Wallasey's March Blitz of 1941Written by Zelica Fisher in 1991
Leslie and I had been married in September 1939 and we were sharing a house with my mother and her sister Val. It was into Wallasey of sirens and air-raids that our fist baby was born after the battle of Britain, during an air-raid.
We had a few odd small raids during January and February but it wasn't until the dreaded full moon on March 12th (bad raids often took place at the time of the full moon) and the 'March Blitz' occurred. Just before dusk on the 12th we stood in the garden and watched two planes circle the area, very high up, and we deduced that they were reconnaissance planes. So as darkness fell we were not at all surprised to hear the by now too sickeningly familiar wail of the 'Red Alert'. We hadn't long to wait before the drone of heavy bombers was heard, followed immediately by the scream and crash of bombs. Our anti-aircraft guns opened fire, and they sounded as if they were outside our house. I'm sure those guns never hit anything, but their sound seemed to give some slight confidence to the civilian population. In fact it was popularly supposed that they had a mobile gun which they moved from street to street for this very reason. We had no night fighters at that time, and the barrage balloons which were dotted about the area and which were supposed to keep the planes flying high, lest they should come low enough to machine-gun the anti-aircraft personnel, were soon either shot down or lowered, for there never seemed any to be seen in the sky either during or after a raid, as far as I know, anyway.
Generally the first wave of enemy planes dropped incendiary bombs and flares as targets for the following waves, so all our men folk were outside their houses in Tin-Hats, brandishing bin lids to quench the incendiaries when they flared.
It soon became clear that this raid was going to be the worst we'd had so far, and Leslie brought me a message at once from Molly Colebourne next door via her husband Norman, asking me to come over with the baby Martin to share her battleship shelter in the dining-room with her and her little boy John who was two. It was decided that I'd make a dash for it during the next lull, but every time I went to the front door we saw the sky lit with 'chandelier flares' falling on parachutes and heard the drone of approaching bombers. So although the raid started at about 8.30, it wasn't until 10 o'clock that there was even a minute;s comparative lull for me to run next door with Martin on my arms, escorted by Leslie and Norman Colebourne.
Molly had brought a drawer into the shelter and made a bed for Martin in it, and here we stayed throughout the long hours of that night, during which we heard the continual scream and crash of bombs, and of houses falling in ruins, until we wondered how we could possibly get through the night without our house being hit, and we were surprised to find ourselves still alive and the house still standing when the 'All Clear' finally sounded as it was beginning to get light. However, the two houses were undamaged except for some windows that had been blown in by the blast, and Mother and Val were all right too.
It was bitterly cold windy weather (when we get that kind of weather now in March I relive momentarily the horror of that morning) and a vile smell of burning houses over the town. There was no gas, or electricity. I don't remember of there was water. I don't remember eating anything either. Martin was lucky... he had his meal on tap! We lit a fire in the sitting-room and lounged sleepily in armchairs feeling what nowadays would be called shattered. Leslie went to his work at the Birkenhead Municipal Hospital. Val went to the office. I went out on my bike and surveyed the smashed-up houses in our vicinity. Every house was damaged, if only with blown-in windows. My brother Jo came round from his bungalow a quarter of a mile away. He said that Owen Wilson from his office had invited us all to go out to his house in Heswall to spend a few peaceful nights. We might have to sleep on the floor, but it was better than staying in Wallasey for the next night's raid, he reckoned.
Jo and Muriel with Dawn (6) and Mother decided to go to Heswall on the bus. Val would go there straight from the office. For some reason we were not able to get in touch with Leslie, so we left him a note on the kitchen table telling to go out to Owen Wilson's, and I decided to walk the twelve miles to Heswall with Martin in the pram, by myself, with all his clothes and nappies packed with the pram 'well'.
I gave Martin his two o'clock feed, packed the pram and stepped out into the debris-strewn streets. I shivered as an icy wind blew smuts into the pram and Martin lay there, cooing and smiling; I talked to him as I walked along, and I felt my heart would break because we could do nothing to protect him from the disaster which could happen to us all. I began to feel a little more cheerful as we left the scenes of devastation behind us and came in sight of the green fields outside Wallasey, I saw very few people. I seemed to be walking in a world by myself. I went into a little shop in Moreton and brought some sweets, but I felt as if I were in a dream-shop and the people were dream-people. I just went on walking and walking, talking to Martin until he fell asleep. His pram pillowcase looked all black with the smuts and so did his little fair head.
Three hours later, when I was still about three miles from Owen Wilson's, as I approached Pensby, a girl got off the bus in front of me, and it was Freda Owen from Holt's office! I very nearly burst into tears on her shoulder, she was so kind and sympathetic and I felt so lonely and forlorn, apart from being so tired. I told her of my destination and she said "You must come home with me. It's only just around the corner. You can ring up with Wilsons and tell them you'll go on there later. Freda's mother was an angel. She welcomed me and Martin into her tiny bungalow. She said "You musn't think of going on to the Wilson's tonight. We'll ring them up and tell them you are staying here tonight, and when Leslie gets there he can come on here too, and you can all sleep in my sitting-room."
Martin was incredibly good. I fed him in Mrs Owen's bedroom. She had a single divan bed in her sitting-room, and I slept on the base and Leslie slept on the mattress. It was just glorious not to hear the drone of planes and crash of the bombs. Martin slept in his pram beside us. It was heaven!
Val and Mother, Jo, Muriel and Dawn were all bedded down somehow at the Wilsons house on the common at Heswall. Next day Mrs. Wilson went round to her neighbour's house and being of a very domineering nature persuaded the Joneses, next door but one, to rent to Leslie and me two upstairs rooms in her house for 17/6 a week (including electricity). Jo and Muriel found rooms in Quarry Road with a rather snooty couple who were afraid of having evacuees billeted on them, and Mrs Owen invited Mother and Val to stay with her until they found rooms. This they did very soon, with the Springinigs family in Thingwall, about ten minutes' walk from the Owens.
Heswall was still a village at that time and we were thrilled to be in the country.
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