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A year in blogs – our top 5 stories from 2015!

31 December 2015 by Lisa

Mother and sons with Jubilee decorations

Silver Jubilee street party, June 1977, Old Swan, Liverpool

As 2015 draws to a close, we’re looking back on some of the most popular stories from the blog this year. We began the year by revealing how the Walker Art Gallery’s Henry VIII portrait was used as inspiration for the costumes in BBC drama series, ‘Wolf Hall’ – and we ended the year with our celebrations at World Museum for the amazing blast off of Tim Peake!

But which are the stories that have captured your imagination this year? Here are are the top five stories from our blog that you’ve been enjoying the most in 2015… *drum roll please* Read more…

Remembering the women on Poppy Day

5 November 2015 by Sam

woman in uniform

Iris M Newbould, Women’s Land Army © Lee Karen Stow

Photographer Lee Karen Stow shares the story of another one of the women she met during the research for her exhibition Poppies: Women and War, which is currently on display at the Museum of Liverpool.

Don’t forget that Lee will be back at the Museum to hold a free photography workshop and tour of the exhibition on Saturday 14 November. Full details of this and other events are on our Remembrance events page.

“In Whitehall, London, a few strides north of the Cenotaph and the tomb to the unknown soldier is the Monument to the Women of World War II. This tall, bronze pillar, sculpted by artist John W Mills, is a giant coat rack. Seventeen types of uniform, representing the roles thousands of women undertook during the war, hang on coat hooks, symbolising their job done. Unveiled by the Queen in 2005, this monument of recognition was a long time coming.

One of the uniforms represents members of the 80,000-strong Women’s Land Army (WLA). Women like Iris Newbould, now aged 90. Iris is one of the few ‘Land Girls’ still around to share memories Read more…

The City of Benares legacy 75 years on

20 October 2015 by Jen

John Baker holding a page from a newspaper

City of Benares survivor John Baker holding a copy of his local paper in which he was interviewed. Picture taken on his recent visit to the maritime Museum.

One of the great things about working on projects around events within living memory is that often they prompt people to come forward and talk about their own experiences or family story. At a 75 year remove, with most of the children not from the local area, I wasn’t sure how much impact our City of Benares feature would have in this respect but I was pleasantly surprised. Some people got in touch to say they’d known or knew people who had been on board, a representative of the Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade (SVLB) made contact to say they were marking the 75th anniversary with a service and small display, and one of the child survivors even turned up at the Maritime Museum for a chat.  Read more…

Jet the dog – Liverpool superhero (to curators and small boys!)

19 October 2015 by Kay

man in uniform with a black dog

Painting of Jet by Alfred Kemp Wiffen, 1949. Presented by Mrs Babcock Cleaver in 1967, accession number WAG 7004

Jet has always been a hero close to my heart. I was initially introduced to his story whilst working on my first exhibition here at National Museums Liverpool – Spirit of the Blitz at Merseyside Maritime Museum in 2003. We included the bronze bust and oil painting shown here of Jet, from the Walker Art Gallery collections, which took pride of place. The exhibition even had a specially designed Jet the Dog children’s trail. We also interviewed his owner’s daughter, Lillias Ward about Jet’s wartime heroics Read more…

‘Back from the dead!’ The amazing survival story of Lifeboat 12

25 September 2015 by Jen

HMS ANTHONY rescuing survivors from lifeboat 12 © IWM (CH 1354)

HMS Anthony rescuing survivors from lifeboat 12 © IWM (CH 1354)

The sinking of the City of Benares is a story with few bright spots.  Horrific loss of life, particularly amongst children, makes for grim research. There are stories from the tragedy that show the full strength of human endurance, two teenage girls clinging on to an upturned lifeboat for 18 hours through the night in freezing waters and managing to survive, a 7 year old boy who survived the night on a raft amongst sleet and hail and choppy seas. One story of endurance however was only realised 8 days after the sinking, when a further 45 survivors were discovered.  Newspaper headlines described them as, ‘back from the dead’.  Read more…

75 years since sinking of ‘Children’s Ship’ City of Benares

14 September 2015 by Jen

Mural showing Michael Rennie, children's escort in the lifeboat with child from the City of Benares. Copyright The Parish Church of St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Mural showing Michael Rennie, children’s escort, in the lifeboat with children from the City of Benares. Copyright The Parish Church of St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the loss of the City of Benares, torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in the North Atlantic during the Second World War.  What makes her loss stand out amongst the many lost merchant ships however is the 90 children she was carrying.  They were travelling under the government’s CORB (Children’s Overseas Reception Board) scheme to evacuate children away from a Britain facing the Blitz, and the ever growing possibility of invasion, to the safer shores of the Dominions, particularly Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.  Read more…

VJ Day remembered in Liverpool

14 August 2015 by Sam

man in uniform

Philip Hayden

Karen O’Rourke, Curator of Urban and Military History at the Museum of Liverpool, writes:

“This week I was asked to supply some extracts for a service at Liverpool Parish Church, Our Lady and St Nicholas, happening tomorrow, Saturday 15 August, at 11am. The service is to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day). The anniversary will see services and events happening across Britain commemorating Japan’s surrender in the Second World War. The surrender effectively ended the War and allowed British soldiers to begin to return home.

The extracts that I supplied are from some of our journals relating to King’s Regiment men who served in the Far Eastern region in the Second World War. Two battalions of the King’s Regiment served in Burma as part of the Chindit expeditions behind Japanese lines.  Read more…

HMT Lancastria: a survivor’s words

17 June 2015 by Jen

Private Tom Wood

Private Tom Wood. Copyright unknown; please contact us if you are the copyright holder of this image, as efforts to trace and obtain permission from the copyright holder have been unsuccessful.

Last week I blogged about the tragic loss of the HMT Lancastria in the Second World War and the commemorative service held at Our Lady and St Nicholas’ church last Saturday.  Used during the service were extracts from a first hand account of the sinking, as told by a survivor in a letter belonging to the Maritime Archives collections. Read more…

HMT Lancastria remembered 75 years on

8 June 2015 by Jen

HMT Lancastria in World War Two.  © IWM (N 375)

HMT Lancastria in World War Two. © IWM (N 375)

Of the many losses suffered by the Royal and Merchant Navies in the Second World War there is one which stands out for the sheer scale of the loss of life involved. The sinking of the HMT Lancastria is one of Britain’s worst Maritime disasters; she sank in less than twenty minutes, following a bombing attack, with the staggering loss of several thousand lives.
Read more…

Recognition for those who served on WWII Arctic Convoys

18 May 2015 by Jen

Brenda Shackleton holding her Father's Artic Star

Brenda Shackleton holding her Father’s Arctic Star.  Image courtesy of Brenda Shackleton.

Last December I blogged about Brenda Shackleton’s fight for greater recognition of the remarkable story of the Merchant Navy Rescue ships and their vital contribution to the Second World War. Men of the Merchant Navy, including Brenda’s father Bill Hartley, crewed these small coastal vessels following the Allied convoys from 1940 onwards, with the sole purpose of rescuing survivors should any of the ships be torpedoed. It was a dangerous and difficult task but their actions succeeded in saving the lives of 4194 men throughout the Second World War.

The ships on all the convoys suffered high risks and terrible losses but there was one particular convoy route described by Churchill himself as:

“The worst journey in the world.”

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.