Manchester Blitzed

A building crashes to the ground at Deansgate in the centre of Manchesteron the 22nd December 1940. Firefighters can just be discerned at the bottom right.

After two nights visiting Liverpool the Luftwaffe moved on to Manchester, for the nights of the 22nd and 23rd. 122 people were killed and 426 seriously injured. Frank Walsh had only just left school and was working for Abel Heywood, a printers in the centre of Manchester:

We had only just finished the Sunday tea. It was at 6-38 pm on that evening of the 22nd December when the sirens sounded their blood curdling wailing warning into the cold night air. Many people took to the shelters, but we decided to bed down under the large strong oak table standing against the wall in the living room of Scott Road.

Almost immediately the drone of the planes engines could be heard overhead. The steady crump of the estimated 233 bombs that were said to have been dropped that first night could be heard exploding throughout the night, along with the many thousands of incendiary bombs that had been strewn across a wide area and many districts.


As the night dragged on, I ventured upstairs once or twice to look through the back bedroom window. Each visit saw the skies over Manchester getting ever redder and brighter as the flames took hold and the fires spread from building to building.


The following morning I cycled to work, arriving on time at 8 o’Clock and went straight to the roof to join most of the staff who had managed to get to work, enjoying the best view of the biggest fire ever seen in Manchester. Climbing on to the letter H, you could see the whole of the centre of Piccadilly ablaze from Mosely street to Portland street.


Lever Street was blocked off with fire appliances, but making my way down Newton Street to reach the corner where it joined Piccadilly, all you could see was one mass of flames engulfing the whole row of five story warehouses on the opposite side – every window alight from end to end – top to bottom, with flames belching from where the roof had been. Like a backcloth to some giant inferno. A sight never to be forgotten by those that witnessed that giant furnace of flame and smoke. This block of buildings is where the Piccaddilly Hotel now stands. You could not bear to touch the walls of the building housing the BBC opposite because the bricks were so hot. Firemen were even spraying water on these walls opposite, causing steam to rise skywards.

Read his full story at BBC People’s War, see also BBC images.

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