It would be hard to imagine a book that resonates more with today’s uncertain times than Clive Hardy’s latest nostalgia offering – The Home Front – Britain 1939-45.
The unshakeable spirit of a kingdom facing unparalleled challenge shines through Hardy’s highly readable commentary coupled with inspirational images from Britain’s local and national newspaper archives, including the M.E.N.
The result is a hardback that encapsulates the hope rising from the ashes of blitzed cities, the engaging innocence and cheerfulness of child evacuees and the gritty determination of hard-pressed servicemen and women.
We see Dad’s Army volunteers ready to tackle crack Nazi paratroopers with broom-handles and Zulu spears from a long forgotten conflict, women working all hours to make munitions, and Land Girls keeping the wheels of agriculture turning.
There is no shortage of photographs from Manchester and the North West either in what is the ninth publication from Withington company iNostalgia Ltd.
The Christmas Blitz of December 1940 is covered in detail, along with the industrial output of Trafford that produced the hardware to fight the war.
Images include the manufacture of Rolls Royce Merlin engines for Spitfires, Hurricanes and Lancaster bombers at the Ford shadow factory in Eccles and barrage balloons being assembled at Gaythorn Gasworks.
There are scenes of jubilation as crowds celebrate VE Day in the centre of Manchester and street parties break out in the suburbs.
And there’s Belle Vue too. Manchester’s pleasure park never closed throughout the war as thousands sought to forget their woes for a few hours or more after entering the main gates on Hyde Road.
In The Home Front, Hardy takes us from the first stirrings of conflict right through to victory in Japan in August 1945. There is a wonderful mix of family memories and stories as well as the usual informed analysis from a seasoned researcher and writer.
Hardy actually started working on The Home Front well before Coronavirus first visited our shores. “I always wanted to gather together the extraordinary images from our newspapers during the war years”, he said. “Particularly our local newspapers.
“I’m full of admiration for the work of the Home Front photographers who portrayed the struggle and kept the nation informed – often at risk to their own lives”.
One photographer whose work is strongly profiled in the book is Daily Mirror cameraman George Greenwell, who took what are now regarded as iconic shots of St Paul’s Cathedral at the height of the London Blitz in December 1940.
“His images are breathtaking”, said Clive. “There’s one panorama from the dome of St Paul’s showing the statues of apostles silhouetted against the raging fires below. It was used right across pages 6 and 7 of the Daily Mirror on New Year’s Eve 1940”.
But it’s perhaps the images of everyday life that are the most stirring in Hardy’s book. Images like workers balancing precariously on the end of a tram track in the hope of prising a damaged rail from a bombed-out road to salvage it for the war effort.
Or the heart-warming picture of US troops stationed in England spending their own time and money taking children on a cinema trip in December 1943.
There are some fascinating chapters on entertainment and sport, not always covered in wartime memoires. Football was played, albeit on a limited basis, for most of the conflict.
There are jubilant images of Preston North End winning the 1941 Football League War Cup by beating Arsenal 2-1 in a replay at Blackburn’s Ewood Park, and Charlton Athletic playing Reading at The Valley.
Boxing matches were staged on the deck of the Queen Mary moored in Liverpool in October 1941 and the annual Derby horse race transferred from Epsom to Newmarket.
Greyhound racing was hugely popular as it was accessible to everyone. Home-raised dogs could compete with the best on tracks throughout the country.
Hardy includes all the wartime entertainment icons – Wigan’s own George Formby, Flanagan and Allen, Tommy Handley and Vera Lynn to name but a few – as well as providing insight into the BBC Home Service and less familiar shows that toured local theatres.
He also takes an intriguing look at wartime censorship as well as morale-boosting photos that were really not what they seemed – possibly the ‘fake news’ of their day!
In an interesting piece of detective work, Hardy shows how a George Greenwell image of air raid warden Percy Dale helping a Blitz victim in 1940 was in fact a staged shot superimposed on a photo of London’s Paternoster Row in flames.
