- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Maurice Cocker
- Location of story:
- Manchester and Thornton-Cleveleys
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 26 September 2005
This story was recounted by Maurice Cocker to Caroline Rosney, and was added to the website by the staff of Blackpool Central Library.
It was in September 1939 that my love for ships was born. It was in this month that my sister and I were sent to stay with a relative of ours in Thornton-Cleveleys near Blackpool. Our parents were unsure as to what to do with the onset of WW2 and thought it would be best for us to stay in Thornton rather than Manchester. It turned out that we only stayed there two weeks. However in this time I was captured by the place, especially the boats. It is this love of boats that progressed into my work for the Royal Naval Mine Watching Service in the 1960s, and which has brought me to my 6th published book on naval vessels.
The contrast between Thornton Cleveleys and Manchester at this time was extreme and I remember the Blitz of Manchester quite well. Mainly I remember how my parents, my sister, our cat “Timmy” and I would huddle under the stairs, which we used as an indoor air raid shelter with the sound of German aircraft overhead night after night. Intermittently we would also hear the sound of our own anti-aircraft guns. The next morning my sister and I would go searching for shrapnel.
I remember one night in particular. It was in December 1940. I was asleep and my father came and woke me. He drew back the blackout curtains and told me to look out of the window. We lived in Moston, which is at the start of the Pennines, and so we could see over Manchester. I could see the whole sky was alight with the red glow of fires. It was an amazing sight and an awful sight at the same time. The next day my father tried to go into work but the whole of Manchester was at a standstill.
Major local targets for the enemy within a ten mile radius were Ferranti Ltd (electronics and electrical gear), A.V. Roe and Co. who built the Lancaster Bomber, the terminal docks of the Manchester Ship Canal where ocean-going shipping berthed and the whole of Manchester's industrial factories at Trafford Park Estate and similar.
I used to come home from school for my dinner and one weekday on my walk back to New Moston Junior School, whilst crossing Broadway, a German aircraft that had been circling around for some minutes straffed the roadway. I fell but was not hit. I do remember the flints and small stones from the tarmacadam flying into the air as the bullets struck the road surface, all of this in broad daylight and without the air raid siren sounding. This brought on what is known today as post-traumatic stress disorder, but by the time I was working in 1950 I just had a slight speech impediment so causing me to be rejected for National Service. From 1942-1945 (age 12) I was a boy messenger to MAN 63 BN Home Guard, the CO being Lt Colonel Sir Sebastian de Ferranti. So thankfully we escaped largely unscathed in WW2. I am willing to give my account of my service in the Cold War but nobody has asked for it to date.
I do a lot of research for my books and I came across a book which said that Manchester suffered approximately 253 raids during WW2. This amount doesn’t really surprise me and I remember the time quite vividly even though I was quite young. Some things you can never forget.
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