A Night To Remember

Wartime Childhood Memories

Written J.D Howard

I was 10 years when war broke out and took a great interest in the fortunes (or otherwise) of the Allies in their various theatres of war. I attended St. George's Road Council School during the first year of the war and then passed the scholarship to the Grammar School.

When the air raid warnings started, my mother would not let me be evacuated and I stayed in Wallasey. Even during the many initial air raid warnings, during the early days, I was allowed to stay in bed as it was hard to believe that there could be more than minimal action. Of course the night came when gunfire from our Green Lane Guns heralded the arrival of the German bombers and I was then required to go to a place of safety always reckoned to be 'under the stairs'. Of course, in the event of a direct hit this would have been no protection.

103rd Cheshire Home Guard Anti-Aircraft Battery
103rd Cheshire Home Guard Anti-Aircraft Battery

One morning, after an air raid, my father advised me that bombs had been dropped. This created great interest and we both decided to have a look at this phenomenon. So we walked from Green Lane to Cliff Road and sure enough a house was roped off and there was a hole in the side of the house at path level about 5 feet in diameter, caused by the bomb.

The same night, I recall that bombs were dropped at Strouds Corner, at the end of Rake Lane where it joins Mount Pleasant Road and other places now forgotten.

After that, many bombs were dropped with the worst incidents being at Lancaster Avenue and Church Street. But every year, I remember particularly, the morning of Wednesday, 13th March 1941 which dawned bitterly cold and grey. The 'all clear' had just gone and we emerged from the

communal air raid shelter in Granville Terrace to see rubble everywhere and all the houses in the street and round about without windows, slates and mostly uninhabitable. Some houses had mattresses hanging out of a bedroom window and there was a stench of cordite and burning.

I recalled the moment the bomb dropped which was around at about Midnight, the bang was unbelievably loud and the accompanying sound of breaking glass and falling slates was like an earthquake. As a young boy of 12, I remained personally calm but most of the womenfolk in the shelter were crying and wailing with shock. In my own small way I tried to pacify those who were particularly distressed by saying "it's alright". It didn't really help. Strangely enough and fortunately, this was the first night that we had taken to the shelters on the advice of the wardens.

Anyway, once out of the shelter we crunched our way amongst the slates and glass and made our way back to our own house in Marshland Road. What we found and the record of that night can be best described by the following extract from my diary as follows "Bombed Out".

Nearly every window in the house was out. All the frames were in, every slate was off the roof. The sitting room door was on the piano and the baking bowl that had been on the table in the scullery was found by the front door smashed to pieces.

My bed was burned by an incendiary that came through the roof. One man threw a bucket of water on it ('the mad ass'). Incendiaries were dropping by the thousand. Bombs dropped at Green Lane, Asbury Road, Sandy Lane, Studley Road, Paignton Road, Mayfield Road, Grove Road, Halton Road, Church Street and many other places.

When dad was going into our entry he had to thrown himself on the ground for a bomb which dropped 50 yards away in Green Lane. (This was the heaviest raid in all England). Also the same night, the Coliseum Cinema in Wallasey Village was burnt down by incendiaries and eventually arose as the Phoenix. One of the many strange, even comical, instances that happened at that time was one morning after a raid, a door was found sticking upright in the newly laid concrete roof of the shelter, erected that day in Marshlands Road.

After this many people left Wallasey for safer places and we were able to rent a house in Prospect Vale the same day. When picking up my belongings from amongst the rubble, within our badly damaged house, I was able to rescue my Meccano set and bike as a priority, as well as my collection of shrapnel and nosecaps. My parents of course had other priorities.

At this time, school was optional but my parents made the effort to see that I attended as much as possible. Even after, we had many nights sleeping in the air raid shelter in the back garden of our new house until eventually, in May 1942, the raids stopped and the people of Merseyside could again sleep in peace.