The Liverpool Blitz
In late autumn 1940, the Blitz spread beyond London to Britain's other major towns and cities. Many were the locations of major war industries. In early 1941, a new wave of attacks began, this time mainly aimed at Britain's ports.
Liverpool is a large port city on the River Mersey in North West England. During the Second World War, Liverpool was an important base for the Royal Navy and its docks were central to maintaining the supply line between Britain and the United States.
Its docks and war industries made Liverpool a key target for German bombers. Liverpool and Birkenhead – on the other side of the River Mersey – was the most heavily bombed area in the UK outside London, experiencing eight major attacks.
Here are six other facts about the Liverpool Blitz.
Liverpool experienced its first air raid in August 1940 and was targeted regularly through the autumn of 1940 with 15 raids in September and nine in October. However, the first major raid came on 28-29 November when it was hit by 350 tons of high explosive bombs, 30 land mines and 3,000 incendiaries. Nearly 300 people were killed.
From 20-23 December, Merseyside was attacked on three consecutive nights. On the first night of raids the docks were hit and timber valued at approximately £4 million was destroyed in the resulting fires. The headquarters of the Cunard shipping line and the iconic Adelphi hotel were also damaged.
On 21-22 December the docks were targeted again and the neighbouring residential areas in Bootle were badly affected too. The historic St George's Hall was hit by incendiary bombs but Civil Defence workers and firefighters saved the building from any serious damage. The following night the bombers returned. While the city's docks were the main target, the surrounding streets of terraced houses, which housed the dock workers and their families, were also devastated.
During the first eight days of May 1941, Merseyside was bombed almost every night. 1,900 people were killed, 1,450 seriously wounded and 70,000 made homeless. In Bootle, 8,000 out of 17,000 houses were destroyed or damaged. St Luke's Church, one of many of the city's churches that were destroyed, was kept as a ruin as a permanent memorial of the May Blitz.
During the height of the May Blitz, conditions in communal air raid shelters were said to be 'indescribable'. During the raid on Bootle on 8 May, all but one of the town's rest centres for air raid victims were destroyed. Civil Defence workers were among the casualties across Merseyside. These included 28 Air Raid Precautions (ARP) wardens and Women's Voluntary Services (WVS) workers killed and 14 seriously injured.
During the May Blitz, nearly 70 out of 140 berths in Liverpool's docks were put out of action. Many roads and rail routes through the city were also blocked. Tonnages of cargo handled at the docks were substantially reduced. Two main electricity generating stations were damaged as were all main telephone lines. After the raids in early May, the German bombers switched their main focus to Hull. Winston Churchill later concluded that if the German attacks on Liverpool had continued 'the Battle of the Atlantic would have been even more closely run than it was'.