The port city of Liverpool and surrounding areas were key targets for German bombers during the Second World War (1939-45). In Merseyside more than 4,000 civilians were killed, 10,000 homes were destroyed and 70,000 people made homeless during air raids. Liverpool was first bombed in August 1940 and the last bomb fell in January 1942.
The bombing reached its peak in the seven night Blitz, 1-7 May 1941. This 'May Blitz' was the most concentrated series of air attacks on any British city area outside London during the war. It caused massive damage to the city centre, the port and the entire area.
To coincide with the anniversary of the May Blitz I have brought together, for the first time, the visitor responses and memories which have been included so far in the exhibition Blitzed: Liverpool Lives at the Museum of Liverpool.
In the early planning stages of the exhibition I was very keen to ensure that we could include responses within the exhibition. I know from previous experience that amazing stories always come out of the woodwork as soon as the exhibition opens, but sadly it’s often too late to include them!
I wasn’t sure how many responses we would get, but I was hopeful.
The exhibition of images of the bomb ravaged city taken by Liverpool City Police, alongside interviews of personal experiences of the Blitz opened in June 2019. Visitors were encouraged to share their stories in comments books within the exhibition, via social media and through workshops and events at the Museum. Thankfully the memories, experiences and family stories soon came flooding in.
Many are extremely poignant and bring the horror and tremendous human cost of the war upon local families into focus. They also reflect the remarkable voluntary effort of ordinary people coming together. When collecting the memories it was also apparent that for many people it was incredibly meaningful for them to share their experiences; many for the first time. For individuals sharing their family’s stories it was also a way of remembering and commemorating them.
This is dedicated to families whose lives were torn apart at the time and those who continue to be affected by conflict in the world today.
"My father, William Hunt, was a volunteer ambulance driver and ARP member. On the night of 21st December 1940 a house opposite ours on Grey Rock Street, Everton received a direct hit. We got the blast from the terrible explosion.
My father helped our neighbour Mr Jones to dig out his family; his wife Amy and three sons, Brian, Kenneth and William aged 4, 5 and 14.
The first thing Mr Jones found was his son’s Boy Scout bugle. All four were sadly dead. With tears streaming down his face he turned to my father and congratulated him on our survival. The memory of this never left my father."
"My mother, Agnes ‘Ann’ Lawson, was a young nurse during the war. She was based in a First Aid post in the Scotland Road area. She lived-in at the post along with another young nurse, and unsurprisingly they were always exhausted.
One night they went to bed and slept soundly. In the morning they wrote in the log book, ‘Quiet Night’. However, when they looked out into the street they saw that theirs was the only building standing! She used to say, they hastily scratched out ‘Quiet Night’ and replaced it with ‘Heavy Bombing’."
Dr Chris Nield
"As the raids got worse and we didn't have a shelter of our own, Tiny (our dog) became scared in the back yard. He would howl at the bombs and gunfire so my Dad had to take him to the Dogs' Home which was sad as we had had him such a long time."
Betty Cuddy (née Kneale), who was a child during the Blitz. She lived at 7 Wylie Street, Kirkdale.
Extract from her autobiography, ‘My Story’, 1986.
Thank you to Neil Cuddy, (Betty’s son), Toronto.
Constance May Huddart
"12th September 1940
16 Marchfield Road,
...Thanks, darling for your letter. You mustn’t worry about me in these air raids as we have stopped going into the Shelter now and we just stay under the stairs and go to sleep. There is actually a raid on now. I have now been pushed under the stairs and am writing this with the aid of a torch. There go a few big bombs – thank goodness the guns are going...
Always loving you
Excerpt from letter written by Constance May Huddart, aged 19, to her fiancé Stanley Carr-Jones, who was stationed with the 136th (1st West Lancashire) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery in Suffolk, prior to service in India and Burma.
Ballantyne Road, L13, 26 April 1941. © Merseyside Police.
"As a child I lived at 42 Ballantyne Road, L13. On 26 April 1941 our house was hit by the blast from a parachute mine. I was in the front room and hit by the debris. Dazed, and without my glasses, I wandered out of the rubble into what was once the garden. The girl next door, Kathleen Reynolds, came out of her house through the smoke at the same time. An ARP warden assumed we were siblings. I was listed under a different surname and relatives couldn’t find me!
I didn’t know, but my mother was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital.
As half of the house was exposed some of our possessions were looted. We were fortunate that some items were recovered."
Lea and Allmark families
Elizabeth Allmark (nee Lea) as a child
Louisa Street, Everton, 16 October 1940. © Merseyside Police
"My great aunt, Margaret Lea (aged 60); her daughter, Elizabeth Allmark (aged 32); son, Geoffrey Lea (aged 21) and grandson, Stanley Allmark (aged 5) were all killed when this shelter on their street in Everton was hit.
