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28 October 2014

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photo: Imperial War Museum HU49833
Firemen hose on burning buildings

Remembering the North at War

The Imperial War Museum North has set about examining the impact of the world wars on the North of England in 'The North at War', the first major exhibition to look at the subject.

The North at War
Start Date:24/03/2005
Start Time:10:00
End Date:06/01/2006
End Time:18:00
Genres:Museums and Exhibitions
Venue NameImperial War Museum North
Address:Trafford Wharf Road
M17 1TZ
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photo: Imperial War Museum HU36167
Potential traffic hazard in the Blackout

The exhibition comes as part of the 60th anniversary commemorations of the end of the Second World War. Through a mix of objects, personal stories, art and hands-on interactives, it shows that the wars affected places like Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Hull as much as they did London, Portsmouth, Southampton and Plymouth.

Amongst many other stories documented in the exhibition are the stories of the shelling of Scarborough and Whitby, the Battle of Bamber Bridge, the Freckleton air tragedy and the Christmas Eve bombing of Oldham.

The shelling of Scarborough and Whitby

photo: Imperial War Museum Q53459
Bombardment of Whitby by German warships

At breakfast time on 16 December 1914, a German fleet unleashed a bombardment on the North Sea ports of Hartlepool, West Hartlepool, Whitby and Scarborough. Around 1,150 shells fell, resulting in over 130 dead and almost 600 wounded. The two coastal defence batteries in Hartlepool responded, damaging three German ships, including the heavy cruiser, Blucher. The British press and public were outraged, blaming the Royal Navy for failing to prevent the raid but the attack was seen as legitimate by the German Navy, who considered both Hartlepool and Scarborough to be valid targets.

The Battle of Bamber Bridge

photo: Imperial War Museum V172
Italian prisoners of War in Bolton

American GIs began arriving in Britain in January 1942. Welcomed by most, they brought with them nylon stockings, the jitterbug, and occasionally, trouble. On a summer’s night in 1943, some black GIs got involved in an argument with white military police in the village of Bamber Bridge, near Preston in Lancashire. The incident – later christened The Battle of Bamber Bridge – happened as the local pub was closing. Bystanders, who sided with the black GIs, saw the argument escalate into violence as American military police opened fire, killing one man and wounding four others.

The Freckleton Tragedy

Freckleton, a village near Preston, was the scene of the worst WW2 air accident in Britain. On 23 August 1944, 61 people – 38 of them children – were killed when a B-24 Liberator plane belonging to the United States Air Force crashed during a storm on the infants’ wing of Freckleton Holy Trinity School. The wreckage also partly demolished three houses and a snack bar, as it crashed in flames along one of the village roads. American entertainer Bing Crosby visited a nearby hospital a few days later and sang songs to some of the surviving children.

The V-1 Christmas Eve bombing raid on Oldham

photo: Imperial War Museum HU36241
Barrage balloons at the Dunlop factory

The V-1, known as the Doodlebug, was the first modern guided missile used in WW2. In the early hours of Christmas Eve 1944, German bombers flying over the North Sea launched V-1 flying bombs, aiming them at Manchester. Most missed the city, but one landed at 5.50am on a terrace of houses in Oldham. It killed 32 people, including some evacuees from London, and damaged hundreds of homes.

The exhibition is packed with more stories of everyday tragedy and heroism from across the North, as well as a wealth of images showing how the conflicts shaped and changed the region.

last updated: 02/03/05
Have Your Say
Do you have memories of the wars in the North? Why not share them below?
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arthur hilditch
I was a young chorister in the Manchester Cathedral Choir during the war. We (The Choir School) were evacuated to Little Thornton (near Poulton) in 1939, but due to there being no apparent danger, we were all sent to our homes ! Soon after, we had the Manchester Blitz ! I was very concerned to see the state of Manchester Cathedral (hit by a bomb), and journeyed from my home in Urmston (by bus) to Trafford Bar. There were no buses into the city, because of the bombing, so I walked ... and walked .... along Deansgate, where I saw the gutted buildings and flames still burning at Wagstaffe & Gilberts Piano Warehouse... heard the burning pianos twanging ! Saw a bath hanging out of a high hotel window ... the place was smothered in burnt bits of charred paper, for ages it floated out of the sky .... Finally, got to the Cathedral, where the damage to the Nave was extensive. The Choir continued their singing at Services at St. Annes Church, nearby, for a while. Later, we returned to sing in the Cathdral, but with ony a piano accompliament (the organ needed repair of course ). Organist was Archibald William Wilson (Mus. Doc) but later was Mr NORMAN COCKER (a really great guy !). I could add lots and lots more school wartime experiences .... but is anyone really interested ?

My brother-in law left school when he was 14,he went to sign on with the merchant navy before he went home.He lied about his age so he was accepted.He went home and told his mother then packed his bags and left.He sailed on the tanker EMPIRE ATTENDANT. This was torpedoed and they limped to Russia. They were ordered out of russia before the ship was repaired.They managed to get to America with a crippled rudder. When they landed the truth came out about his age and he was given a hero,s welcome.The youngest boy in the Merchant navy. It was all in middlsbro,s evening gazette.Does anyone remember this?

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Munich 1958
Remembering the Munich air disaster

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