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Posts tagged with 'second world war'

Unexpected shrapnel

10 November 2011 by Sarah Starkey

Photograph of box containing documents

File of papers relating to postwar repair of the Port of Liverpool building (MDHB collection).

The Maritime Archives & Library holds a very large collection of records relating to the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board (MDHB), who ran the Liverpool & Birkenhead dock system from 1858 until 1971. The MDHB, like most large organisations, were keen on committees and reports, and produced a lot of documents.  These are a great resource for studying the history of Liverpool, but can be a little overwhelming.  Occasionally a box reveals something unexpected, such as this piece of shrapnel stored amongst a file relating to the repair of the Dock Office, the Port of Liverpool Building at the Pier Head.  The note on the envelope states that the shrapnel was taken out of the ‘copper covering of Dome, Dock Office’. The Port of Liverpool Building was hit by a mine on the morning of 3rd May 1941 which caused a fire that destroyed most of the east side of the building before being brought under control. Read more…

Maritime Tales – twice lucky

9 November 2011 by Stephen

ship model

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

Many ships survive attacks in wartime and stay afloat and I like this story because the ship concerned was obviously built to last.

Some ships have a certain look about them – this is one reason vessels hold a great deal of interest to lots of people.

Eight men died in the torpedo attack by a German U-boat submarine but the ship stayed afloat – and went on to survive a second attack later in the First World War. Read more…

Maritime Tales – Bomb Blitz

1 November 2011 by Stephen

Painting of burning city.

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

In the early 1950s we spent our holidays at Llandonna, Anglesey, and locals would describe seeing Liverpool burning 50 miles away across the sea during the Blitz.

Whenever I look at this spectacular painting I am reminded of the vivid stories and how even distant communities felt involved.

The Liverpool Blitz brought the Battle of the Atlantic home to everyone when German bombing raids cost thousands of lives and brought huge amounts of destruction.

Although the docks were the main targets, enormous damage was caused to city and residential areas on both sides of the River Mersey. Four thousand people were killed and a similar number seriously injured. Read more…


26 September 2011 by Sarah Starkey

Photograph of Harrison Line ship named Politician leaving Liverpool

Politician, Harrison Line, leaving dock in Liverpool (reference McR/38/142).

Ok it’s a poor link, but as we don’t have any photographs of politicians, apart from ex-merchant seafarer John Prescot, I thought I’d throw in this photograph of the Harrison Line vessel Politician while the Labour Party Conference is on in Liverpool.

T & J Harrison, like many shipping companies, used a theme when naming their vessels.  In their case it was professions, which are slightly easier to remember than Blue Funnel’s(Ocean Steamship Company) use of characters from Greek mythology.  Harrison Line never named a ship Archivist, but they did have 3 vessels named Custodian, which is pretty close to my job description.  Read more…

Merchant Navy Day (2)

1 September 2011 by Sarah Starkey

Cartoon of man being told not to spoke

Cartoon from Peter Rogan’s wartime log (reference DX/2503)

Merchant Navy Day is celebrated on 3rd September, to commemorate the contribution the merchant navy has made, and continues to make, to Britain.  There is a special service being held on Sunday 4th September at St Nicholas’ Church, Liverpool at 12pm.

This cartoon is taken from the wartime log kept by merchant seafarer Peter Rogan while he was a POW in Milag Nord during the Second World War.  More images from the diary are on our website in a small online exhibition.  With so much merchant navy history to cover, this is just a small example of the service given and hardship suffered by merchant seafarers, plenty more information is available in the records held by the Maritime Archives & Library or on display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Read more…

Maritime Tales – Secret Victory

7 June 2011 by Lisa

A WREN at work

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post and Echo.

I think this story illustrates how timing and quick-thinking can create major shifts in events.

In wartime things move very quickly and often with momentous consequences. I have often wondered what would have happened if war leaders had made different decisions. So often the individual plays a key part in the drama.

The controversial sinking of a British liner just hours after start of the Second World War and the foundering of a German U-boat submarine are strangely linked. Read more…

Liverpool’s Chinese community during the Blitz

4 May 2011 by Lucy

Francesca Aiken, Assistant Exhibition Curator for the Global City Gallery in the new Museum of Liverpool writes:

Seventy years since the May Blitz, the spirit of Pitt Street lives on.

Seventy years ago this month, a devastating aerial bombardment struck Liverpool, ending lives, demolishing homes and displacing whole communities. It is in tribute to “the spirit of an unconquered people” that Liverpool’s Anglo-Chinese community were part of the effort to keep calm and carry on, piecing back together not just buildings but homes and livelihoods.

Pitt Street, 1915, shaped by tall converted warehouse buildings and cobbled streets, stretches out under the constant watch of St Michaels Church spire, busy with dozens of Chinese businesses, from boarding houses to grocers and tobacconists. This was the birthplace of Liverpool’s Chinese community, the destination for seamen from all over the world including Spain, the Philippines, Italy, the West Indies and Scandinavia – to name just a few. To the people who lived and grew up there, this was ‘world’s end.’ Pitt Street was the place to go, bustling with shops and cafes all within easy reach of the docks. Kwong Shang Lung was one of the city’s earliest grocers to specialise in Chinese food, trading from 1915 until the bombs fell in 1941. Read more…

Maritime Tales – Human Toll

8 April 2011 by Stephen

Map of sea routes

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

Until I studied this map (pictured) I was unaware of some of the great distances German U-boats travelled in search of prey.

I had heard stories of people taking pot shots at surfaced submarines coming up for air in Caribbean palm-fringed lagoons. This creates amazing pictures in the mind far from a conventional view of subs as oil-soaked tin cans.

Towards the end of the war there were U-boats capable of travelling from Germany to South America without refuelling and there are rumours top Nazis escaped this way. Read more…

British art gets a make-over at the Walker

21 March 2011 by Lisa

It’s a very exciting week this week as the newly refurbished room at the Walker Art Gallery, ‘British art 1880-1950’, is opening again on Friday. It will showcase pieces from our collections including works by LS Lowry and Lucian Freud, plus many works which have never been on display before!

I had a chat with our curator of British art, Laura MacCulloch, who told me more about what you can expect to see there:

Tell me about the different types of works which are being brought together in this room?

This work brings together paintings, sculptures and works on paper with furniture and ceramics all made between 1880 and 1950.  It’s a really exciting period to explore as artists begin to break away from the traditional, Victorian ideas about art and experiment with styles, colours and techniques. It’s great to be able to show fine and decoratvie arts together because it shows how artists working in all media experimented.

How does this room differ from the more ‘standard’ rooms of paintings in the Walker?

We are aiming to give our visitors more of the context surrounding the art. Between 1880 and 1950 there were huge political and social upheavals brought on by two world wars and increasing industrialisation. We have created an interactive timeline which includes lots of information and images relating to key historical and art historical events. There is more information on the timeline than we could ever fit on a label. Read more…

Convoy HX 219

8 March 2011 by Stephen

Small model ships

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post and Echo

I would not like to be a pirate – apart from being illegal, the chances of meeting a violent end are too great– but I do like the swashbuckling aspects.

The sight of the Jolly Roger (the pirate skull and crossbones) being raised is pretty exciting – it is a part of pirate lore which has been adapted by submariners. 

A British commander first flew the notorious flag in modern times nearly 100 years ago. Read more…

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