Wednesday, 6 May 2015


Right in the middle of one of the most intensive German bombing campaigns to hit Liverpool, the ‘May Blitz’ as it became known - seven consecutive nights from the 1 to 7 May 1941 - took the lives of over 1700 people from the city and its surrounding areas, and injured more than 1100 more. During this time around 680 Luftwaffe bombers flew overhead during the nights, dropping almost 2500 high explosive bombs and incendiary weapons onto the city below.

Unexploded Land Mine - (Liverpool Museums)
Bomb Damage (Liverpool Echo)

My own family lived in Hughson Street in Toxteth, and my mother can still recall the night when the house next door was blown to bits by a German bomb - the occupants of the house escaped injury as they were sharing my grandparents air-raid shelter at the time. I can’t be sure of the exact date when this occurred, but I would imagine that there is a good chance that it happened during this particular bombing campaign. However, I can pinpoint another tragic family event which is directly connected to this period of the Blitz.

Lilian Erlis (b.1923 - d.1941)

Today is the 6th May 1941 - 74 years to the day when 18 year-old Lilian Erlis was tragically killed during a bombing raid which took out the family home at 12 Gaskell Street, Toxteth. As can be seen by the map section below, Gaskell Street was situated just a few streets away from where my own family were sheltering in Hughson, and the record shows that the general area was hit quite a number of times - potentially a consequence of the close proximity of the nearby docks.

Gaskell Street, Toxteth, Liverpool (Godfrey - 1908)

Lilian herself would have been sheltering at home with her family at the time of the air-raid, either inside the house itself or in a purpose built shelter nearby. As well as her mother and father, Lilian had three sisters and four brothers - at least two of the brothers would probably have been away fighting for the British forces - the rest may well have been alongside her at the time the bomb fell. It is also likely that her mother, Frances Midwood Erlis, was also injured during the same raid… my mother remembers well that Mrs Erlis Snr (as she knew her), lost both of her legs during the war and ended up in a wheelchair.
Lilian has been remembered and listed within the lists of civilian war dead by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is eye-opening indeed to look through even just a few pages of these documents, for it soon becomes clear that on occasion entire families had been wiped out during the raids - and the location of death involved everything from private homes to shops, mills, warehouses and dockland. Perhaps in hindsight, the remaining Erlis family (and certainly my own mother’s family in nearby Hughson Street), were very lucky to survive indeed.
But today - 74 years after the event - I’ll think about the little girl with the tennis racquet, and all those others who perished and were torn from their loved ones in such a tragic way.
As the lady once said... 'Bless 'em all'.

Commemoration (CWGC)