- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Leonard Crossley, Bill Crossley, Maureen Crossley, Jean Crossley, Louisa Crossley (mother), Sarah O'Rourke (grandmother)
- Location of story:
- Liverpool and Rhyl
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 09 August 2005
I have many childhood memories of life in Liverpool during those awful nights of the blitz in 1941. My father, having been called up for active service, was serving with the Royal Engineers. My mother, my two brothers and two sisters and I were living at my maternal grandparents' home at 59 Aubrey Street, Everton, where the tram cars used to pass on their way down to the Pier Head. I remember very vividly the fearful sound of the sirens and the awful anticipation of what might follow next. Also, I remember the search lights criss-crossing the night sky, searching out enemy bombers; the never-to-be-forgotten sound of the whistling bombs falling on the city at night and the air raid wardens knocking on our door on more than one occasion, to tell my mother there was a chink of light showing from one of the windows.
We had all been provided with gas masks. The older children were given the adult type, the younger members of the family had what was referred to as a mickey mouse version. Another peculiar thing we were expected to use were earplugs, with the aim, no doubt, of minimising the sound of the explosions and all the other horrendous sounds that might keep us awake during the night. To be honest, I don't ever remember using them.
We would listen to our relatives talking about all kinds of stories of people being killed in their homes, or the more fortunate being rescued by the sterling work of the fire brigade, the police, ambulance crews and even neighbours. When the air-raids became very intense, my mother would gather us all under the stairs, as that appeared to be the safest place in the house, if you didn't have an Anderson shelter. My aunt related to my mother how only a few days previously, she was returning home with her daughter in the pram, when she heard a tremendous explosion. She discovered later that it was Mill Road Hospital that had taken a direct hit and that many people were killed and seriously injured. (It was the bombed debris of this very same hospital that my friends and I used to play in after the war).
Our windows were criss-crossed with brown sticky tape from corner to corner. At the time, I couldn't understand why - I eventually found out it was to minimise the possible injuries from shattered glass in the event of bombs falling on, or near, the house. I think it was probably at this time that my mother made arrangements for the family to go to Rhyl in North Wales, to the home of our paternal grandmother (my grandfather having been killed in 1916, on the Somme) where it was considered to be a relatively safe haven. The irony of it was, we had hardly been in town for more than a couple of weeks, when two bombs fell not more than a stones throw from the house where we were staying! Needless to say, we were quite shaken from this unexpected event, although we emerged unscathed. We enjoyed our stay at our grandmothers' house and made quite a few new friends while we were there. Children can be amazingly resilient.
During our relatively short time in Rhyl, we had to attend new schools. The older children attended St Anne's School on Vale Road and my younger sister went to the Emmanuel School, also on Vale Road. The advantage of this was that the school was only a matter of yards away from my grandmothers' house, unlike the school in Liverpool, which was a considerable distance to walk from our home in Aubrey Street.
We returned to Liverpool for personal reasons, after a comparatively short stay, plus the fact that my mother believed it was relatively safe, now that the big blitz appeared to be over and the city seemed to be enjoying a brief respite at that particular time, although there were more raids to come. We, of course, were sad to be leaving our new-found friends and no doubt promised to "come again soon" when peace had returned.
We were once again staying with my maternal grandmother. My grandfather who, incidentally, was an air-raid warden from the commencement of the war, had only recently passed away. I remember being lifted up to see him in his coffin and it left a profound impression on my mind. There seemed to be an all pervading gloom everywhere at that particular time. To help take our minds off the trauma of it all, we were encouraged to go to Aubrey Street Park, to play on the swings and watch the games of bowls on the green. Alternatively, we boys seeking to find more dangerous pursuits, would occupy ourselves with shinning up lamp posts, hanging on the back of tram cars, belly-banding across the walls of jiggers and playing in bombed-out buildings. Most of these pastimes could have resulted in very serious injuries to some, or all of the boys engaged in them.
As time passed, a degree of normality returned to every day life in Liverpool. The destruction was immense, particularly in the docks and most of the buildings adjacent to them. Large areas of the Inner City had been reduced to piles of rubble. I remember seeing the area around the Victoria Monument for the first time after the bombing, it was very difficult to take in the near total devastation. There were of course many other areas of the city that had also suffered unimaginable horrors but I can only relate to what I remember happened to my own family in Liverpool during the second world war.
After the war was over, my family were living in Spencer Street, Everton. I was away on holiday in Rhyl, a circumstance brought about by the kindness of my uncle, who drove a milk tanker for the C.W.S. He promised to pick me up and drop me off at my grandmothers' house. My mother informed me, when I arrived home after my holiday, that I had been invited to a big party at St George's Hall, presumably for children of my age group, who had been affected by the air-raids but my younger brother had gone in my place. I sometimes think about that wonderful feast that I had missed and the lovely cream cakes and mouth-watering trifles that would have been a joy to behold to any youngster who had experienced the shortages of the war years.
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