Liverpool Blitz: Cleaning the bombed city

The 'all clear' siren brought relief from the bombs falling from the sky, but the night's work was only just beginning for thousands of volunteers and members of the emergency services.

Fire-fighters tackle a blaze
Fire-fighters tackle a blaze at Stanley Tobacco Warehouse. 25 September 1940
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With several hundred fires raging, burst water mains limiting the water supply and colleagues dead and injured, the fire services were especially stretched, despite having hundreds of extra part-time personnel. As well as burns many firemen suffered temporary or permanent blindness caused by the heat or sparks from fires they were tackling.

The bombs may have stopped falling but many still lay around the city, ready to explode. Disposal squads from the Royal Engineers defused unexploded bombs, while the Royal Navy dealt with unexploded mines, carried into the city by parachute. Some bombs had malfunctioned, while others were ready to go off when touched or after a delay.

Damage to Castle St. and Lord St.
The area around Lord Street and Castle Street was severely damaged. 3/4 May 1941
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Volunteers made up a large proportion of those helping to rescue and tend the injured. The Home Guard often joined in rescue missions, as did ARP wardens, fire spotters, rescue and stretcher crews, emergency ambulance workers, policemen and first aiders. The Women's Voluntary Service, mainly well-to-do middle class women, provided emergency clothing and food.

All of the emergency services suffered from the very long hours, a lack of regular food, and terrific physical and emotional stress.


Read The People's War by Angus Calder, Pimlico, 1999.




Dogs were used to find survivors in rubble. Lillias Ward talks about the rescue dog, Jet, and his wartime heroics.
(windows media | mp3 | read transcript)

Pearl Cartwright talks about water shortages following a raid.
(windows media | mp3 | read transcript)