Captain Johnnie Walker
Liverpool was one of the heaviest targets outside London during World War II. The German's intention was to close off the ports of Liverpool and effectively cut off Britain's main artery for supplies. Liverpool heard the fearful air raid sirens over 500 times with bombs dropped on the city on no less than 79 occasions. As a result of the air raids on Merseyside, 2,596 people were killed with almost the same number seriously injured. More than 11,000 homes were completely destroyed and over 150,000 damaged.

The May Blitz on Merseyside was one of the last series of big raids on Britain before the German invasion of Russia. It involved 681 bombers in all. They dropped about 870 tonnes of high explosive bombs and over 112,000 incendiaries (firebombs). This was the last major air assault on Merseyside during the war. It caused massive damage to the city centre, the port and the entire area.

In May 1941, the Luftwaffe made a concentrated effort on Merseyside and the devastation that followed in eight nights of terror will never be forgotten. 1,746 people lost their lives with 1,154 seriously injured. In the eight day period, the city suffered the most intensive and destructive raiding it had experienced during the war. Each night around the hours of midnight, wave after wave of planes bombarded the city and surrounding areas with bombs, parachute mines and incendiary devices.

Many city centre buildings were completely destroyed and thousands of Merseysiders took refuge each night in the suburbs, sleeping in the open. Amazingly, 41,000 people were found accommodation within a week with a further 10,000 finding refuge in other areas.

Hundreds of fires burned out of control throughout the city and fire fighters battled relentlessly to extinguish them before the hours of darkness and the next fearful wave of attack. Bodies of the young and old lay in streets or buried beneath the rubble. Hospitals and mortuaries were completely full and in one mass funeral on 14 May, approximately 1000 people were buried at Anfield cemetery in a common grave.

At the time, media censorship meant that the horrors befalling the city went unreported in order to boost morale. Liverpool was known simply as a 'Northern Town' with the varying degrees of devastation referred to as 'incidents'. Despite the severe attack, the port of Liverpool was still able to handle over 85,000 tons of cargo and remained the main point of entry for essential supplies. Hitler's plan to destroy the city and its port certainly knocked the stuffing out of the proud city, but the character and pride of the people of Merseyside was too strong.

After the eighth consecutive night of attack on May 8, the bombers did not return to Merseyside on such a scale again.

'I see the damage done by the enemy attacks, but I also see the spirit of an unconquered people.' - British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, May 1941

The Battle of the Atlantic was conducted from Derby House, Liverpool and was a major factor of the second World War that lasted the full duration of the war. German submarines relentlessly attacked the essential convoys of food and supplies to Britain. Winston Churchill said that he feared the U-Boat menace more than any other form of attack during the conflict.

Commander F J Walker did more than any other man at sea to win the Battle of the Atlantic, which Churchill described as the dominating factor throughout World War Two. Walker's knowledge and experience of the Navy enabled him to come up with revolutionary methods, which gave the Royal Navy supremacy.

Eventually promoted to Captain, 'Johnnie' Walker became a legend in the history of the Royal Navy. He will always be remembered as the destroyer of 20 U-boats for which he was awarded a CB and four DSOs.

He died of exhaustion in July 1944 and was buried at sea. A bronze statue portrays him, looking out to sea with binoculars in hand. Tom Murphy erected the statue in 1998 after fundraising by the Captain Walker Old Boys' Association.


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