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Liverpool at War
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The Liverpool Experience – Joe Bowers

I was born and grew up in Manchester from 1921 onwards. I must say that as a young boy, in the 1930s, when Everton beat my beloved Manchester City in the FA Cup I never forgave Liverpool. From 1935 to 1939 I had occasion to visit Liverpool Pier Head four times. I worked from the age of 14 to 18 years for the Co-op Society and each Summer we had a “Firms Outing” to Llandudno. This had to be on a Wednesday because the shops closed for the day, and Wednesday was half day closing anyway. On these days we were taken to Liverpool Pier Head where we boarded one of two ships, ‘The St. Tudno’ or ‘The St. Seriol’, for the trip to Wales, returning in the evening. At this stage I remember only The Liver Building.

Come 1939, when I became 18 years old, most people’s lives were changed forever with the onset of WW2.

In 1939 I decided to “join up” and so, for the duration of hostilities, I joined the Life Guards and was based at Windsor. In February 1942, I volunteered for the Parachute Regiment and at the latter end of 1942 I was in the invasion of North Africa and Tunisia, followed by the invasion of Italy. Here my Parachute Battalion took the Naval Base of TARANTO on the 9th September 1943. We then moved up country and in November 1943 found ourselves “wintering” on the Cassino Front. An Italian winter is not nice! Come January 7th 1944 I was badly wounded during battle, so much so that they decided to ship me back to England on the hospital ship, ‘Somerset’, landing at Avonmouth. From here we were all taken to The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham and from there, men were to be taken to hospitals near to their homes.

I was told I was going to West Derby, which really shook me. “Who wants to go to Derby? I live in Manchester.”

The answer to this was, “Too bad!”

This would have been in early March, 1944. We were put on a hospital train and when we arrived at the terminal point I was most surprised to see we were in Preston Station. All we stretcher cases were lined up on the platform. I wondered how Derby could be near Preston. The local women were all crying. I was soon told that I was going to West Derby, a district of Liverpool, and the hospital was called Alder Hey. We were taken to Alder Hey by ambulance and I was put into “S” Ward, in the Military Section. Here I received orthopaedic surgery, followed by long periods of physiotherapy. In fact, I was not discharged until November 1944. I was the lowest medical grade for a person staying in the army. I spent the rest of my service making myself useful at the Parachute Regiment Training Department on the Isle of Wight.

During my stay in Alder Hey I met Nurse Kathleen McCausland. She was on my ward and lived with her parents in Kemsley Rd, Dovecot. We were married in St. Margaret Mary’s Church, in Pilch Lane, on 30th September 1944. Prior to the wedding I had talks with Father Daley, who married us: the talks involved going round into the Church Social Club and having a beer.

Many of the lads were in the habit of breaking through a fence into Springfield Park, crossing the dual carriage-way, and into The Lord Nelson Pub and I was usually with them. Drinking was not allowed whilst a patient in hospital and the Resident Sgt. Blair used to visit the pub to catch us out. Fortunately, the landlord looked out for us. As Sgt. Blair approached he would shout, “Here’s Blair”, at which the land lady would guide us through her living quarters and out the back way.

The ward was adopted by the women employees of Napier Engines, on the East Lancashire Road. They used to visit over weekends and bring us bits of ‘goodies’. The people of Liverpool were so good to all of us. Wherever I went with Nurse Kath, be it on bus rides or to the cinema in Old Swan, nobody would let us pay.

We also used to visit Fazakerley to see Kath’s Aunt Esther and Uncle John. They were wonderful. They had five young children as well as John, who was in the army, but they always managed to pull out something for us. In fact the reason I am writing this is because their daughter is a member of the Liverpool History Society. She is Mary Harrison, nee Kinsella, the only girl in the family, and she was a bridesmaid at our wedding.

After demobilization, Kath and I settled in Manchester, where we brought up a nice family while I moved round the country with my job. I was a road haulage transport manager. We spent six years in Leeds and 25 years in St. Albans. Now we have had 16 years of retirement in the small village of Renhold, Bedfordshire, and are both in our 80s.

On September 30th we celebrated, together with our family, our Diamond Wedding, and also my 83rd Birthday.

Our family to date is: 7 children, 15 grand children and 6 great grandchildren.

Over the last 60 years we have visited Liverpool regularly, but now we only visit at Christmas, Easter and other important dates. Sadly these visits only take us to Yew Tree Cemetery to lay wreaths; – it happens, does it not?

Looking back over the 60 years, may I sum up by saying: “Thank You Liverpool!”

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