Thursday, 27 December 2012
THE MANCHESTER BLITZ OF DECEMBER 1940
The 'Manchester Blitz' was the name given to the most destructive raids on the city during the Second World War. The Luftwaffe mounted consecutive attacks on the city on the nights of 22/23 and 23/24 December 1940, unleashing 467 tons of high explosive and 1,925 canisters of incendiary bombs. Large areas of Manchester, Salford and Stretford were devastated, leaving an estimated 684 people dead and 2,364 wounded. The horrors were reflected in the records of the City Fire Headquarters, illustrating scenes of chaos and overwhelming pressure on the Fire Brigade, as they struggled to record and deal with the bombings and fires which broke out at the time. The city's civil defence services were overstretched as many units had helped in Liverpool just the night before.
The Manchester Fire Officer's log book recorded incidents as follows:
21 December - 1.09am - chimney fire at Chatham Street
quickly followed by
'Ceiling and roof fire at Barlow Street'
The level of air raid alerts rose steadily throughout that day and the next, and by 6.40pm on 22 December, the Officer simply did not have enough time to record each incident in his book, due to the overwhelming number of calls being received about the fires and bombs that were raining down upon the city.
Details of the devastation were recorded in private letters and diaries too. The Reverend of St Aidan's Church in Audenshaw recorded the following account:-
"Evacuated children had just returned home to spend a few days at Christmas with their parents. With constant heavy drones, menacing and monotonous, the planes began to circle ahead, slowly but with certain surety the flames began to take hold and spread. The streets were like rivers of fire, and into the midst of the fires came heavy bombs and mines. By midnight Manchester was a City of flame and thunder. Old buildings of historic treasure went roaring up into the sky. Death fled through the little alleys and into the homes of the rich and poor alike."
The bombings ceased around midnight on 22nd December but in the early hours of 23rd, the bombers returned. Again, Manchester's Fire Officer did not have enough time to record each separate incident, and he wrote later:-
"The results of this second attack were devastating. The major portion of the fire services personnel was by this time completely fatigued, and it is surprising that the men attacked the fresh fires with such vigour and spirit."
The sky was illuminated by flames which could be seen from towns over 20 miles away. A teacher who had been evacuated from Guernsey to England in June 1940 wrote this in his diary:-
"By the light of the fires burning in Manchester 8 miles away, a newspaper could be read in my street! Poor Manchester! The sky was literally 'alive', shells bursting, flames, searchlights, and to which the glow of tremendous fires just added the reality to the pictures, and proved beyond doubt that this noise, this upheaval, meant destruction, murder and death."
A report published by Manchester Corporation stated that 68 dwelling houses had been destroyed and another 483 damaged so badly that demolition was necessary. 8 factories had been completely destroyed and 159 damaged so badly that demolition was necessary. Many public buildings had been severely damaged, including the Free Trade Hall, Cross Street Chapel, the Cathedral, Chetham's Hospital, the Corn Exchange, Smithfield Market and St Anne's Church. Amazingly, the Old Wellington Public House, which dates from around 1552, survived the Blitz whilst everything around it was destroyed. The pub also survived the Manchester IRA bomb of 1996!
Yet despite these horrors, the Reverend of St Aidan's Church proudly recorded the stoic attitude of the people of Manchester:-
"For one week we stumbled and fell, dazed and bewildered. But when the New Year dawned, Manchester was on its feet again. Shops were open, factories were working, and Manchester was pulling her weight, mightier than ever. It is only when the pall of smoke and grime lifts, and the sun shines through that we see the broken and proud remains of our proud city."
To view BBC film footage of the damage caused by the Manchester Blitz, click here:
To view a memorial, located in Piccadilly Gardens, to the civilians who died, see:
To view archive maps which pinpoint the bombed sites, click here:-
READ PART OF MY BOOK FOR FREE HERE: 'Guernsey Evacuees: The Forgotten Evacuees of the Second World War' - : http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00AAL5TNC/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_fRe5qb1CY4PPE