William Oliver Tyers

Much of my research deals with facts and figures, through incident reports, statistics, photographs and archive records. I always try to remember that behind every casualty list there is a personal story, usually by its very nature of tragedy and loss. What may at first seem a relatively minor incident in which two or three people are killed, will not have seemed trivial to those who knew the victims, be they family or friends. It is with this in mind that I am always interested in trying to find the story behind the facts, and I’m always keen to hear from people who have a personal or family tale to tell about the Blitz.

This particular story relates to a gentleman called William Oliver Tyers

1016567_10201599747531560_1282565938_n

Captain William Oliver Tyers (Photo courtesy of Andrew Moore)

Born in Nottingham in 1871, he had lived a fascinating life, including service for the Brocklebank Shipping Line. In 1914 he was captain of the SS Manipur for a return journey to Calcutta. Another man on board, John Hilton Davies, compiled a three volume diary of the journey, including photographs. Two volumes of the diary eventually came into the possession of Andrew Moore, who has done some sterling work in researching the people involved. You can see his website at the link below:

http://www.drewmog.co.uk/to-india-and-back—the-story-behind-the-books.html

Andrew is obviously keen to learn as much about the story as possible, so posted a photograph of William on Wallasey Memories, a Facebook group I am a member of. Knowing that William was a victim of the air raids on Wallasey I was asked by a fellow member to check whether I had any photographs of the incident. William lived at 54 Manor Road, Wallasey in 1940, which stood on the corner of Manor Road and Belgrave Street. Many of the houses in this area were badly damaged during the raids in late December 1940, known as the Christmas Blitz. William’s house was hit on the night of the 20th December, and he sadly died.

Manor Road (1)

View of Manor Road from near the junction with Belgrave Street, number 54 would have been on the far right of this photograph

Source: Wallasey Central Library

Manor Road (2)

The view looking in the opposite direction. the houses in the distance are on the far side of the junction with Belgrave Street and the Memorial Church can just be made out.

Source: Wallasey Central Library

As can be clearly seen, the damage in this area was quite considerable, and many casualties occurred nearby. In addition to William Tyers, Elsie Josephine Denvir was also killed at number 54 that night. Number 54 is listed as her residential address in the Civilian Roll of Honour, but William Tyers is listed as the main occupant on pre-war street directories. She was 38 years old at the time of her death, and married to a P J Denvir. He is not listed as a fatal casualty, so presumably survived the raid, perhaps as he may not have been present.

Next door at number 56 four members of the Brayshaw family were killed. Grace Elizabeth (aged 70) and her husband John (69) fell alongside their daughters Grace Matilda (40) and Marjorie (42). At number 58 Alexander Ramsey (50) fell alongside Janet Potter who at aged 80 would have been one of the oldest victims of the air raids. The remains of these other two properties are also visible in these photographs.

The archives contain photographs showing damage to other buildings in Manor Road during this raid, including numbers 60/62, 101 and several unnumbered photographs. In terms of descriptions of the incident however, details are more sketchy, since the archive reports tend to treat the attacks of the 20th – 23rd December 1940 as one raid, with damage lists given for the whole period rather than individual nights.

It may never be possible to learn more details about how William, Elsie and the others met their fate that night. However it is important that we remember that every one of the nearly 4,000 people killed on Merseyside during the Blitz had life up to that point, and left a big hole in the lives of those who knew them. I hope you have found this article about one of those 4,000 to be of interest.

Advertisements

A Blitz Guide: Bombs

There are several terms that I use a lot on this blog that I generally take for granted because I read about them so often in books or wartime reports. I sometimes forget that what is familiar to me may make no sense to some readers, so with that in mind I thought it would be helpful to do a series of posts explaining some of these terms, and thought I would start with bombs.

This is a fairly generic term that is used frequently both during and after the war to describe any kind of device dropped by the Luftwaffe on the city. In general they came under three main categories: Parachute Mine, Incendiary and High Explosive. These were often referred to in short form as PM, IB and HE respectively, sometimes accompanied by the letters UX beforehand to indicate that it had failed to explode.

allbombs

Different sizes of German High Explosive bombs

They varied in size from tiny 1kg incendiary bombs all the way up to the 1800kg monster that the Germans nicknamed “Satan”. Generally speaking the larger the device, the more damage it was likely to inflict, however much also depended on the circumstances and location where it went off. For example incendiary bombs were often very easy to deal with, especially if they fell in a well populated area and were not accompanied by any high explosive devices. Local people had received training or pamphlets on how to deal with these, and often did so without trouble (until that is the Germans started to include an explosive charge in the device)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

An example of one of the small incendiaries used by the Germans

Should these same incendiaries land in a commercial or industrial area however, or the locals be in shelters due to the high explosives, fires could easily be started by the incendiaries. The authorities deployed fire watchers to try to counter this, but it was impossible to locate every device in time to prevent it from starting a fire. Should the fire brigade then be unable to control these fires, the damage to the buildings concerned would be out of all proportion to the size of the bomb.