It was like the famous picture of a London milkman making his way through the rubble to deliver milk, again in 1940. The milkman was actually the photographer’s assistant.
Whatever their genesis, the images did their job.
So too will this book. It could just be the ideal gift for this most unusual of Christmases.
‘The Home Front – Britain 1939-45’ is now on the sale with a special pre-order price of £14.99 – including UK postage and packing. You can get it online from iNostalgia here, or call the order hotline on 01928 503777.
ABANDONED MANCHESTER: Exploring the city’s derelict buildings
Manchester has countless abandoned and derelict buildings waiting to be explored…
While Manchester is one of the most up-and-coming cities in the UK at the moment, a vast proportion of its industrial past continue to stand derelict to this very day.
And, luckily for those of us who don’t fancy stepping foot into a crumbling building housing many ghosts, there’s one man exploring all of Manchester’s abandoned gems for us.
Matthew Holmes, known as The Derelict Explorer on social media, has explored every old and eerie building Manchester has to offer, wether it be the sinister looking Odeon on your walk home or a crumbling old cottage out of the city.
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from his page…
The Smith’s Arms Pub, Ancoats
A true Ancoats staple, The Smith’s Arms pub opened all the way back in 1827 and is now one of the last of the ‘slums’ left in the area, where poor factory workers lived on top of each other in rows and rows of terraced houses.
As a result of decline in the surrounding factories and mills, the number of workers using the mill dropped after the 1960’s, something that had a massive impact on the pub. Sadly, in 1990, it was forced to close it’s doors for good.
Remarkably, the building still contains a number of original features, including a narrow Georgian staircase still located in the middle of the building, the original entrance door from 1775 and the tiled entrance flooring, which is arguably the best part of the building.
Old Adelphi Building, Salford
The Old Adelphi Building opened in 1915 as a chemical factory built for Griffiths Hughes, a company who made products such as Rennies (saviour), Radox, Kruschen Salts and Trugel.
The building was eventually bought by the Salford Royal College of Advanced Technology and, in the late 1980’s, was eventually renamed to Adelphi Campus and became the School of Media, Music and Performance.
The building closed in 2016 but, today, it remains derelict and still contains remenants from its time as a college, complete with tables, chairs, music equipment and even old dissertation feedback forms.
Chorlton Swimming Baths, Chorlton
The Chorlton Swimming Baths opened its doors in 1920 with separate male and female pools in a time when people were separated by their class and gender.
The building also housed a wash room so the local residents could wash their clothes. Later this became the sports hall up until the buildings closure.
However, the arrival of the new leisure centre complex in Chorlton caused the original Chorlton Swimming Baths to permanently close in 2015. Today, the original swimming pool is still present, as are the retro changing rooms lined along the side and squash and basketball courts.
‘The Toast Rack Building’, Fallowfield
Opening back in 1960, The Toast Rack Building – or the Hollins Campus, as it later became renamed – was the first building of its kind entering a new age of architecture, with modern concrete towers beginning to grow across Manchester after the Second World War.
(The Grade II Listed building gained its name due to, you guessed it, its distinctive design which looks very much like a Toast Rack.)
The building closed for good following a re-shuffle of MMU’s departments and faculties in 2013 and has stood abandoned ever since, its old lecture theatres and classrooms falling victim to vandalism and graffiti.
Stevenson Square Underground Toilets
When you’re next sipping a cocktail or a £6 pint of craft beer in Stevenson Square, just remember that an abandoned public toilet lurks beneath your feet.
All twelve cubicles separated between the male and female toilets are somehow intact (though I doubt they’ll work very well) and have never been refurbished, so have the same tiles and flooring from when they would’ve been in use all those years ago.
Due to high maintenance, the toilets served the public until 1986 when they closed and the entrances were bricked up.
The chilling tale of the Swedish twins who ran into traffic on M6 before stabbing a man to death
The twins were believed to have been experiencing a ‘shared psychosis’ at the time of the incidents
On Saturday May 17th 2008, Highway Agency officers were called out to the M6 after two women were spotted spotted walking along the median of the motorway on a security camera.
