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The Wallasey Blitz

THE BLITZ AGONY

Liverpool Echo - Wednesday 18 December 1957

 

Birkenhead And Wallasey Shared The Bombs THE agony of Bootle during the air blitz was the worst suffered by any area of comparable size in the country. There were 17,000 houses and just over 70.000 people living in Bootle when the war began. By the spring of 1941 the population had been reduced by evacuation to 55.000. and at the end of the seven-night blitz of May. 1941. another 25.000 people were flocking out of the town at dusk each night to sleep in rest centres. in barns. in fields and In hedges, anywhere at all, in fact where there was safety from the bombs Out of Bootle's 17.000 houses 14,000 were demolished or damaged. More than half the houses were damaged at least twice. One person in every four was made homeless. One shop in every three was destroyed. Eleven of the 12 rest centres in the town were put out of use. Thirty three major public buildings. 100 faCtories and churches, and six bridges were destroyed or damaged. During the May blitz some 20 main roads were blocked and at one period there was no public transport in the town. dock warehouses and factories were all bombed or burned. Incident piled on incident so quickly that it was impossible to count the number of fires. "HEAVIEST YET" There followed the comparative lull of early 1941; but on Friday, May 2, Bootle was the main target for that first of the seven nights of raiding. Of that Friday night the Germans boasted that it was " the heaviest attack yet delivered against an English town." Again it was the densely populated areas of the centre of the town which suffered grievous damage. The following night— Saturday. May 3 brought even worse destruction and the tragedy of St. Andrew's church hall which was in use as a rest centre Halt of those living temporarily in the centre had gone out to the fields but 56 homeless people were still in the hall with a dauntless .W.V.S. staff drawn from the women of the church congregation when it was hit by a heavy bomb. When the raiding was done it took nine technical assistants of the Corporation six weeks to count up the 12 631 different properties which had suffered destruction or damage. The W.V.S. women were courageously brewing tea and cutting up sandwiches for breakfast when the bomb fell. 12 of them were killed and also 32 of the people who had been found refuge in the centre. But the worst single incident of the week was the bombing of a shelter under the Co-operative Society premises in Stanley Road. where 50 people Were trapped and lost their lives. For its collective heroism on those seven nights Bootle ought to have been awarded the George Cross just as Malta was given a collective decoration for its resistance. HUMAN TOLL Yet the human casualty toll was lower than anyone could have hoped in all that holocaust of destruction. About 450 people were killed-257 of them in the May blitz and 108 on the nights of December 20. 21. 22 of 1940 BOotle's first air raid was on the night of August 29. 1940 eleven incendiary bombs. one of them right in the middle of the gasworks in Hawthorne Road. There were more raids during September and October but the first ell-out attacks were those pre- Christmas raids, when it seemed that half of Bootle Waxed. and in the centre of the town. in the Oxford Road-Merton Road-Balliol Road-Oriel Road area, there was scarcely an inhabited house. Pembrqice Road. Hawthorne Road' and Primrose Road were the centre of other areas of great destruction. The Parish Church. St. James's Church. St. Paul's Church. the Welsh Chapel. FOOD PRIORITY During the first four days of the blitz many public services came near breaking point. The rest centre system functioned only under the greatest difficulties and by the end of the week there was so much congestion in the centres hurriedly improvised to replace those which had been damaged that 6.000 homeless women and children were taken out of the town to refuge in distant areas. With the destruction of so TOON Shaver Mother had just finished washing the floor when she noticed a lot of wood shavings out those shavings on my clean floor ?" she asked. It must have been Uncle Jim. auntie." said ber small ttephew. "because I don't Ithave." —Red Letter • • • Definition A predicament Is when a woman doesn't want any more birthdays, but still wants the presents.'—Week-end. * * To-day's Quotation 1 salt that we are wound With mercy round and round. As with' the air. —Gerard Manley Hopkins. * * many shops the feeding of the population became a top priority job. Five mobile canteens were already operating in the town but 25 others one of them a Queen's Messenger convoy with its own cooking and water supply—were ordered into Bootle within a few hours by Regional Headquarters in Manchester. AND FOR FOUR DAYS THE BOOTLE A.R.P. PERSONNEL, THE MEN AND WOMEN OF THE A.F.S. AND THE TROOPS IN THE TOWN WERE FED BY A UNIT OF THE ARMY CATERING SERVICE.. IN ONE DAY HUNGRY BOOTLE ATE A TON OF CORNED BEEF CUT UP AND MADE INTO SANDWICHES. Meanwhile desperate efforts were being made to set up improvised British Restaurants in Army marquee emted on the Dock Road and parks. Three-fifths of the accommodation which had been earmarked for billeting was wiped out on the first night of the May blitz while the billeting department 'had to move its office six times in seven days. Yet. with the aid of 200 school teachers. some 4.800 bombed-out people were found billets inside the town. Another 7.000 people were billeted outside Bootle. nearly 2.000 were found fresh houses in other areas. and 4.000 travel vouchers were issued to dockers and others who had been forced out of the town. -- By the middle of the May week the living and domestic arrangements of More than half the population had been disrupted. Yet it is astonishing that throughout the month of May only 200,000 man-days were lost on the docks and In industry by the town's labour force cf 25,000.

