British wartime leader Winston Churchill brought a special guest with him when he visited the Cammell Laird shipyards in April 1941.
Matching Churchill stride for stride on Merseyside was William Averill Harriman, the personal representative of American president Franklin D. Roosevelt.
A fascinating image from the Echo archive shows Harriman, smartly dressed in a crisp business suit, studiously noting everything he sees during his tour.
Churchill is more traditionally attired in naval cap and double-breasted coat while Cammell Laird chairman R.S. Johnson sports a conservative suit and bowler hat.
The photo captures the contrast between the old world and the new at a critical point in the conflict.
America had just passed the Lend-Lease programme which supplied the allies with food, oil, equipment and weapons in return for leases on army and naval bases.
Churchill was keen to keep Harriman close. The former Yale university man was one of the main Lend-Lease coordinators and an increasingly influential figure in US politics.
While high level politics were being played out at Birkenhead, May 1941 saw some of the heaviest bombing of the war across the city of Liverpool.
Descriptions of the devastation were deliberately kept vague to hide vital information from the Germans. But it is certain that around 4,000 people were killed on Merseyside during the Blitz – a death toll second only to London.
The strategic importance of the port of Liverpool was immense. It handled 75 million tons of equipment and munitions, which accounted for 90 per cent of the military materials coming into the UK during the war.
Powerful archive images tell the story of the destruction wreaked in Liverpool in 1941. St Michael’s Church in Upper Pitt Street was reduced to a charred and smoking shell on May 6th.
Somehow the steeple of the stricken Georgian building survived, only to be demolished with the rest of the church in 1946.
Built in 1816, St Michael’s was modelled on St Martin in the Fields in London and was regarded as one of the most elegant churches in the city.
Liverpool’s Custom House was also gutted by fire along with many homes. A dramatic image shows roof trusses precariously jutting out over demolition squads at work in Opie Street, again in May 1941.
Blown out doors and windows along the street serve as a backdrop to bricks being thrown on the back of the workmen’s lorry.
The human suffering of the bombing raids is etched into the face of a young boy standing outside the shambles of his flattened Liverpool home, also in 1941.
Poignantly, he clutches a picture of the Royal Family as his family and friends try to salvage possessions from the collapsed building.
Mobile canteen units provided much needed comfort and cuppas during the Blitz. Our photo shows women from the volunteer services handing out teas to local residents in May 1941.
It looks like civic leaders and Air Raid Precaution (ARP) wardens have gathered round the van too!
The major role played by women in wartime is emphasised in a series of images recently uncovered in the archive. More of them will feature later this year in a new book by author Clive Hardy.
One of the photos shows women mechanics, again connected to an ARP unit, working on a car in May 1941. It was a scene played out again and again across the UK as men left the workplace to fight abroad.
An image from the Leece Street Labour Exchange in April 1941 shows women registering for war work – something which became compulsory for females aged between 18 and 60 from the beginning of the year.
Women’s conscription began in December 1941 when Parliament passed the second National Service Act. Unmarried women between the ages of 20 and 30 – and able to travel – were given the choice of either joining the services or working in industry.
At one point, the Auxiliary Territorial Service – the women’s branch of the British Army – numbered more than 190,000.
Formed in September 1938 as a voluntary service, it was operational until February 1949 when it was merged into the Women’s Royal Army Corps.
Finally, good humour and community spirit shine through our photo of a tank crew visiting a Kirby ordnance factory in November 1941.
The workers were clearly delighted to welcome the troops – and their tank – who were touring the North West to raise morale.
*Clive Hardy’s latest hardback book, The Home Front – Britain 1939-45, is now on the sale at the special pre-order price of £14.99 including UK postage and packing.
Just go to inostalgia.co.uk/shop to order your book or call the order hotline on 01928 503777.