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John – evacuee and media star!

18 June 2019 by Kay

Our new exhibition, Blitzed: Liverpool Lives brings together dramatic images of Blitz-damaged Liverpool alongside evocative spoken memories of people who experienced the aerial bombardment first-hand. One of those people is John McEwan. John grew up in Salisbury Street, Everton and was evacuated after his family had a very close shave. John’s is one of many interviews in our Liverpool Voices archive which I spent many hours listening to and selecting highlights to be included in the exhibition.

John was invited to our press call the day before the exhibition opened to be interviewed by the local media. Just before it began I had the pleasure of showing him around the exhibition. He listened to the audio of himself in the central ‘cinema area’ and read his quote I used to bring to life a photograph of children outside of bombed homes. It brought back lots of memories for him and he was an absolute pro, recalling many experiences for Radio Merseyside, The Guide Liverpool, Liverpool Echo, Culture Liverpool, Wirral Globe etc.

Read this transcript of John’s audio in the exhibition –
“My dad would be home on leave and he heard sirens and the blackout was on and he made his way home expecting to find my mother and the three children, Betty, Tommy and myself in the air raid shelter.   When he went to the air raid shelter we weren’t there. He then went to the house and my mum was under the kitchen table, or under the dining table, with the three children.   Obviously my dad was very concerned about this. I don’t know exactly what went on other than the fact that the decision was made to evacuate us.  My mother was also pregnant at the time with my younger brother Peter, who is a year younger than myself. And as a result the three children, myself, Betty and Tommy were evacuated to St Joseph’s Children’s Home in Freshfield near Southport, and that would be sometime in 1940, in around maybe the autumn of 1940.

The reason we went more than any other, was that we lived not far from the docks.  Because if they were bombing the docks, the German planes were never allowed to go home with ammunition, they weren’t allowed to.  So they dropped the bombs on the way, you know, when they were retreating from their targets that was the natural thing for them to do.  The British pilots would do the same if they were doing a raid, partly because they had to show they had done the job and also it would be a lighter plane and it would improve their chances of getting back.  So we were in bombing range of the Liverpool docks and there were, I mean, I remember even after the war, long after the war, up to, I say to about 1950, there were bombed houses, and ‘ollers’ as we used to call them, and wasteland all round that area.  So, certainly in the street I lived in, Salisbury Street, there were three or four bombed sites, so it wasn’t a question of maybe, it was a question that you were extremely fortunate if it didn’t happen, to either you, or a relative, or a friend.”

“Peter and I were taken into this lounge and told, ‘John, Peter, this is your daddy’. Because of all the moving around we just accepted it and it was more or less like being introduced to a schoolmaster.   It was very strange, but for my dad, it was very, very emotional.”

John McEwan
Liverpool Voices Archive, Museum of Liverpool

Thank you to John and all of the contributors to the exhibition.

We are gathering memories and responses to the images and memories in the exhibition. Selected responses will be displayed in the exhibition. You can leave a reply in the comments book in the exhibition, share via Museum of Liverpool social media or come along to one of our workshops

Sergeant Cyril Askew

10 June 2019 by Karen O'Rourke

Cyril wearing lots of medals

Cyril proudly wearing his Legion of Honour medal above his Second World War campaign medals. Image courtesy of the King’s Regiment Association.

This guest blog by Major (Retired) Eddie McMahon TD continues our series of blogs commemorating D-Day.

“Cyril Lancelot Askew enlisted with the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment in 1935 and served in the Second World War. Unusually, he served on both the Eastern and Western fronts. His service is described in an earlier blog and in a display at the Museum of Liverpool.

I first met Sergeant Cyril Askew in 1975, while I was still serving with the King’s, before I became involved with the Regimental Association. I was intrigued by this interesting man kitted out in his Corps of Commissioners uniform, proudly wearing his medal ribbons. The Corps was set up to help ex-servicemen into employment after demobilisation and Cyril had welcomed people at many of Liverpool’s amazing buildings, including the Three Graces and The Liverpool Empire.

I listened to him talk about patrolling the dangerous Khyber Pass territory in India, or coming under heavy German fire in the weeks after D-Day while pushing inland. Read more…

Commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day

29 May 2019 by Karen O'Rourke

On 6 June, we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day, Normandy Landings. This was the start of the Allied forces operation to liberate Europe, which would eventually lead to the end of the Second World War. In recognition of the part played by men from the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, we are staging a small display on the first floor of the Museum of Liverpool from Saturday 25 May to Wednesday 17 July.

Two battalions from the Regiment took part. Both were allocated the role of Beach Group, which involved securing the Beach, providing cover and directing the landed troops and equipment once ashore. It also involved gathering up the dead and wounded whenever there was a lull in the German bombardment. Anyone who has seen the first few minutes of the film Saving Private Ryan will understand that being part of a Beach Group was no easy task. For our two local battalions, the 5th based at Sword Beach and the 8th based at Juno Beach, that task lasted six weeks. After this, the 8th Battalion were disbanded, while the 5th Battalion moved inland with the advancing Allied troops. For more information on the part the Regiment played in the Second World War, at D-Day, in Italy and in Burma, you can visit our City Soldiers gallery.

Our new D-Day display will focus on the story of one man; Sergeant Cyril Askew Read more…

Celebrating Angus Wood

11 October 2018 by Kay

group photo of men in suits

Angus Wood (with coat over his arms)

This Black History Month we celebrate diverse voices from Liverpool’s Black community. This second blog in the series celebrates the life of Angus Wood and his contribution to the war effort during the Second World War.

