First Bomb of the May Blitz of Liverpool Lands on Wallasey
The May Blitz on Merseyside was one of the last series of big raids on Britain before the German invasion of Russia.
It involved 681 bombers in all. They dropped about 870 tonnes of high explosive bombs and over 112,000 incendiaries (firebombs). This was the last major air assault on Merseyside during the war. It caused massive damage to the city centre, the port and the entire area.
The first bomb landed upon Wallasey, Wirral, at 22:15 on 1 May. The peak of the bombing occurred from 1 – 7 May 1941. It involved 681 Luftwaffe bombers; 2,315 high explosive bombs and 119 other explosives such as incendiaries were dropped. Half of the docks were put out of action inflicting 2,895 casualties and left many more homeless.
One incident on 3 May involved the SS Malakand, berthed in the Huskisson Dock, which was set alight by a barrage balloon that had somehow drifted free and had caught upon the ships upperworks. Despite valiant efforts by the fire brigade to extinguish the flames, the fire spread to the ship's cargo of 1,000 tons of bombs which exploded. The blast destroyed the dock itself and caused a huge amount of damage to the surrounding quays. The explosion was so violent that some pieces of the ship's hull plating were blasted into a park over 1-mile (1.6 km) away; fortunately, casualties were few.
Bootle, to the north of the city, suffered heavy damage and loss of life. Over 6,500 homes in Liverpool were completely demolished by bombing and a further 190,000 damaged.
Today one of the most vivid symbols of the Liverpool Blitz is the burnt outer shell of St Luke's Church, located in the city centre, which was destroyed by an incendiary bomb on 5 May, 1941. The church was gutted during the firebombing but remained standing and, in its prominent position in the city, was a stark reminder of what Liverpool and the surrounding area had endured. It eventually became a garden of remembrance to commemorate the thousands of local men, women and children who died as a result of the bombing of their city and region.
Those dark days had also been illuminated, too, by bright flashes of heroism. Heroism such as was displayed by a group of ten LMS railwaymen who, heedlessly, took their lives into their hands when, on the night of May 3, an ammunition train in a siding at Clubmoor was set alight. A 34 year old goods guard, George Roberts GM , was later awarded the George Medal in recognition of the leading part which he played in this heroic mass life saving affair, All along the train wagons were exploding, but the men calmly uncoupled the rear section before the flames had spread to it and shunted it out of danger. 34 year old John Guinan, though officially off duty, rushed from his home in nearby Witton Road to the scene of the disaster, and continued uncoupling wagons despite repeated and violent explosions. Signalman Peter Stringer also displayed remarkable courage for, after being blown from his signal-box, he went grimly back to it to get on with the dangerous and complicated job of shunting.