Lancashire At War.co.uk

Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire

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Becconsall, near Southport - A WW2 Crater

and a Bomb Damaged Church Yard

When we were asked by two Becconsall residents, Sheila and Malcolm, did we want to see the WW2 crater in their field, we couldn't turn down such a great opportunity. But then they went the extra mile and invited local man Bob Banister who can be seen in the crater as a young child in the famous old photos of ruined the churchyard.

 

Bob took us to the sites of where all the bombs dropped that day. “I know where everyone dropped, heard them whistling down, then “boom, boom, boom”. I was six years old at the time and as young boys we used to collect bits of shrapnel. That’s me in there [in the crater], I was four, my older brother, my sister Mary (4) and Margaret (8) and that’s George Moss at the back".

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ABOVE LEFT: The photo of Bob and his siblings.     ABOVE RIGHT: Bob in 2017, in Becconsall Old Church  churchyard.

"The Fire Station siren went every night at that time. These planes came over, turned up the estuary and into Liverpool rather than go over Manchester and all the guns that way. I used to get up at night and ask my Mum could I watch the bombs drop at Liverpool. We’d see all the searchlights and all the shells in the sky, every night".

Then one night in April 1941 the bombs dropped much closer to home for Bob. A German Junkers 88 dropped a string of ten bombs across Becconsall and Hesketh Bank.

 

"One dropped in a pile of cows – what a mess! One on the Tit Mouse – in front of the cottage, it didn’t go off.

The next one dropped in farm buildings in front of the Assembly, killed a lot of cows. The next one dropped in the road in front of the grange, that didn’t go off. Two in Whitehead’s field – one of those had delayed action – left a great big mound.

It was a Junkers 88 and was shot down".

Two more bombs dropped near the boat yard but the one that did the lasting damage dropped in the field next to Becconsall Churchyard, damaging many of the headstones. Damage which can still be seen today. Strangely, the headstones show shrapnel damage on BOTH sides, despite the bomb dropping outside the churchyard.

BELOW LEFT: Another photo showing Bob and his siblings with the damaged graveyard up close. BELOW RIGHT: The church has several impact marks still evident, although surprisingly few compared to the gravestones.

BELOW: Bob's map of where all the bombs fell. He knows the precise locations as he and his friends would search them all for shrapnel over the years. Also marked on the map is the Anti Aircraft Gun (marked Gun Battery) which would have still been in use. Just north of it, according to Bob, was a POW camp (where Cropper Gardens are today).

LEFT: The River Douglas by The Boatyard at Becconsall. "One bomb dropped [left of the red sail] and widened the river. The other [to the right and slightly forward of the sheep] killed lots of cows near the Boatyard".

 

BELOW: "Two dropped in the middle of Whitehead's Field (on Station Road) near where a young tree is now. They were delayed action bombs. One dropped on the main road and didn’t go off".

Further information Bob Banister told us:

 

"Warton was a Yankee airfield. All kinds of planes coming over, hundreds of Superfortress’ over there".

 

About the AA Gun emplacement (Seen RIGHT): "They moved the guns before the end of the war, used them at D-Day".

 

Chapel Road, Hesketh Bank:

"That was a Prisoner Of War Camp. A lot of them stayed in the area after the war. They were Italians. They had them working on this farm (Becconsall Hall Farm). Ribble Bank had a lot. All the farms around here had them".

 

U.S. War Storage nearby.

"That dual carriageway from Tarleton to Southport was built before the war– as young boys there were crates and crates of stuff down there. Aircraft were stored down there. In the middle on the grass verges and at the sides on the verges, some with camouflage netting on. Banks roundabout to Tarleton. We used to go on our bikes as kids".

Along The Brow:

RIGHT: "One on the Tit Mouse – in front of the cottage, it didn’t go off."

LEFT: "The next one dropped in farm buildings in front of the Assembly, killed a lot of cows". "Two more dropped in Win's Field,

Shore Road".

Where the other bombs dropped:

Our huge thanks to Sheila and Malcolm for inviting us and for Bob for giving up his time to tell us his stories and take us on a tour of the bomb sites.

ABOVE: An aerial view of the Anti Aircraft Gun Emplacement. Where Bob was once interviewed by Suggs as part of his 'Lost Treasures of World War Two' series.