“Bootle, for its size, took the heaviest bombing in the country. On its worst night during the 1941 Blitz nearly 50 bombs were dropped on the town. With its location, sitting beside the city’s north docks, it was particularly vulnerable – and, night after night after night, the Luftwaffe bombed it again and again and again.”

Until the middle of the 19th century Bootle was a small, quiet Lancastrian village – nothing more than a pretty Merseyside resort.

By the turn of the 20th century it had become a key part of the expansion of the industrial explosion that linked Liverpool with the world.

The growth of the Liverpool dock network northwards together with the expansion of the railways into Bootle turned it into a hub of international industry. Goods were unloaded and processed, ships were built and repaired. Workers came from far and wide transforming the few streets of a few decades earlier into an area teeming with houses, churches, shops and schools.

During World War 2 Bootle’s fortunes turned due to the importance of its docks. In May 1941 its docklands and streets were decimated during the Blitz and it is said that nearly 90% of the town suffered damage with around two thousand residents losing their lives.

Gladstone Dock, opened in 1927, was at the time the most up to date dock in the world. It became a key dock in World War 2 when Captain Frederic Johnnie Walker took over command of the 36th Escort Group during the Battle of the Atlantic. Walker, who lived with his family adjacent to Port Academy Liverpool in Pembroke Road for much of the war, became a war hero, sinking more German U-boats than any other Allied commander, ensuring victory in the Battle of the Atlantic.


Photos copyright Philip B. Parker.

Archive footage of Liverpool Pier Head and docks in this British Council film from 1941