- Contributed by
- John Melsom
- People in story:
- John Melsom
- Location of story:
- New Brighton & Grange over Sands
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 10 November 2003
In 1939 my parents & I were living in my grandmother’s house in Sunningdale Road in New Brighton. I remember listening on the 3rd of September 1939 to the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, on the radio telling the nation that we were at war with Germany.
Because of fears of an imminent German invasion, arrangements were made to evacuate children to the safety of Canada. Unbeknown to me then, Mum & Dad put me down for this scheme but had second thoughts after the “City of Benares” was torpedoed & most of the crew & 90 children were lost (only seven children survived). My later thoughts are that they withdrew me, for whatever reason, when I was due to go on the “City of Benares” but I think the former was the case.
On Sundays the nearby municipal golf links were open for the public to wander on & in the summer my grandmother & I did often (I don't recall Mum coming); skylarks & blue skies, bunkers & manicured greens are the strongest memories. Sometime about 1942 the whole links were covered with an anti-aircraft rocket battery, dozens of single & several multi-rail launchers; what a noise when they were fired, especially if all were fired simultaneously! My friends & I used to collect fragments of unburnt propellant (cordite) off the promenade, make a heap of it & chuck a match in from a safe distance - did it burn quickly! Mum & Dad would have had fits if they'd known!
Sometime in 1940 Mum & I were evacuated to Grange-over-Sands (on the north shore of Morecambe Bay) where we stayed with one of Mum’s school friends in a nice wooden bungalow near to the sea. We travelled up there in an open-top Morris 8 (albeit with the hood up) on a freezing day & evening - all I remember is being very cold & miserable. After we'd been at the bungalow for a short while we moved with the friend to a flat over a milk depot on Kents Bank Road, why I know not. Mum & I shared a double bed & one night we heard the all-too-familiar whistle of a falling bomb, then a tremendous explosion; dust & debris fell all over us & then we realised we could see the stars through the ceiling! We weren't hurt so we picked our way out, wrapped blankets around ourselves & hid in a concrete outhouse in next door's backyard - just in case anything else was on its way! A while later we two, still wrapped in blankets over our night attire, trudged through the (luckily dry) night across the town to another household (I think the brother of the school friend). We ended up staying there for several months which I thought was great for there was a son about my age, with whom I got on quite well - & he let me play with his toys! (Upon reflection I suspect he may have been ordered to let me play with them at the start, as boys are not usually deeply imbued with altruistic tendencies!). My "best" toy had been a very large Meccano set; it was left in the flat under all the debris & when we returned to salvage what we could, it had been looted. Subsequently I've discovered that the air raid occurred on the night of the 4th-5th of May, 1941 & is referred to locally as "the Grange Blitz".
After some months we returned to Sunningdale Road, it probably seemed less dangerous! However at this time Adolf’s merry men started dropping bombs & other nasty devices on Merseyside so we spent lots of exciting nights in a shelter Dad had improvised under the stairs on the ground floor, principally by covering the one small window with layers of thick wood & an old enamelled steel sign (for petrol or oil I think) to stop shrapnel & small ordnance. As it happened no bombs (other than incendiary) ever fell in Sunningdale Road but they did in adjacent roads; each one you heard fall you wondered if the next one would be nearer. Once a mobile AA gun opened up in an adjacent street - that made us jump, being a new & unexpected noise & so close! At one stage Mum & I sheltered in a tunnel (which was really the tradesmen's entrance) in the front garden of one of the big 18th century houses in North Drive nearby.
Until VE day in 1945 there was a complete blackout at night & the view of the night sky was wonderful in the literal sense of the word, zillions of points of light against a jet black background such as can only be found nowadays in the most remote parts of the globe.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.