Hawthorn Grove WW2 2

Wallasey Raid Damage

Liverpool Daily Post - Friday 09 July 1943

 

Mr. Sutton told the jury the case into two parts, one relating only to Teare and Gray, which it was not necessary for them to consider. In the second part, it was alleged that one or more of the accused were concerned in taking salvaged goods from houses damaged, or perhaps demolished, by hostile action when Wallasey was so severely attacked in the winter of 1940 and the spring of 1941. “It is not for anybody who likes, when premises have been bombed, to take what he wished,” Mr. Sutton said. Some people call that looting.” The firm of Tomkinson were employed on various contracts after attacks to do first aid repairs and to carry out demolition to premises so badly injured that they were a source of danger.. They had cost-plus contracts, under which the contractor did the work at the cost of material and labour plus a profit. Teare was the manager and chief shareholder in Tomkinson’s. was alleged that material taken from bombed premises w as used in Tomkinson s private contracts. In one charge it was alleged that Houston and Gray obtained a fire grate, cylinder, and boiler from Wallasey premises, and installed them in Tomkinson’s Liverpool office, when arrangements were being made to accommodate fire-watchers. No payments, or suggestion of payment, for the materials had been made to the Corporation. It was alleged that timber from damaged property was used when Tomkinson’s made alterations to an E.A.F. hostel, and that a firegrate installed in a Liverpool tannery, also came from Wallasey under similar circumstances.

WALLASEY RAID DAMAGE HOUSE REPAIR 'WORK

Liverpool Daily Post - Saturday 08 January 1944

 

The gravity of the effect of enemy action in Wallasey during the blitz period 1940-41 can now been explained in detail from official information made available following, upon the discussion Thursday’s meeting of the Council in regard to the defeated proposal to transfer from the Emergency Committee lo the Estates and Housing Committee duties in respect to the rehousing of bombed-out and inadequately housed persons. . No fewer than 18,156 houses, the Daily Post learns, were damaged. Of this total, 1,150 were either completely demolished of were so badly damaged that demolition was necessary, while 4.985 were classed as seriously and the remaining 12,023 as slightly damaged. Result Of Survey A Government scheme for accelerating the repair of the properties more seriously damaged and rendered vacant wag introduced early last year. A survey under this scheme showed that 888 Wallasey houses were suitable for selection for repair. Up to the present time of these houses have been allocated to contractors and the repair of 303 of them completed. The work is subject to Government control and is carried out by the Corporation agents for the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Works and the War Damage Commission in accordance with well defined instructions and limitations.

Darly Dene - Breck Road, hit by bomb in 1941