History About to Be Lost… in Liverpool

Alison and her mother saw it all from a bedroom window in their house in West Kirby on the Wirral.  The whole of Liverpool was ablaze, a line of leaping flames stretching from left to right, as far as eye could see.   The year and month were December 1940.  Alison,aged seventeen, worked in Birkenhead.  At the time, she was deeply shocked by what she saw, so much so that, more than seventy years on, she cannot put words to her feelings.
liverbuilding2
Copyright REJ 2016.

Roger watched the bombing of the Docks from Crosby.  The Germans managed to bomb a big ship containing ammunition, which caught fire and did terrible damage to the Docks.  Hundreds of people were killed in Bootle and thousands of homes destroyed, although this was all hushed up because the British didn’t want the Germans to know how successful  they’d been.   But, he remarked, the Germans only managed to put part of Docks out of action.  “Liverpool was too important,” he said,  “as there were no other docks or sea terminals on the western side of country and the London docks bombed.”  Liverpool just had to carry on so it did.  The Pier Head remained standing, also the Liver Building  and other commercial properties surrounding it.  If you visit Liverpool now, you will see them in their Art Deco splendour, amidst dingy concrete and glass.  I’m reminded of that line in In Our Liverpool Home by The SpinnersThank God,” said my old man,” the Pier Head’s still there.”   Roger, aged fifteen, was dying to ‘get involved’ in the war.  Later, he would serve in the merchant navy on Artic Convoys.  He also commented on how slow reconstruction of Liverpool was, as many, many politicians came in with many, many ideas, and none gone on with the job.

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In happier times,  Alison and her grandmother walked the length of the first Mersey Tunnel, from Birkenhead to Liverpool, on the day it was officially opened by Queen Mary in 1934.   They became aware of how long it was and how steep in places.   Visitors were allowed to buy a piece of black tiling, from those left over from the building of the tunnel.

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Alison is my mother-in-law.  Roger is her husband.   I made a point of speaking to them about these experiences, and wrote them up in Evernote shortly afterwards.  It is so important to write down these things, as otherwise history will slip through our fingers like sand.  Talk to any elderly people at the present time and they will talk about their experiences of World War 2.  Where I live, in Essex, many of the older people I meet used to live in London and experienced the Blitz directly.  Some of them were evacuees.  The little accounts above lack proper dates and accurate figures but you can find those elsewhere.  It’s the impression that counts, the little details, the personal bits which bring the situation alive for historians and writers of fiction alike.
I’ve wanted for a long time to collect together memories like this, events and situations we have experienced ourselves or heard about from our families and friends.  I would like to collate them on part of this blog, suitably tagged in WordPress, as a reference point for everyone.  Would you send me your anecdotes, not just about World War 2, but about anything historical?  We mustn’t let history slip away.
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10 thoughts on “History About to Be Lost… in Liverpool

  1. A lady who lives near me, well in her 90’s used to work at the Munitions factory at the same time as my Fiance’s Nana. Unfortunately, his Nana is in early stages of Dementia and very deaf, so is often confused. However, the lady who lives near me is always happy to pass on her memories. I will definitely speak to her again soon. She showed me a bullet casing from a rifle that was used in WW2. It is now made in to a keyring, but it is an original casing, but without any gunpowder in it! I will definitely be picking her brains again 😀 It is truly fascinating, isn’t it?

    1. Do talk to this lady, isengerperkinsauthor, and let us know what she says. It sounds as if she has a fascinating story to tell.

  2. My mum and dad lived in Blackburn during WWII – they used to stand on a hill during the blitz and watch Manchester burning. I later learnt (when I worked at BSI, the British Standards Institution) that although fire engines came from miles around there was no standardisation of the connections for the hoses and many simply could not help for that reason, they simply couldn’t connect to the water supply. My mum was PA to the Dutch(?) man (Van Rissen?) who ran the munitions factories at Lower Darwen near Blackburn and, she would proudly tell us, served tea to the King and Queen 😉

    1. Thanks for this, MOH. This is all very interesting. Not the sort of detail you get in history books! There are also stories my mother told about the war, which I’ve never written down. I will do so as soon as poss.

    1. Memories are indeed a great resource, Patsy. That’s why I want to get people to write them down.

  3. I absolutely agree. These memories disappear so fast. My father and his 68 men of Royal Signals 27 Line Section danced eight Eightsome Reels on the rail platform of Liverpool docks in July 1941 before they embarked for the Far East.

  4. My dad used to talk about his evacuation to Tintwistle, in Glossop, not far from the Snake Pass, which isn’t that far from us but must have seemed like the other side of the world during the second world war when transport was limited and much slower. Wish I’d have paid more attention to the detail while he was alive. Lost forever now. Think it’s a good idea to capture any other historical observations while you can.

    1. Thanks Julie. What I’m going to do is to reorganise my blog, with pages for book reviews and for historical reminiscences and possibly other things too.

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