Piccadilly, Manchester. Christmas Eve 1940

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Piccadilly, Manchester. Christmas Eve 1940

The heaviest raid of the Manchester Blitz was on 23rd December 1940. This photo, taken the morning after, is at the corner of Piccadilly and Portland Street, looking towards Sackville Street where many cotton warehouses were on fire.

Over the nights of the 22nd and 23rd December 1940, 441 Luftwaffe bombers appeared over Manchester. They were mostly Heinkel 1-11s and Junkers 88s with a few Dornier 17s as well. Bombs fell across Manchester and Salford and the surrounding towns. 654 people were killed over the two nights, and 2279 injured.

A young lad called Frank Walsh, on his way to work, described the scene above;

“….all you could see was one mass of flames engulfing the whole row of five story warehouses on the opposite side – every window alight from end to end – top to bottom, with flames belching from where the roof had been.” Frank Walsh, BBC WW2 People’s War, November 2003

The casualty figures – and the image above – are from Peter J Smith’s excellent book Luftwaffe over Manchester (2003). Wikipedia put the figures a bit higher at 684 people killed and 2,364 injured.

18 comments on “Piccadilly, Manchester. Christmas Eve 1940
  1. andyholmfirth says:

    Has something of the 9/11 ground zero images about it this.

  2. **Hazel** says:

    It must have been very frightening to have been near that inferno!

    So many people killed, so many injured! Thanks for bringing it to our attention Ian!

  3. Neal. says:

    I met a woman a few years back who gave a great description of the blitz in Newcastle, made me wonder how anyone came out the other end alive, amazing how different everything looks today, as if none of it ever happened.

  4. Keartona says:

    It’s hard to comprehend the degree of destruction caused on those nights.

  5. SolarScot. says:

    a good reminder of how futile War is,pain,suffering and in the end we are all friends,hard to imagine for those poor folk back then

  6. pasujoba says:

    The victorian buildings on the left still show the same silohette as back in 1940. They must have had thier windows blown out though .
    Great work Ian , this is a very valid project and marries well with the wreckhunting showing the other side of the coin so to speak.

  7. *Psycho Delia* says:


  8. RodtheRhodie says:

    very powerful imagery Ian

    Seen in my contacts’ photos. (?)

  9. Reflective Kiwi %-) says:

    Wow! Fantastic to see these two shots Ian. It’s September 7th here today… Quite fitting to see these as today marks the Anniversary of the first raids of the London Blitz 1940, when the Germans bombed London! http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/blitz.htm

  10. C J Paul (chris) says:

    brilliant ian love the before and after…
    all that time ago.how lucky are we all today

  11. Lazenby43 says:

    A timely post, 70 years today since the London Blitz.

  12. Tech Owl says:

    Interesting how the rebuild is in a similar style – very interesting to see the same point at these times

  13. redrocker_9 says:

    Really fabulous the way you get these together Ian

  14. Steve Graham (formerly 'grahamsj3) says:

    I’ve grown up with the stories and newreels and films about the blitz and because of them, I always admired the strength of those who endured it night after night after night.

  15. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/60188340@N04] Puts our generation to shame, it was not just those in the armed forces and merchant navy, it was everyone. All those little old ladies we see today, they all lived through and put up with this.

  16. Steve Graham (formerly 'grahamsj3) says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/maycontaintracesofnuts] In my comment, I actually was referring to the many civilians who endured the unendurable during not only the blitz, but anywhere else that was bombed or shelled. Those in combat, military or partisan, displayed courage far beyond anything imaginable. I can’t begin to comprehend the death and destruction they saw.

  17. Barry Turvin says:

    Unbelievable that my mother who had been to visit relatives in Hulme walked through the center of the city whilst the raid was in progress. She had to get home because her elderly parents in Miles Platting had been babysitting me and of course she could not know the extent of the bombing.
    On the same night a bomb landed near Bradford Gas Works killing the family Hurst who were related to my grandmother. Their memorial was to have prefabs erected on the site after the site was cleared.

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