But little did these officers know, their day at work would be far from an ordinary one and would in fact turn into of the most infamous and most highly publicised traffic incidents of its decade.
It all started in Liverpool; Sabina and Ursula Eriksson, two Swedish women in their late-thirties at the time, had traveled to the city by ferry from Sabina’s home in County Cork, Ireland.
Ursula was visiting her sister from her home in the US and, upon arriving in Liverpool, went to visit St. Anne Police Station with Sabina, who reported concerns about the safety of her children back in Ireland.
However, it is believed that from there, the twins went on to board a National Express Coach to London, where the driver grew suspicious of their behaviour and eventually ordered them off the vehicle at Keele service station.
After the twins behaved erratically with their luggage, the service manager called the police out of concern that the twins were carrying explosives. When the police came to speak to the women, however, they allowed them to leave.
But what happened next was simply unprecedented; after leaving the service station on foot, sisters were spotted on security camera walking down the median of the M6. Shockingly, they were then seen trying to cross the busy road, were cars were traveling as fast as 70mph.
Highway Agency officers rushed to the scene, as did the Central Motorway Police Group who, little did the twins know, were being shadowed by film crews for BBC One’s Motorway Cops.
Upon arrival, and with everything being caught on camera, the situation was apparently diffused, with the twins appearing calm while smoking cigarettes and chatting with officers. But, out of nowhere, Ursula suddenly darted out into the road, her green coat being pulled from her by a concerned officer as she ran forward.
A lorry traveling at an estimated 56mph hit Ursula and immediately crushed both her legs. At this, Sabina darted out and smashed straight into the windshield of a Volkswagen Polo, the force of which knocked her unconscious for fifteen minutes.
However, the drama was far from over.
When an air ambulance arrived, Sabina regained consciousness and began to immediately attack the police officer trying to help her, screaming “I recognise you, you’re not real” and making various claims of organ theft.
She then managed to get to her feet and, when asking why the police officers had tried to kill her, attempted to once again run into traffic. Luckily, officers were able to apprehend her and put her into handcuffs.
The sisters were eventually taken to the hospital where it was confirmed that Ursula had severely fractured both her legs. Sabina was remarkably uninjured, and was taken to the police station to be processed.
The following day, Sabina was released from court, where she pleaded guilty to the charges of punching a police officer and trespassing on the motorway, and was sentenced to one day in custody. But, having spent a full night in the police station, she was deemed to have served her sentence. Remarkably, there had been no full psychiatric evaluation.
Following her release, Sabina is said to have wandered the streets of Stoke-on-Trent in an attempt to find her sister. This is when where, at around 7pm, she was spotted by two men who were walking a dog, one of whom was fifty-four-year-old Glenn Hollinshead.
Taking pity on her, Glenn offered her a place to stay at his home – but the very next day while making dinner, Sabina stabbed him four times with a kitchen knife.
According to reports, Sabina fled the scene armed with a hammer as Glenn’s neighbours contacted the police. As officers and paramedics pursued her, Sabina wound up on the top of a forty foot tall bridge, which she leapt from, breaking both her legs.
While she was recovering at University Hospital of North Staffordshire, police arrested her on June 6th 2008 and later charged with murder. Both sisters were relocated back to Sweden and then to the United States. Sabina went on to plead guilty to manslaughter with diminished responsibility.
Sabina’s defence argued that she was a secondary sufferer of Folie à deux, French for ‘a madness of two,’ or ‘shared psychosis’, going on to claim that she had transmitted insanity from her twin Ursula.
The prosecution at Nottingham Crown Court accepted this and, subsequently, Sabina received just five years, which were served at Bronzefield Women’s Prison.
Mr Justice Saunders described it as ‘one of the most difficult cases he had ever had to sentence’, saying: “While the mental illness resolved quickly, both psychiatrists agree it was serious and that she behaved in the way she did because of her illness.
“Her culpability for her behaviour is, on the medical evidence, accordingly low. She was suffering from delusions which she believed to be true and they dictated her behaviour. It is also not one of those cases where the defendant could have done something to avoid the onset.”
