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EYEWITNESS IN MANCHESTER FLASHBACK
HEADLINES FROM MANCHESTER UK ON THIS DAY...TUESDAY OCTOBER 8TH 1940

"BRITAIN IS MASTER OF THE SKIES OVER THESE ISLANDS. We are inflicting greater damage on Germany than we are suffering ourselves."

These words of Churchill featured on the front page of the Manchester Evening News on Tuesday October the 8th, 1940.

There had already been some air raids on Manchester, and the population were becoming accustomed to sleeping in an Anderson shelter in the back garden.

In the letters section, there were contributions on how to avoid damp on the inside walls of the shelter. J. Hughes of Pendlebury suggested covering the surfaces with an absorbent material, whilst S. Gowler of Longsight gave detailed instructions on how to install a ventilation tube.

At Lewis's you could buy inexpensive bedding, including a camp bed for 28/6, and a single bed, including bedding, for 79/6. Silva Streem Ltd, of 18 Corporation Street were advertising a "Siesta Portable Mattress" for 13/6 and portable camp beds for 22/6. A packet of Craven A, "made specially to prevent sore throats", was on sale at 10 cigarettes for ninepence or 20 for 1/6. CWS Silk Cut cost 1/7 for 25 cigarettes, or 10 for eightpence, plain or cork-tipped. If you wanted to put your money into the war effort, a full page ad placed by Manchester National Savings urged Mancunians to "LEND for all your worth" to raise 10.000.000 - the price of a battleship.

On the wireless, Home Service programmes that evening included the main News, News in Norwegian, the Band of HM Irish Guards and "Thanking Yew" with Cyril Fletcher and others. On Forces radio, there was an Australian Newsletter, a Dutch programme, German news, the RAF Gang Show and, rounding off the evening, Billy Cotton's Band.

Entertainments in Manchester that week included the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company performing "The Gondoliers" at the Manchester Opera House. And at the Manchester Hippodrome, you could see Sandy Powell's 1940 Road Show. Films showing included "Gone With The Wind" at the Gaiety, at the Gaumont, Rebecca, and at the Odeon, Oxford Street: Dr Cyclops.

After you left the cinema or theatre, care was needed on the journey home: The Blackout, which on the 8th of October 1940, lasted from 7 2 pm to 6 55 am, had already claimed lives on the road: After a man was knocked over and killed on Washway Road, Sale, the Mid-Cheshire Coroner, Mr R A Daniel, said pedestrians should take special care. In Rochdale, the Watch Committee announced the banning of street parking after 6.30 pm.

By the 8th of October 1940, the Battle of Britain was fought and won, but in the next few months, intense bombing raids over Manchester were to inflict heavy damage and loss of life . An ominous warning came in a back page report of a German communique, which said "Serious fires were caused in Manchester last night". It's difficult to verify the accuracy of this report - official censorship prevented the full story of the Manchester Blitz from emerging until the end of the War.

On an optimistic note, Mr Attlee, Lord Privy Seal, said in an address to trades union members: "I believe that the shadow of defeat is already hanging over Hitler today". Prophetic words, but Manchester and the world had to wait nearly five more years before those words finally came true.


Words by Aidan O'Rourke based on reports in the Manchester Evening News. Picture taken from "Our Blitz", a wartime facsimile, from the Manchester Online shop (Find it via the menu bar at the top of the screen).
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