Magazine article History Today

Liverpool in the Blitz: Simon Jones Describes 'Spirit of the Blitz: Liverpool in the Second World War', a New Exhibition Created by National Museums Liverpool Which Opens at the Merseyside Maritime Museum on July 10th. (Frontline)

Magazine article History Today

Liverpool in the Blitz: Simon Jones Describes 'Spirit of the Blitz: Liverpool in the Second World War', a New Exhibition Created by National Museums Liverpool Which Opens at the Merseyside Maritime Museum on July 10th. (Frontline)

Article excerpt

THAT LIVERPOOL EVEN HAD A Blitz will come as a surprise to many. Yet what Churchill described as 'the worst single incident of the war' occurred during an air raid on the city in November 1940. An explosion from a parachute mine caused the collapse of a technical school in Durning Road, bursting the boilers, and killing 166 of the people packed into the basement shelter.

Liverpool was targeted by the Germans--and badly hit--because it was a port town. The city had become a lifeline to Britain during the Battle of the Atlantic and the convoys were controlled from an underground command centre beneath a 1930s office building. The food, fuel, weapons and troops that came in to Liverpool saved Britain and made possible the liberation of Europe.

Between May 1st and 8th, 1941, over seven consecutive nights, German planes dropped 870 tonnes of high explosive bombs and over 112,000 incendiary bombs, starting fires throughout Merseyside. Lord Haw Haw addressed the people of Bootle with the words: 'the kisses on your windows won't help you', referring to the tape supposed to prevent flying glass. The curtains flapping from the broken windows led to (untrue) rumours of white flags and peace marches. Thousands left their homes and spent the nights in fields.

What happened in May was the culmination of a bombing campaign which left a total of 4,000 dead, probably the heaviest loss per head of population of any British city. Yet the Liverpool Blitz remains the forgotten Blitz. It is still thought that, raids on Liverpool were not publicised in the hope of concealing their accuracy and effectiveness from the Germans.

Liverpool is a city with a powerful sense of pride in its history. The feeling that this has been an untold story lies at the root of the Spirit of the Blitz exhibition. A number of people approached National Museums Liverpool wishing to record their experiences as survivors. One woman who lived through the Durning Road tragedy asked the Museum to record her testimony because, over sixty years after the event, she still could not talk about what she had experienced without breaking down. In response to this request and others, reminiscences have been gathered from over sixty people, which form the basis of the exhibition.

For thousands in Merseyside, especially women, the experience of the war was of regular and often well paid employment. …

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