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National Fire Service cap badge
This cap badge belonged to my grandfather. During the war he volunteered to join the armed forces, but because he had no sense of smell he was turned down and told to enlist with the fire service instead (it never made sense to me either).
He was on duty in Liverpool and Manchester during Luftwaffe bombing raids. Liverpool got it worse than anywhere outside London (though Hull is often said to have been the most bombed city after London). Over 4,000 people killed, and nearly half of them during the week long ‘May Blitz’ of 1 – 7 May 1941.
Of these attacks, Wing Commander Guy Gibson (the man who led the Dambusters raid) wrote in his book ‘Enemy Coast Ahead’
“The last few nights Liverpool had got it badly. The fires that were started, despite the valiant efforts of the NFS, were still burning the next night, and all the Hun had to do was aim at these.”
Gibson’s book was written while war was still raging, in 1944. After the war, my grandfather said that he and his pals had orders to ignore the burning buildings and make straight for the docks; they were told to save the ships at all costs. Which probably explains why Gibson saw the city still burning the day after.
Guy Gibson did not survive the war. His de Havilland Mosquito crashed at Steenbergen in the Netherlands, 19 September 1944.
Off duty and in Blackpool, Autumn 1941. My mother in the pram. Trip to the seaside after the May Blitz on Liverpool. It was during the blackout, so there will have been no illuminations of course!