Second World War guest book



This guest book provides a special insight into a slice of Liverpool life during the Second World War. In the summer of 1942 Britain and its allies in the British Empire were engaged in a fourth year of war against Nazi Germany. A few months earlier the British government had announced conscription for unmarried women aged between 20 and 30. Women could work in essential industries or join auxiliary branches of the armed forces. Liverpool’s Tatler news cinema was managed by Keith and Eileen Hann. Eileen noticed that the cinema’s audiences consisted of a large number of service women. She realised that the women, away from home in a large city, had nowhere to go when they were off-duty. She decided to open a rest and recreation room at the cinema for servicewomen to use where they could relax in comfort. The local newspaper described the room as being “a cosy room, thickly carpeted floor, comfortable chairs, a writing table with note-paper and envelopes, a small but well-stocked library, and lots of interesting periodicals.” Mrs Hann also provided washing facilities and a workbasket with mending silk and needles. Tea and biscuits were available for 3d (about 50p today) and men were permitted to visit on Sundays. The room’s popularity can be seen in its guest book which was generously donated to the Museum of Liverpool by the Hann’s daughter. The book is full of messages from servicewomen thanking Mrs Hann for making the room available to them. There are messages from women from France, Ireland, the USA, South Africa, Norway, Canada and Belgium as well as all parts of the UK and the Channel Islands. Comments such as “I never thought that the service girls were so much thought of till I saw this dainty little room which gives us thought of home” show how grateful the women were to have a dedicated space in which to relax. Some women left messages for loved ones (“Richard wherever you are I hope you have a home from home") and the messages demonstrate the camaraderie of the women with entries signed "The Crazy Gang" "The Blonde Bombshells" and “the 3 Musketeers”. There are messages in French, Welsh (“Diolch i chi y gyd Mrs Hann”) and morse code as well as love hearts, intertwined US and British flags and Vs (for victory). The women usually signed their messages with their name, home town and the branch of the armed forces they were serving in. The Women’s Land Army, Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS), the Auxiliary Territorial Service (the women’s branch of the army) and the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) are all frequently mentioned. There are several messages from the ‘Ack Ack girls’ who were the women who operated anti-aircraft guns and from the ‘girls of the Barrage Balloons’ (barrage balloons were used to defend targets on the ground from air attack). Local military stations such as RAF Fazakerley, HMS Wellesley, HMS Mersey and HMS Eaglet are also mentioned. The guest book offers a wonderful glimpse of the important work done by women during the Second World War and of the importance of Liverpool’s role, especially regarding the supply convoys coming across the Atlantic. Perhaps the most poignant entry in the book is that left by a member of the WAAF: “More people in this world like Mrs Hann, and there would be fewer world wars.”. Over eighty years later this sentiment feels as timely as ever.