“Because I am from Jamaica, an engineer didn’t think I was capable of sharpening a drill, although after that you know we got on smashing. I was treated quite well, especially when they suddenly realised that everything in Kingston was the same as in England”

Angus Wood, speaking in 2002. Liverpool Voices, Liverpool Lives archive, Museum of Liverpool.

Angus was born in Kingston, Jamaica and came to Liverpool when he responded to the call for engineers to come and work in munitions factories here in Britain.  He left Kingston on 13 January 1940 with a large group of other skilled men.

After a long journey they docked in Scotland and travelled by train to Liverpool. Initially they lived at the YMCA in Birkenhead.

Angus was employed at ROF Fazakerley, a newly opened rifle manufacturing factory. Initially he was treated a little differently but once he proved that he knew his job he was treated the same as the other workers. His job, a protected occupation, was to set up machines that the women workers used to cut and grind components for rifles.

Angus also joined the factory’s own Home Guard, performing night fire watches and guard duty before and after a full days work.

The women workers in the factory helped them to find lodgings with local families. Angus lived for two years with the Roberts family, in Crescent Road, Fazakerley, before meeting his wife at the factory and setting up their own home.

Angus and his friends often went to the Grafton Ballroom in their free time. Here they experienced some racism from American GIs. Angus tells us more –

“The Americans didn’t want any coloured chaps in there, and we were British so they couldn’t stop us, and when they objected there was a fight.  I always keep clear of any fights. I was never personally involved in any of them”.

After the war the men were offered the opportunity to return to Jamaica, or stay in Britain. Angus, who was by then married with young children, chose to stay. He lived and worked in Liverpool, staying on at the factory until it closed in 1962.

Don’t forget to download our trail exploring how Liverpool’s Black community is represented in our displays and check out the Black History Month events across National Museums Liverpool’s venues throughout October.

Hands Across The Ocean, a guest blog from visiting author Deborah Heiligman

26 September 2018 by Jen

Deborah Heiligman with Sonia Bech Williams, child survivor of the sinking of the City of Benares, outside Sonia's childhood home.

Deborah Heiligman with Sonia Bech Williams, child survivor of the sinking of the City of Benares, outside Sonia’s childhood home.

Earlier this year I met with American author Deborah Heiligman, who’s working on a new children’s book about the sinking of the City of Benares in World War II. It was lovely to meet her and exchange information on this fascinating story and she’s now been kind enough to write a blog for us talking about her research and what drew her to the City of Benares: Read more…

British child refugees

20 June 2018 by Jen

Refugee Week, founded in 1998 “as a direct reaction to hostility in the media and society in general towards refugees and asylum seekers”, is marking its 20th anniversary this week, and one of the 20 Simple Acts they have asked people to consider doing this year is spread the word.

Sadly the hostility that inspired this campaign in 1998 is still present and their work is as important as ever. I believe that it is harder to be hostile towards someone once we begin to empathise with them, and as human beings we often empathise most easily with people when we realise they are like ourselves. In keeping with that idea I want to talk about Britain’s own child refugees. Read more…

A story of female friendship and survival

7 March 2018 by Jen

Back and white photo of a large two funnelled liner, the City of Benares

City of Benares, Maritime Archives & Library, MMM collection, reference MCR/61/371 (copyright unknown, believed to be expired)

When I first started to think about women’s stories we could spotlight this year for International Women’s Day there was one in particular that instantly came to mind. I’ve blogged before about the sinking of the Ellerman liner, City of Benares. Torpedoed mid-Atlantic in 1940 while taking child evacuees to Canada, it’s one of the most heart-rending pieces of research I’ve ever carried out. As always with such tragedies though, the larger story is made up of hundreds of smaller, more personal, ones. Beth and Bess are one of these stories. Read more…

‘Never at Sea’… well, never say never

8 November 2017 by Jen

Cap belonging to Chief WRNS Officer, HMS Eaglet, Mis P.G. Stubbs - 1981.730.6

Uniform cap belonging to Chief WRNS Officer, HMS Eaglet, Miss PG Stubbs – 1981.730.6

It is 1917 and for the last three years war on a scale previously unseen and unimagined has been raging between the European powers. Young men have died by the thousands and the end is still not in sight. Britain is facing a shortage of manpower and finally considering radical measures; to free up men for the front, women will be asked to volunteer with the services to fill non-fighting roles. Read more…

‘Hair-raising’ model made in top secret underground bunker

24 October 2017 by Jen

Small dazzle painted ship model of Royal Navy destroyer HMS Witch in wood framed glass case.

Ship model of HMS Witch. Accession number MMM.1993.69

It’s that time of year again and a chill caused by more than just autumn winds is upon us. Halloween is bearing down fast with its usual accompaniment of pumpkins, ghosts, and of course witches! The ship model you can see here may look fairly innocuous but this is the Royal Naval Destroyer HMS Witch and it’s rigged with real human hair! Read more…

Happy 300th Birthday, Bluecoat!

20 April 2017 by Victoria

Building

Bluecoat courtyard

Throughout this year there is an impressive series of events across the city to celebrate 300 years of one of Liverpool’s most cherished (and oldest) buildings, Bluecoat. Read more…



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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.