Parachute Mines were another example of a device that inflicted damage out of proportion with its size. Although still large, the standard types used by the Luftwaffe were 500kg and 1000kg, smaller than the largest high explosive bomb. These mines however would be designed to descend on a parachute and explode above ground 25 seconds after impact. The resulting blast and shock wave could easily demolish half a street if they came down in a residential area. Virtually all of the major incidents during the blitz on Merseyside were caused by parachute mines.

0805_large

A parachute mine which landed in the garden of a house in Score Lane, Childwall. The device was one of 30 which fell on the night of the 28th/29th November 1940, 8 of which failed to explode

A major problem for the authorities was also unexploded bombs. They standard procedure was to evacuate the immediate area and prevent any traffic passing through. A bomb disposal team would then be called in, sometimes from the Royal Navy if a mine was involved (the parachute mines were technically a naval weapon adapted for use against land targets). Such devices caused great problems as it made a lot of people homeless, even if only temporarily. Often the bomb would still go off, either as there hadn’t been time to get a disposal team to it, or because their efforts had been unsuccessful. The work was very dangerous and many of these brave men lost their lives in the process.

There are almost certainly still some of these devices around today, in May 2006 a 500kg device was discovered in the Mersey, close to Twelve Quays in Birkenhead. Although dealt with by the Royal Navy without incident, it was a stark reminder that the legacy of the blitz is with us still in more ways than one.

A Purpose Built Shelter

People sought safety from the air raids in many ways, including going to what they felt was a safe spot in the house such as under the stairs. For many, this was not enough, and they sought safety through a shelter, whether that be public or private. Most of the latter were of a fairly generic design, indeed two of the most popular types, the indoor Morrison Shelter and the outdoor Anderson were provided by the government in kit form, for the individual to put together.

This article however is about a very unusual type of private shelter located at 61 Longland Road, Wallasey. This was in fact commissioned by the owner of a house , A J D Jenkins, in response to the raids. Much of the information for this article, along with the photographs of the deeds come from the current owner, to whom I am very grateful. The wartime photographs are from Wallasey Central Library.

When war broke out many people were genuinely concerned that air attacks would start immediately and kill thousands every week, but in fact it would be nearly a year before the enemy began bombing Merseyside. After the initial scare had died down it must have seemed to many that their fears were unfounded, but starting in August 1940, regular raids struck Merseyside.

The owner would have been aware of this, and would have seen the raids increase in intensity and frequency. In October 1940 many nearby roads were hit, including Withens Lane where numbers 87 and 89 took serious damage.

Image

87 and 89 Withens Lane

A note on the deeds states that the plans were commissioned on the 4th November 1940, around three weeks after the raid which inflicted the damage above. Its impossible to know how long it took to complete the work, but during the Christmas Blitz, Withens Lane was hit again. At 61 and 63 Withens Lane 3 people died, whilst at the same time a Nursing Home on the corner of Manor Road and Withens Lane was struck with 13 people losing their lives.

Image

Corner of Urmson Road (left) and Withens Lane showing damage to number 61 and 63 Withens Lane. The man commissioned to design the shelter (D. H. Pettigrew) lived at number 67 Urmson Road.

Image

The Old Persons Home on the corner of Manor Road and Withens Lane. St Mary’s Church can be seen on the left.

The deeds are fascinating for so many reasons, not least because of the amount of thought that went into the plans. The shelter was built underneath an existing garage, with steps leading down to it at one end, and an emergency exit on one side which lead into a footpath running alongside the property. The roof of the shelter would be six inches of reinforced concrete, whilst the emergency exit was to be lined with steel plates. Several air vents were also built into the walls.

The shelter would also include 4 bunk beds, a chemical toilet and a water tap. Not much to ourselves, but enough to the owner and their family to stay in each night there was a raid until the all clear, or if  the worst happened and the shelter was trapped by falling rubble, the occupants could last until help could arrive.

It is interesting to speculate whether it would have been easy to obtain materials such as reinforced concrete and steel plate at a time when they would have been much in demand.

Image

Overview of the plans

photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

Three closer shots of the plans

Once completed it must have provided the owner with a sense of security that many in the region did not have. The shelter is now sealed off and like most old shelters regularly fills with water, but it is still there, a testament  to the fear the Luftwaffe’s raids instilled in people, and the ingenuity of local people in finding a way to stay safe.

If anyone has similar information, or knows something about the shelter that was in their house or family, do please let me know.

The Lancaster Avenue Miracle

Image
 
This photograph shows the view along Lancaster Avenue in Wallasey, shortly after the area was devastated by enemy raiders on the night of the 12th/13th March 1941. It looks fairly bad, indeed it was very bad, with around 30 people killed in the immediate vicinity.

Sometime on the 16th workers were clearing away rubble in this area when they heard the faint cries of a child. Working with great care they managed to clear a safe route to the noise and found a tiny baby girl, somehow sheltered by the bodies of her parents. She was rescued and taken to Victoria Central Hospital, where she made an amazing recovery. To the rescuers the remarkable survival of this child (who was barely a few months old) must have seemed a welcome miracle in a sea of tragedy.

I later found out through a lady on my author page that the girl’s name was Irene Marriott and her parents were Arthur and Jenny, and lived at number 50. I’m told that in recent years she was reunited with one of her rescuers by one of the local radio stations.