Tuesday 8th May 1945 marked Victory in Liverpool and all over Europe as the war-weary began to rejoice and Hitler’s war was no more. With it came the end of six years of misery, suffering, courage and endurance and the people of Liverpool, who had played a vital role in the Second World War, celebrated in the streets!
During the Second World War, Liverpool John Lennon Airport was taken over by the Royal Air Force and known as RAF Speke. Rootes built many bombers in a “shadow factory” here, including Bristol Blenheims and 1,070 Handley Page Halifaxes. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation assembled many types, including Hudsons and Mustangs, that had been shipped from the United States to Liverpool Docks. The airport was also home to the Merchant Ship Fighter Unit.
On 8 October 1940 (one day before John Lennon’s birth), Speke was witness to what is thought to be the fastest air-to-air combat “kill” in the Battle of Britain and possibly of all time. Flight Lieutenant Denys Gillam took off in his Hawker Hurricane from Speke to be confronted by a Junkers 88 passing across him. He shot the Junkers down while his undercarriage was still retracting, and, along with Alois Vašátko and Josef Stehlík, all of 312 Squadron, was credited with the kill. The moment has been caught in a painting below by Robert Taylor called “Fastest Victory”.
Liverpool’s importance to the allied war effort was clear to Hitler, who ordered his Luftwaffe to ‘destroy’ the port. During the war, Liverpool was subjected to more bombing raids (68) than any British city outside London, the worst being the terrible 8-night ‘May Blitz’ of 1941. Between 1940 and 1942, nearly 4,000 Merseysiders were killed and 4,000 seriously injured in these raids, which did immense damage to the port and city. But despite this devastation, the work of the port continued. As well as food and war supplies, from 1942 thousands of American and Canadian troops were transported to Britain via Liverpool in readiness for the Allied landings in Normandy, which led to the German defeat in Western Europe.
To commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day events will be taking place across Liverpool, the day will begin on Tuesday morning with the city’s Lord Mayor Cllr Erica Kemp attending a service of Thanksgiving at Liverpool Parish Church, Our Lady and St Nicholas. The bells at Liverpool’s municipal buildings in Dale Street will also be rung for an hour, starting at 11am.
At 3pm, there will be a two minutes’ silence at Exchange Flags to coincide with a national silence and on Tuesday evening the Lord Mayor will host a beacon lighting celebration on the Town Hall back balcony at which the public are invited to watch from Exchange Flags. The short ceremony will begin at 9.24pm in order to ensure the beacon will be lit at the exact time as more than 100 other beacons across the UK. Click here for more details.
Thank you to all those who took part in the war effort from Liverpool John Lennon Airport, and in memory of all those who lost their Lives.