I believe the man in the trilby hat looking towards the camera is Stanley Allmark. He must have felt desperate to have lost his wife and son like this. I don't think my gran and Margaret's family ever got over it."
"My uncle Joey Boyland was tragically killed aged just 14 in 1940.
On the night of 17 September the air raid sirens sounded and he quickly made his way to a shelter on Scotland Road near to his home on Milton Street. German planes came over and machine-gunned the civilians heading for safety. Joey was shot and died the next day in the Royal Infirmary.
I recently found this notice in the Liverpool Echo."
‘BOYLAND – In sad but loving memory of my dear son, JOSEPH, died through enemy action Sept. 1940. (No one knows my bitter loss, O Mother of Sorrows help me to bear my cross.) – Never forgotten by broken-hearted Mum, Dad, and Brothers (at sea).’
June Dineley (nee Starnes)
Hazel, David and June, with their mum Doris, outside St John’s Church, Knotty Ash.
"As a child I lived in Ackers Hall Avenue, Knotty Ash. We had an Anderson shelter in our back garden. It was a tight squeeze for me, my little brother David, big sister Hazel and my mum, Doris (dad was away serving in the RAF). I would sleep head to tail with David. At Christmas time we worried that Father Christmas wouldn’t be able to find us in the shelter. My mum said, ‘don’t worry I’ve left a note for him in the house’.
We didn’t expect much for Christmas as that was just the way life was then. I got a knitted doll and other small things my mum had made in a pillow case on Christmas morning. What a treat."
"During the intense May bombing I woke my mother up at 3am from where she was sleeping under the dining room table. I said, ‘Mummy, its light, time to get up’. But it wasn’t daylight. The sky was red and white as Liverpool burned, with Birkenhead and Wallasey contributing to the terrible spectacle."
Peter Ratcliffe, who was a child living in Greasby, Wirral during the war.
Roy as a child, with his father on the Isle of Man
"I lived with my parents above a bank on Bold Street. On 6 May 1941, (when St Luke’s Church was also hit), our entire building was destroyed. We lost everything and had to live with my grandparents in Wallasey, Wirral.
To escape the heavy bombing there, my mother and I went to the Isle of Man. I remember the prisoner of war camp on the promenade close to where we lived.
My father, who was in the Royal Artillery, was killed in Germany in 1945. My mother found it too painful to talk about and refused to allow me to join the army cadets when I was older."
Tony McGuinness - saved by an armchair
Blackstock Gardens, 21/22 December 1940. © Merseyside Police
"We lived near Blackstock Garden’s tenements, off Vauxhall Road. One night, my mum (who was pregnant), my gran and I tried to get into the communal shelter but it was full. We took our chances at home instead. Our house got a direct hit. I was sitting on an armchair which was blown over. It protected me when the ceiling and chimney fell on top of it. No-one knew I was there until a warden heard my cries and dug me out. A lady from the Rest Centre recognised me and took me in until my auntie found me. I didn’t see my mum for 10 months while she was in hospital. Blackstock Gardens received hits that night too and many were killed."
Tony McGuinness, who was 2 years old during the Liverpool Blitz
Valerie Nimmo - Hitler bombed my Wendy House!
"My lovely Wendy House at the bottom of our garden at 20 Craigmore Road, Mossley Hill received a direct hit during the May Blitz, 1941. We were in our air raid shelter nearby at the time and heard and felt the terrible bombardment. My little house went up in flames, but thankfully it was saved by my father, Henry Nimmo (who had built it) and his fellow ARP wardens."
Durning Road, Edge Hill, 28 November 1940. © Merseyside Police
"The night that Clint Road School (Durning Road) was bombed my mother Elizabeth, who lived in Juno Street, had the choice of going to an air raid shelter at St Anne’s School, or Clint Road School, she chose St Anne’s. If she had not, I wouldn’t be writing this."
"On 22 December 1940 my mother, Joan Dunbar’s family home in Prescot Street, L7 was bombed. The family were sheltering in the cellar. Her parents, John (47) and Annie (37); elder brother, Peter (14) and sister, Margarita (16) were killed. Her toddler brothers John (3) and Lawrence (2) were dug out unharmed as their uncle, Tom Brennan (71) had shielded them. He died from his injuries shortly after.
My mother and four other siblings survived as they were evacuees in North Wales. They were left orphans and were separated. It took several years for them to find each other and they remain very close to this day."
Share your Blitz stories
Thank you to everyone for very generously sharing their stories. If you would like to share your memories or your family’s story please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org