Since her release from prison in 2011, the whereabouts of Sabina Eriksson and her twin sister have remained unknown.
You can watch the scene from BBC One’s Motorway Cops here.
The world record for a beer-chugging sprinting race was just broken in Manchester
We caught up with one of the Beer Mile World Classic’s Manc competitors..
The world record for a bizarre beer-chugging sprinting race was broken here in Manchester last month, and we’ve never wanted to down a pint and go for a sprint more in our lives.
Born as an underground frat tradition in San Francisco in 2015, The Beer Mile World Classics has evolved into an internationally renowned competition, with nearly 100,000 keen competitors from all over the world taking part and giving both their legs and their stomachs a run for their money each year.
The premise of the race is simple; competitors are tasked with running one mile but have to stop every quarter of a mile to drink a 355ml can or bottle of beer (not a pint, sadly) as quickly as they can before proceeding on with the race.
For anyone who’s jogged to catch the bus after one too many in the pub on a Friday night will know that the acts of running and drinking beer do not mix well, and all too frequently result in a lot of puke.
Of course, the organisers of the race have the possibility of throwing up covered; if any competitor pukes more than once during the race, they are forced to run a penalty lap at the end of the race. No rest for the wicked, obviously.
Over the years, the race has been held across a number of different locations, such as San Francisco, London, Vancouver, and Berlin – but this year, it was brought to Greater Manchester in the humble town of Leigh, where the world record was actually broken by Canadian runner Corey Bellemore, who completed the race in an impressive new world-record time of 4:28.1.
But why exactly was such a far-flung tradition brought to Leigh? Well, it is mainly down to Manc-born competitor Laura Riches, twenty-eight, who suggested her local running club Leigh Harriers and Athletic Club after hearing that the organisers were looking for a brand new location to bring the race to.
Speaking to Proper Manchester, Laura, from Tyldesley, explained that finding a track to accommodate the Beer Mile’s unique set of rules was quite the challenge, but the chairman of Leigh Harriers was ‘more than up for it’, noting: “Everybody in Leigh loves a good beer, so this is exactly what they’ll love.”
Laura’s introduction into the world of the Beer Mile World Classics was a pure coincidence; while in London in 2016 for a party, she went to an event at the Allied Stadium to meet a friend, only to be roped into trying out for the England team by the organisers who were hosting their event there that year.
She said on her first time running: “It was hilarious because I’d never drank a beer in my life. It was awful, I hated every minute of it. But while my drinking was really slow, my running was quick enough for me to keep up with the other contestants. The first three laps I was catching everyone up but eventually my beer drinking slowed me down.”
Laura, who ended up competing for England in the Beer Mile World Classics in Vancouver in 2017, sadly couldn’t compete this year due to a knee injury, so instead helped to host and commentate the event. She said the race had a great turn out in Leigh, saying: “Surprisingly it was a good turn out – over a hundred people showed up.
“There was also loads of people from the running club and the nearby sporting village who came down after hearing about it too. It was mad, and it could have been even bigger if it had been held in the summer as originally planned.”
Laura also organised the ‘chunder mile’ for the locals and less experienced runners to take part in. She explained: “So I put on ‘the chunder mile’ which is where you drink actual pints and you’re allowed to be sick, and I did an open Beer Mile, and loads of people from Leigh actually came down and took part for a bit of fun.”
And it isn’t just the running, the medals and the abundance of beer that makes Laura go back each year; it’s the Beer Mile community.
She said: “We’re all part of a massive community now; I’ve made some great friends and we all have our own chats on Facebook and Whatsapp. There’s some great drinking videos that go around, and we’re always challenging each other to drink different things.
“It’s a bit of a weird and strange community, everyone has normal jobs and goes to work everyday and just run and train on the side. But it’s one thing we all share and enjoy together, even though it can be unpleasant; we’re all crazy to find the beer running fun.”
Head over to the Beer Mile World Classics website for more information on their upcoming events.