The bombing of Liverpool started in August 1940 when the Luftwaffe attacked Birkenhead. It began a pattern of raids that ebbed and flowed in intensity but by October the city had suffered over 200 air raids – by December that figure had risen to 300.
These bomb tracings show the hastily plotted locations of bombs dropped during one of the city’s most notorious bombing raids – known locally as the Christmas Raids.
In the three nights of sustained and heavy bombing between 20 – 22 December 1940, 365 people throughout Merseyside were killed.
The night of heavy bombing was a busy one for the emergency services with two air raid shelters and the makeshift shelter underneath the railway arches on Bentinck street suffering directs hits. These three incidents alone killed a total of 158 people. Elsewhere in the city casualties mounted as many residential areas were hit.
The tracing shows the area between Bootle and Walton intersected by the main roads of Stanley Road, Melrose Road and Derby Road. It is a measure of the ferocity of the raids that no less than 26 incidents are plotted on this tracing and, other than the main roads south of the most intense bombing area, few identifying features are plotted.
When trying to analyse tracings it’s best to remember they were designed for use in conjunction with maps, which were similar to Ordnance Survey maps, but used the GSGS military grid referencing system, not the standard Ordnance Survey Grid.
What the tracings lack in geographical detail they make up for in detailed explanations of the bombings or incidents and a variety of explosives, varying in size from 50 kilograms to 250 kilograms, are meticulously plotted and recorded. The location of land mines is recorded with their weight in pounds.
Each incident is given a number, followed by the size of the bomb (and type if appropriate) followed by the time of the explosion or drop. Incident No 31 records an unexploded land mine (time unknown) weighing in at 1,000 lbs. Elsewhere individual bombs are recorded testifying to the fact that, by the end of the war, Liverpool laid claim to the dubious honour of being the most bombed city in the UK - outside of London.
All tracings are © National Archives.
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