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My Story Of The Blitz ‘Survival’

by ateamwar

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Archive List > The Blitz

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Mary Morris nee Halpin.
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
14 September 2005

When I left school in 1936, I started my first job right away — but even then there were rumblings of trouble in Europe, and my Father who fought in the Great War, thought that there was trouble ahead.
As time went by, by 1938, I decided to join First Aid classes, and joined the then Civil Defence Corps —later known as the A.R.P
We learnt how to treat casualties, and how to use a stirrup pump, should we have to put incendiary bombs out. It was starting to get a bit serious — when 1939 came in, and everywhere signs of imminent trouble began to be noticeable, Static Water tanks appeared in streets, blackout curtains were being made, and we realised that adhesive tape criss crossed on windows would make them a bit safer. Of course we still did not know whether any of this would really happen.
We then had to be issued with gas masks, War broke out 3rd September l939, and the air raid siren sounded. I t was just a try-out to see how we would react, what a noise it made. We all called it ‘moaning minnie’. And so we went to war.

We A.R.P. volunteers were allocated a section post — mine was by the Oxford Street Maternity Hospital , I could see in front of me Mount Pleasant and to my left Hope Street and the Anglican Cathedral, and to my right the site of the Metropolitan Cathedral, so with my colleague that was the area we patrolled. Street shelters had already been built, and each backyard had a brick shelter and each garden an Anderson shelter, 1940 saw great Air Raids over London, and we wondered when our turn would come.

Altcar had the first bombs, no casualties. Then Newton and Irby got it. The first casualties came in Birkenhead. Then the Overhead Railway was damaged. Then Bootle was the next. The latter end of 1940, November the first Land Mines fell. People still carried on as normal, going to work, dancing at the Grafton Hall.
Most of the incidents were away from the town centre and my sector.

When Christmas was approaching in 1940, we began to get optimistic for a quiet Christmas, but five days before the day — many casualties, incendiary bombs, hitting the Town Hall, Princess Parade, and the Cunard Buildings, Adelphi Hotel. Then on the 21st Jerry bombed St. Johns Fish Market - lots of Christmas fare ‘well cooked’
Oily incendiarys.
St. Georges Hall, firebombed but saved by great work by the Civil defence and the A.F.S. The next night Mill Road Hospital was hit and then on the 22nd of December
Jerry switched to Manchester. Then we had a quiet Christmas, and apart from a few raids in January and February, on account of bad weather it was just sporadic.

When March came in Wallasey had a pounding, with many casualties. Then Birkenhead got it.
Then about the March 1941, the Luftwaffe were reforming for something bigger.
Near my sector, St. Annes school was flattened, as was the GPO, and Speke.
Nothing much in April, just a few unexploded Land Mines.
It was amazing that during all this bombing, the firemen, doctors and nurses, police, and all Voluntary A.R.P. workers, did excellent work under great difficulties.
My Mother by then decided that all the family would go to an underground shelter which was in Abercromby Park, and every night about 5.30 off they would trot to the shelter in company of many others.
My Dad did his stint of ‘Fire-watering’ at his works in the Liverpool Cold storage in Williamson Square.

Now we come to the 1st May, a beautiful moonlit night (we called it a bombers moon).
My colleague and I were standing on the corner just by the Metropolitan Cathedral, when we saw hundreds of flares dropping over the sky, then it started, hundreds of incendiaries fell, making a circle of fire all over Bootle and Scotland Road had many casualties and homeless people. The ‘all clear’ went about 1 o’clock. That was the day of the ‘May Blitz’
Next night 2nd May Friday, the raid went on much longer, many casualties. Bryant and May went up in flames. St Michaels church in Chinatown was demolished, and many were left homeless. The amazing thing was, that next morning people went to work, even though the raid had gone on all night, bombed buildings had notices on the rubble of their offices saying “Business as usual” typical scouse humour.
Next night, Saturday 3rd May, the top of Mount Pleasant where Lewis’s was set alight, also Blacklers, and Kelly’s ironmongery, William Brown Street Library, and heartbreaking for all the kids of our district, the Museum was set alight, and the aquarium with “Sammy the seal” was among the casualties
Then the most devastating damage was done, Bluecoat: Incha Buildings, Lord Street right up to the Victoria Monument. Then the SS Malakanor in Huskinson Dock went up. Then Bootle got it again.
Sunday May 4th, a curious thing, many people sat in the bomb damaged Churches, to thank God for getting through the night. By this time we were call worn out. There was smoke everywhere. Demolition workers, firemen, police, all strove to clear debris away. We had huge pipes in the gutters which carried water to help firemen with their work. St Lukes Church at the bottom of Leece Street was burned out, its shell has been left to remind us of that dreadful time.
Monday 5th May, some bombers were brought down over the Mersey, a bomb just missed the Anglican Cathedral, another long night of bombing and many more casualties. How long could we go on.

The night of May 6th as I was going on duty to my post, I asked my Mother, where they would be that night, and for some reason she said that as my Father was at home, they would stay at home and go to bed, everyone was so tired, so they banked up the fire as usual, and put the kettle at the side for me to make a hot drink when I came off duty. About 1 a.m. a stick of bombs fell across Chatham Street, and my home got a direct hit, my post received the call, I stayed at my post whilst my fiancé, at that time went to help to rescuer them. When the raid was over, I dashed around to my house, it was just a pile of rubble, but the fire was still burning in the grate, with the kettle still boiling on the hob.
I eventually found my family in the Royal Infirmary, what a sight the wards were, many injured lying on the floor, some firemen from other cities sent to help us, some badly injured. The wonderful Doctors, nurses and volunteers working tirelessly to aid the injured. I found my twin sisters, bomb shocked, but thank God not serious, I washed them an combed their hair. I found my Parents upstairs in the same condition, black in their faces and bomb shocked. My brother Christie was in another ward, with a cage over his legs, but thank God minor injuries. My sister Bernadette was there, she had a bad cut around the eye, but her sight was alright. My other brother Peter and sister Teresa walked out of the debris, with the help of very good neighbours. So I went back to the house made myself a cup of tea, standing in the rubble. I slept in a street shelter, shattered, but alive as were my family. Next morning I dug around the rubble for some clothes for my family to come home with. I was just 19 years old then.

In August 1941,many people were being conscripted for War Work, I volunteered again for the W.A.A.F. In August 1941, I met my future husband in the Air Force.
I was demobbed in 1945. I married my Husband in 1948, but he sadly passed away in 1981.

‘This story was submitted to the People’s War site by BBC Radio Merseyside’s People’s War team on behalf of the author and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.’

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