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The Tragedy of Durning Road

The direct hit on a shelter in Durning Road, Edge Hill, was the worst single incident in the Liverpool Blitz as regards to loss of life.  This occurred in the early hours of 29th November 1940, during the heaviest air raid to date.

Approximately 300 people were tightly packed into the shelter in the basement of the Ernest Brown Junior Instructional Centre in Durning Road, Edge Hill.  It was the boiler room, chosen because it had a reinforced ceiling with metal girders running across it.  It would have been a safe enough place if bombs fell nearby, but it could not withstand a direct hit.

When a parachute mine hit the three-storey building, it collapsed into the shelter below, crushing many of its occupants.   Boiling water from the central heating system and gas from fractured mains poured in.  Raging fires overhead also made rescue work extremely dangerous.  In all, 166 men, women and children were killed and many more were seriously injured.

Durning Road Blitz tragedy Liverpool

Durning Road Blitz tragedy Liverpool

ARP wardens, firemen and volunteers worked tirelessly to recover survivors.  It took two days to pull the bodies out from the shelter and in the end, with fear of disease rampant, the body parts which had not been recovered were covered with lime and the basement was sealed.  The horror devastated the tight-knit community around Edge Hill.  One lady, a Mrs. Lucas, lost four children in the tragedy and did not speak for six months afterwards.

Winston Churchill later called it “the worst single (civilian) incident of the war“.