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Tonge Moor Library today

The air raid shelter was in the basement of the old Tonge Moor Library.

The library is now in the new Castle Hill Centre and as far as I am aware does not have an air raid shelter

The One and Only Tonge Moor Bomb

by a Tonge Moor Lad

Air raid shelters of different kinds soon appeared after 1939. Households that had back gardens were issued with Andersen shelters. They were made of galvanised sheet steel. The centre section formed into an arch, bolted in the centre, and the front and rear were upright panels, one with a low entrance. When erected roughly half was buried in soil, the protruding top half then had to be covered with any available soil or sandbags by the householder. Internally a pre cast concrete well was positioned in the centre, and then cemented in to form a seating area.

To begin with they seemed ideal, and soon people began to customise them with wooden seats, cushions, and oil heaters. Hot thermos flasks were always kept ready for when the sirens sounded. As most air raids took place after dark, the prospect of leaving a warm bed to stay in a clod environment soon palled, and being Lancashire, the sight of the inside being filled with water soon made people try different places to shelter. Under the stairs was a favourite one. On the newsreels of that time most structural damage shown to housing had left this area of the property mostly untouched.

My favourite shelter was under the old Tonge Moor Library. At the sound of the sirens it was a quick sprint of 50 yards to join all my mates. What a good excuse to stay up late, never giving a thought to the consequences if a bomb had hit the building above.

The shelter still exists and covers about one third of the floor area of the building. There are two separate areas, with no lighting, and an earth floor. A look round about 5 years ago revealed a dark and dismal place, with just an old sign with the word silence in capital letters, littering the earth floor.

During a stay in the shelter under Tonge Moor Library, around late 1940 or 1941, there was a loud explosion near at hand. The entrance was guarded by the resident Air Raid Warden who wouldn't let anyone leave until the all clear sounded. Everyone wanted to know where the bomb had dropped. He didn't know. A short time later other Wardens patrolling the nearby streets arrived with the information. It had fallen in Tintern Avenue at the junction with Le Gendre Street, about 200 yards away.

The following day, being curious, we wanted to see what if any damage there was. Luckily, it must have been a small bomb, as it caused little obvious damage. It had fallen behind the Andersen shelter into soft earth, moving it from the upright to an angle of 45 degrees. Luckily no one had taken refuge there that night.

One night, on the compulsive evening radio channel, listening to Lord Haw Haw, we were promised a visit by the Luftwaffe. He said that Turner Brothers Engineering, by the babbling brook, was due one. They didn't.

Living in a house that had south facing bedroom windows, we could, during the heavy bombing of Manchester, watch in comparative safety, the bombs exploding, and the fires and anti aircraft shells in the night sky. In the area west of that the fires also illuminated the Liverpool skyline.

Soon after the outbreak of war in 1939, all civilians were issued with a standard gas mask, encased in a small cardboard box complete with a string shoulder carrier. To begin with it was deemed compulsory to carry this item of luggage at all times, going to work, shopping or school. The mask consisted of a rubber composition face piece, celluloid visor, with circular filters covering the nose and mouth. To ensure a correct fit an arrangement of canvas straps held it in place over and behind the head. Being a junior pupil at Castle Hill Council School the practise of how this item should be properly fitted began soon after. Teachers had to examine each in turn to ensure a correct fitting, adjusting the straps making sure gas would not enter via a loose fitting. When satisfied that all 25 to 30 children met with the correct requirements, it was decided that we should all get accustomed to their use by sitting at our desks for ten minutes with them in place. Problems soon arose. Shortly into this exercise the visor steamed up, unable to see anything. After ten minutes the combination of rubber and perspiration odour was enough to put anyone off wearing them again.

By 1941, the practice of carrying them in this area was a thing of the past. Maybe in other regions of the UK people still carried them but at the age of 11 entering into the senior classes we certainly didn't.

Every one was issued with identity cards. The card consisted of a small piece of cardboard folded in half approximately four and a half inches by three inch. Inside it held the name, address, and official impressed stamp, identity number of two letters followed by three blocks of two numbers ending with one letter.

It was compulsory to carry this at all times. Police, Air Raid Wardens, etc. could ask to see this at any time. Failure to produce it could end with a trip to the local police station and a possible fine.

For those people issued with this card during wartime, on the inception of the National Health Service in 1947, the card numbers became the National Insurance numbers we have today.