We have always had an interest in World War Two. As children we grew up watching exciting WWII films as well as the wonderful Dads Army comedy. But other than stories told by Grandparents, the war seemed so far away. It was all fought abroad wasn't it? We didn't see it here? But as we have started to research the subject on a local scale, we have realised that the War did indeed reach Lancashire more than just rationing and the "war effort".
There are little bits of hidden history all over the place. Active sites set up to fight the enemy such as Anti Aircraft Guns and Searchlights, working sites such as POW camps, and hidden sites such as Small Arms Dumps, Pillboxes and secret defence hordes. Plus decoy sites, bomb sites and even defended factories. Many of these still remain in some form today.
This building looks, to the uneducated eye, like another public toilet. An entrance at each end - and a row of cubicles? Are those vents? Are they old windows? Why is there a section of brick behind them at an angle....wait a minute.... are they for guns! This is not a toilet. Is it an air raid shelter or is it a defensive building?
Everyone knows about the POW camps that British troops tried to escape from abroad. But we had them here housing Germans and Italians. BUT many were Internment Camps - places where they put innocent foreign nationals. Imprisoned without trial or evidence of any real threat. Some sites were totally unsuitable!
In fields and park lands across the country there is still evidence of the fight against the enemy bombers. Searchlight sites and Anti-Aircraft gun sites around Lancashire
Heaton Park, one of the largest parks in Europe had another life during WW2 - It was an RAF training base. It had searchlights and Anti Aircraft guns to protect it. But the Germans knew all about it!
It was also used in WW1 as a training camp.
The last line of defence? Or everyday obstacles in place in case of some sort of invasion? The sort of lumps of concrete you don't give a second thought about - until you realise what they are there for!
On Christmas Eve 1944 a V2 rocket landed on a row of terrace houses in Tottington, Bury. Leaving seven dead for no apparent reason. It is amazing to think that in the 1940's weapons could be launched from so far away that could cause so much damage and fear. Today, this site is a memorial garden to those who lost their lives.
What were people doing up on the Moors around Lancashire lighting fires and showing lights on purpose? The story of Starfish sites and other similar projects is little known. But there is still evidence of this secret war all around us. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION AND PHOTOS
Auxiliary Units were effectively a “secret army”, trained to give covert resistance if Britain was invaded by the Germans. They would operate in the area where the occupying army was and participate in guerilla like tactics. Drawn from all walks of civilian life, they would be expected to attack military vehicles, destroy ammunition dumps, wreck railway tracks and disable enemy aircraft that were on the ground.
The relics of Second World War airfields
Near Ormskirk, around Burscough. Pillboxes, fortified houses, fortified barns, fortified pubs, Anti - tank traps, it has the lot!
Some people think they were Air Raid Shelters and they are similar to some surface shelters. But those shelters are usually much larger and don't aways have a blast wall shielding the door. You wouldn't fit many people in these. There are similar buildings on airfields where they were Small Arms Dumps/Stores. They are next to main roads. Easily viewed and not particularly hidden. Neither is on any land belonging to a house or any other building. There are a few houses nearby - but would they all try and fit in if there was an air raid?
It is perhaps hard to imagine now, but there was a time when invasion by Nazi Germany seemed inevitable. We were losing the war. We were largely on our own (America had not yet joined the cause). As the Battle Of Britain seemed to be on the brink of collapse with huge losses to our air defence and the retreat from Europe at Dunkirk, Britain prepared itself for invasion. "Never Surrender" Churchill said, and so we built defensive structures all over the country not just around London and the South Coast. This was going to be a battle to the death involving guerilla tactics and terrorist-like thinking. Plans were in place to fight to the last man and woman, like the French Resistance had done.
Two parachute mines were dropped on Stubbins causing extensive damage
World War Two air raid shelters came in all shapes and sizes. If you look carefully there are still some to see today. Hidden in caves, in Public Parks, outside schools, in back streets....CLICK HERE TO SEE SOME EXAMPLES
Torpedos and The Sound of Music, Tank production, crashed bomber memorials, hidden rooms, Home Guard maps....
Things that do not fit anywhere else
Lost WW2 Airfields page CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS