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Ski Club City Walk and Lunch — 3rd November 2019, Manchester in WWII

Reporter: Jonquil Lewis

It made a nice change that the weather was dry! Ed Glinert and 34 members met at the "Tile Map" on Victoria Station.

Hitler and his henchmen had made detailed plans for our city following the projected successful UK invasion. They expected to reach the North West by 1943. As part of their preparations they drew up a long hit list of the great and good to be eliminated. Had Operation Sealion been successful the Nazis would have used The Midland Hotel, The Town Hall and The Free Trade Hall for their admin centres and they tried never to bomb that area. They had a 70% accuracy record and only the Free Trade Hall was hit.

On the outbreak of war in September 1939 hundreds of children assembled outside Chetham's School, all equipped with cardboard gas masks, and were quickly evacuated through Victoria Station. No-one knew what to expect, although for several months it proved to be the Phoney War. Meanwhile an entire plywood mock-up of the city was built on the hills above Burnley and illuminated with oil drums at night as a decoy for incoming bombers.

Manchester received its first raid in July 1940, followed in August by a drop of propaganda leaflets, one bundle hitting a policeman! The real blitz on Manchester, the Christmas Blitz, started on 22nd December 1940 and lasted until the 24th involving hundreds of tons of high explosives and thousands of incendiary bombs. 650 people died and 2300 were injured. The buildings damaged included the Cathedral, The Free Trade Hall, the Reform Synagogue, The Royal Exchange building and most of the Shambles area. From the old centre, much of it medieval, just The Shambles pub and The Old Wellington escaped. In all 37,000 devices were dropped over two nights.

Air raid shelters were set up beneath many famous buildings such as Barton Arcade and the Cathedral. When the Americans arrived in the city in 1942 they were amazed to find no colour bar. They could all drink and fraternise together wherever they chose and received a warm welcome.

One infamous figure in all this was Oswald Mosley, 6th baronet of Ancoats and an MP. Look him up if interested. Ed entertained us with many stories of Mancunians' experiences. Even Ewan McColls consciencious objection stance.

After the very interesting walk we all repaired to Giorgios where we had a lovely meal. Nic, the boss, and his team did an excellent job, as did Barry for organising. See you next year but don't leave it till the last minute to book as places are limited!

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