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Liverpool Blitz: German attacks and Liverpool's defences

Liverpool suffered severe damage from bombing from late 1940 until May 1941. The attacks peaked in the seven-night Blitz of May 1941, when at its worst 298 bombers attacked the city in one night. They dropped a mixture of high explosives and incendiary (fire) bombs. These destroyed buildings, damaged water and gas supplies and started hundreds of fires.

A German map of Liverpool city centre
A German map of Liverpool city centre
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The long-range bombers, such as the Junkers JU 88, Focke-Wulf Fw 2000 and Heinkel He III, did not fly straight from occupied France to Liverpool. Instead they would cross the English Channel to St David's Head on the Bristol Channel, fly due north to cross Cardigan Bay, then east-north-east over Anglesey towards Liverpool. This route was clear of anti-aircraft defences and the pilots could use the lights of Dublin to guide them.

The cotton warehouse on Stone Street
The cotton warehouse on Stone Street (near the docks) was badly damaged. 25 September 1940
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At times the damage caused was so bad that fire engines came from as far away as Scunthorpe and Hartlepool to help. Whole areas of the city centre were flattened, especially around Lord Street and Castle Street. Between August 1940 and January 1942 over 4000 people were killed, about the same number were seriously wounded and over 10,000 homes completely destroyed.

Thousands of labourers and soldiers worked to clear roads, demolish dangerous buildings and help get Liverpool functioning again.

Barrage balloons were used to defend the city. These were 62 feet long and were tethered at 5000 feet in an attempt to stop the bombers and dive-bombers flying too low.

Waterloo dock warehouse destroyed by a parachute mine
A parachute mine destroyed Waterloo dock warehouse 20/21 December 1940
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Decoy sites, known as starfish sites, also tricked enemy planes. These were building shaped structures that were set alight. Often these areas would be bombed instead of the city. Liverpool's was on the sands of the River Dee.

Fighter planes would go up to attack the bombers. Defiants, Hurricanes and Bristol Blenheims all flew above the city during the war. The Defiants were specialist night-fighters and were painted matt black, used during the May Blitz. Most enemy planes were destroyed on the run to and from Liverpool.

Activity

Read Bryan Perrett's Liverpool: A City at War, 1990, Robert Hale, London.

 

Audio

audio

Dorothy Laycock speaks about her childhood experience of the May Blitz.
(windows media | mp3 | read transcript)

Dorothy Edwards talks about being shot at by a German plane while walking to the Grafton nightclub.
(windows media | mp3 | read transcript)

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