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Manchester Blitz, December 1941

by Researcher 250984

Contributed by 
Researcher 250984
People in story: 
Constance Howe
Location of story: 
Manchester
Article ID: 
A1904726
Contributed on: 
21 October 2003

That December evening in 1941, I left Piccadilly Station and walked down Cannon Street. The weather was murky, and I hurried to get home. The sirens had sounded, and a fair amount of enemy action was starting up overhead. A warden stopped me and insisted I went into a nearby shelter. I waited until he left, then sloped off to carry on towards Victoria bus station. (later that night, this shelter received a direct hit.)

As I approached the Cathedral, even my common sense told me things were worsening, and I sought shelter in the Cathedral crypt. That first night of the Manchester blitz was the most uncomfortable of my life. The cold and dank seeped into the bones, crowds of mainly strangers massed together as all hell broke loose outside. I befriended an elderly lady who was alone and terrified, and we shared a stone slab together. It was a long, long night, and everyone was hungry and cold as we awaited the ‘all clear’.

It came around 6am, and my new friend and I left our shelter and emerged into daylight. Or was it? There was a red glow that suffused the landscape as far as the eye could see. Weary firemen were labouring to put out fires - too many to deal with - their hoses spiralling snake-like over pavements and roads. The only possible comparison to be made was that it looked like a scene from Dante’s Inferno.

We realised no buses could possibly be running, and I couldn’t abandon my new friend now. I proceeded to walk with her to her home in Cheetham Hill. It was a long and laboured journey, and as we walked, all I could see before me was a steaming cup of tea I’d have given anything to have in my hand. But I shouldn’t have long to wait now - here was Elizabeth Street approaching. We arrived at last - our destination a dry-cleaning shop. My companion took her keys from her bag, opened the front door, thanked me most politely from the inside, and closed the door behind her! I could have cried as I resumed my marathon walk to Broughton and home.

That day I had travelled from Barry Island, near Cardiff, on a wartime train. My fiance, Jack, was 1st Electrician on a Merchant ship, the King Malcolm. We had spent a precious week - me in a boarding house nearby, but with official permission to board the ship daily and eat my meals in the Officer’s Mess. It was to be our last meeting. He was one of the many thousands who gave their lives in the Atlantic crossings - missing, presumed drowned….

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