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Thursday, 8 February 2007

The Liver-bird is not hit!

The seven nights of the 1941 May Blitz (1st-7th May) were the heaviest consecutive nights of bombing experienced by Liverpool during the whole of the Second World War. In those few nights around 681 planes dropped 870 tonnes of high explosives and over 112,000 incendiaries (firebombs) on the area, killing over 1,700 people and making around 76,000 homeless. The number of homeless was deemed bad, but not in proportion to the damage done. Provision was made for 3000, so one wonders what happened to the rest

3000 troops were ordered into the city to help with traffic control and debris clearance. The Corn Exchange and two hospitals along with Bootle Gasworks, parts of the docks and many other public buildings were damaged that night.


This represents a triumph of British propaganda. Even years after the war our family would discuss the hammering Liverpool experienced at the hand of ‘jerry’. Thousands had been left homeless, factories destroyed and for a good decade after, chunks of Liverpool remained blank, or had been turned into car-parks. But invariably a cheery soul would pop up with the rousing observation, ‘But they never got the Liver-bird!’ - another dastardly Nazi plot thwarted - as though that had been the over-arching aim of the Luftwaffe, the other stuff just getting in the way. The Liver-bird is a very pretty gilded statue that adorns the top of the Liver building, and it is a distinctive landmark. It possesses no military value, bore little relation to the conduct of the war, but that didn’t stop the Liverpool Echo running the headline. “Liver-Bird Not Hit’.

And yet through it all, life went on as usual, or as much as usual, young, old, men, women, children walked their way to work or school, taking the twisted landscape pretty much for granted. This is the world my parents experienced.

The pictures above show where my mum walked home from when she was trapped in an air raid that hit Bootle Gasworks.

My mum went to see a Dora, a friend who lived in Bootle. Whilst there the bombing began, air sirens sounded, and she spent much of the night in an air-raid shelter. That was the night Bootle gasworks went up. The sky was red for miles around. My Grand-dad was besides himself with worry. He walked to the Black-bull in Walton Vale, and stayed outside for most of the night, waiting for my mother to walk home, all the time fearing the worst. When, in the early hours of the morning, he spotted her weaving her way between rubble, he was so happy he slapped and kicked her all the way home. There are large parts of the world where people still experience this kind of stress, for the moment at least, we don’t.

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