of that early community, with the children of those first Anglo-Chinese families still meeting round the corner in what would have been Pitt Street. The strong Chinese character of that early global community is now firmly established within Liverpool with the regeneration of a Chinatown district in the 1990s after decades of slow decline. The Chinese Imperial Arch, the largest of its kind outside mainland China, is a proud symbol of the growth of the Liverpool Chinese community from those uncertain days in May 1941 and marks the entrance to an area once home to seafarers from all over the world.

East meets West – The Story of Shanghai and Liverpool opens in the Global City Gallery, part of the new Museum of Liverpool, on July 19th.

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?