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.

Decorations and awards

1. The first major raid took place November 1940

silver cross of Greek form with the mounted figure of St George, on horseback, and the dragon in a central raised roundel surrounded by a band bearing the text 'FOR GALLANTRY'. At the base of the circlet bearing the text is a small Tudor rose. The whole superimposed upon an edged cross. In each angle formed by the arms of the cross a small GVI cipher. The cross is suspended from a straight bar, laurelled suspender bar and the ribbon is dark blue, often referred to as 'Garter' blue.

Temporary Lieutenant (later Lieutenant-Commander) H R Newgass RNVR was awarded the George Cross (GC) for removing the fuse, detonator and timing mechanism from a German parachute mine which fell through the top of a large gasometer at Garston Gas Works, Liverpool, on 28 November 1940. His bravery was awarded a George Cross as seen here.


2. In December 1940 Liverpool was raided for three consecutive nights

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.


3. Residential and commercial areas of Liverpool were badly hit

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.

4. Merseyside was bombed almost every night

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.

See object record

A panoramic view of part of Liverpool, showing the damage caused by an air raid to the city.

5. Liverpool's Emergency Services struggled to cope during 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.


6. Liverpool's docks were vital in the Battle of the Atlantic

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'.

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