After a long week of round the clock bombing, the sirens sounded again on the night of 7th May 1941, warning civilians of yet another attack on Bootle. On Stanley Road, locals made their way to the air raid shelter in the basement of the Co-operative Store at number 340. People rushed through the entrance of the Lancashire and Cheshire Billiards Hall next door, on the corner of Ash Street and Stanley Road, to gain access. As usual families carried bundles of bedding, food and drinks with them as they didn’t know how long the raid would last.
By the time the bombers were flying over Liverpool, the Co-op shelter was full to capacity. A high explosive hit the building blowing out the front wall and the upper floors collapsed onto those sheltering beneath. Survivors climbed through the emergency escape hatches around the shelter’s perimeter. It was recorded that some escaped by using the tunnels which led to Little Strand Road opposite.
Sadly many tragically lost their lives in this shelter. It is said the basement was limed and sealed, which was often the preferred course of action to prevent the spread of disease. Later the bodies were exhumed and taken to the temporary mortuary in the gymnasium at the Marsh Lane Baths.
The following night the gymnasium building received a direct hit from an incendiary bomb and was raised to the ground by fire. At the time it held 180 corpses awaiting burial and 40 of these were never identified, including several who had been killed in the Co-op shelter. The remains were later buried in a communal grave at Bootle cemetery.
In 1988 the Ash Street Tenants and Residents Association erected a plaque in memory of the victims of the Co-op bombing in a memorial garden near the site of the tragedy. In 2009 the memorial garden was restored and re-dedicated as a fitting tribute from local people in memory of those who died…
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/