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The Christmas Blitz (Part Two)

Todays article is the second of three which deals with the devastation caused to Merseyside by the air raids that came to be known as the Christmas Blitz. Over the space of a week just before Christmas 1940, over 700 people were killed in the region, making that month the second deadliest on record. We now continue that story, with the incidents of the second major night of that period.

The night of the 21st/22nd December 1940

The second night’s action was the longest to date, lasting from 18:38 until 05:15. The damage was correspondingly severe and widespread.

In Liverpool, the raid began mostly with incendiaries, which started fierce fires in several areas of the city. High Explosives soon followed, with notable incidents at St George's Hall, the Fish Market in Great Charlotte Street, Hatton Garden, an Electric Station in Highfield Street and Hanover Street.

A parachute Mine landed near Prescot Street Police station, damaging it and a nearby bedding factory. Other mines hit the Royal Infirmary and several residential areas throughout the city. Damage was also done to Canada, Gladstone, Brocklebank, Princes, Wapping, Kings and Carriers Docks.

This photo shows the damage done to Hannover Street, seen from from its junction with college lane, with Seel Street straight ahead. When I was taking the comparison photo for my first book, there was a similar feel, as modern buildings on the corner of Hannover Street and Seel Street had recently been demolished.

The pounding of Wallasey continued, with more of the borough coming under attack. One of the places hit this night was Withen's Lane, where number 61 seems to have been demolished completely and number 63 badly damaged.

Three women died at number 61, Annie Chatham aged 79 and Ethel Papin aged 55 were killed outright. Ethel was a member of the local ARP control service, a section that would co-ordinate the rescue service’s response to the raids. Ellen Chatham aged 57 was taken to the Cottage Hospital in Claremount Road, but sadly died the next day of her injuries.The site is now occupied by the small block of flats seen in the modern photo. Nearby more than a dozen people were killed when a bomb demolished a nursing home that stood on the corner of Withens Lane and Manor Road.

Despite escaping damage on the previous night, Birkenhead was not so lucky this time. Extensive damage was done to Birkenhead town centre, whilst other bombs landed on Bidston, Claughton and Higher Tranmere. Initial reports gave the number of fatalities as 16 and around 80 injuries, many of whom were trapped.

The dock estate was also hammered, with two ships berthed there struck, fires at Mortar Mill Quay and damage done to Cavendish Wharf, Spillers Flour Mills, Rank Flour Mills, Morpeth Dock, Woodside Lairage and the LMS Railway Goods Shed. There were also reports of Cammell Laird and Clovers being hit.

One of the roads hit that night was Daffodil Road, where a bomb landed squarely on top of number 32, killing Joseph Jones (53), his wife Elizabeth (42) and their daughter Gwyneth (20) and leaving this section of the road as a sea of rubble.

28-34 Daffodil Street.

Crosby came under more serious attack this night than it had previously. Twelve high explosive bombs were scattered across the borough, with two high parachute mines landing and exploding and another two unexploded mines landing. There were also two incidents of incendiaries landing on the borough. A total of ten people were killed and thirty one injured in the raid.

Bootle didn't escape damage either, with twenty four high explosive bombs falling in a relatively closely grouped area. The number of roads hit or affected by this raid is simply to large to list, but some notable victims of this night include St Mary's Church (the Parish church of Bootle), Blackledges Bakery, and County Hall in Pembroke Road.

An incident recorded by the ARP (Air Raid Precaution) reports is also interesting to read. The injured from one of these incidents were being driven to hospital when the vehicle was hit and damged. The injured were hastily transferred to another vehicle, which promptly drove into a bomb crater! Perhaps understandably the stretcher bearers gave up at this point, and transferred the wounded the rest of the way by hand cart!

This photo shows some of the damage done that night, in this case to Akenside Street. An entire section of the street was blasted into rubble and a dozen people were killed. Their ages proved that such weapons have no care for their target, with the oldest victim being 68 and the youngest just 7 months. In addition to the high number of people killed, 40 houses were demolished and another 10 badly damaged. The worst affected area was between numbers 32 and 38 were ten of the fatalities occurred.

Akenside Street

Akenside Street once ran from Knowsley Road to Hornby Boulevard, but it no longer connects with Knowsley Road. Its original alignment remains, replaced by the modern Deepdale Avenue. The modern comparison was taken from the crossroads of of Bowles Street, Akenside Street and Deepdale Avenue.


© Neil Holmes

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