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Liverpool and the Battle of the Atlantic

painting of convoy of boats in the River Mersey

'A Convoy arrives in Liverpool' by Charles David Cobb

'The port of Liverpool may be said to have been the pivot on which the Allies' whole European war effort has turned.'
Liverpool Daily Post 1 September 1944

Liverpool was Britain's most important port during the war. It handled at least one third of the country's imports. It was the main terminus for Atlantic trade convoys. By early 1941 it had also become a major naval base and the headquarters of Britain's North Atlantic campaign.

An average of four convoys a week arrived in the Mersey during the war. Between 1939 and 1945 the port of Liverpool handled over 75 million tons of cargo. Almost 74,000 aeroplanes and gliders were brought into the port. Over 4.7 million troops passed through, of whom 1.2 million were American.

Many warships were also built at Cammell Laird shipbuilders in Birkenhead. During the war more than 100 warships, mainly submarines and many merchant ships were built. Famous vessels such as HM ships 'Ark Royal', 'Rodney' and 'Prince of Wales' were also made there. On average, Laird's completed one ship every twenty days.

The Liverpool blitz

Because of the port's key role, Liverpool was the target for sixty-eight German bombing raids between July 1940 and January 1942. This was more than any other British port outside London. The worst attacks came during the 'May blitz' of 1941. Although the docks were the main targets, enormous damage was caused to city and residential areas on both sides of the Mersey. In all, 4,000 people were killed, 4,000 seriously injured and 10,000 homes completely destroyed. There's more on the Liverpool Blitz on our Liverpool Blitz interactive and on the Living through the Blitz website which is also suitable for deaf users,

Bomb damage to Liverpool Museum, May 1941