Bombed Out: The Malakand Explosion Destroys Liverpool Docks During World War 2.
Above Photo: An unexploded German land mine dropped on Liverpool during the Second World War.
Although the title of my book, Bombed Out!, refers to the economic damage inflicted on 1970s-1980s Liverpool and the UK by Margaret Thatcher’s government, I also chose it to reference the bombing of Liverpool by German planes during the Second World War. The wastelands created by this bombing were still part of Liverpool’s cityscape during the period recounted in the book, and many remain near the docks today.
I also briefly mention in Bombed Out! that during the Second World War, my mother, as a teenager, cowered in air raid shelters in Bootle, an urban area of Liverpool, listening to bombs falling outside, as docks, ships, warehouses and whole streets of houses exploded nearby.
It was therefore with interest that I recently came across some photos and accounts of the destruction of a ship called the Malakand during the Second World War. On the night it was destroyed, the ship was loaded with thousands of tons of munitions and berthed in Huskisson Dock, Liverpool on 3 May 1941, during a German bombing raid on the city.
Flames from dock sheds that had been bombed spread to the Malakand, and the fire services were unable to contain the fire. A few hours after bombing raid had ended, the ship finally exploded, devastating the ship, the docks and the surrounding area in what was the biggest explosion in Liverpool during the war and one which sent shock waves across the city.
Given that thousands of tons of munitions had blown up, it’s surprising that only four people were killed, two of those were men who’d tried to scuttle the ship, the others being a recently married couple on their way home along the Dock road that night, when a huge fragment of the ship landed directly on their car, killing them outright.
Interestingly, the Germans had also destroyed an earlier ship called the Malakand, during the First World War. That SS Malakand was used on a regular service between Liverpool and Calcutta but was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in 1917.