St. Lukes Church (the bombed out church) – Liverpool

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/seven-things-you-probably-dont-13028821

The Liverpool Echo has the story on it web site – see link above

There’s been a lot of talk in recent times about how to give this iconic symbol of Liverpool in the Blitz a sustainable future. On a personal level though I can’t escape the story of what happened on the night the incendiary bomb hit St. Lukes and the fact that I had the privilege to talk with a person who was fire watching that night and saw it happen. My previous posting from 2010 refers:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2010/11/16/uncle-albert-he-saw-the-bombing-of-liverpool-from-a-birds-eye-view-point/

Sadly ‘Uncle Albert’ died earlier this year but whenever I see St. Lukes or hear of it I think of that brave young chap (who became one of my best mates in his mid 70’s until he passed away aged 95) standing atop George Henry Lees fire watching as Liverpool was being destroyed all around him

A great send off for Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker

Only six days after the funeral of former Maghull and Sefton Councillor Jim Byrne we had another one this time for Charles ‘Uncle Albert’ Walker, also a former Maghull Town Councillor, today.

punch-bowl-3

This was my personal tribute to Charles which his family asked me to contribute to his funeral service.

Uncle Albert

I first met Uncle Albert, then known of course as Charles Walker, when he was in his early 70’s.

He came over as a really nice chap but little did I know how our friendship would develop over the next 20+ years and that he would become a very close chum indeed.

I give you a handful of personal insights into Uncle Albert

Singing RAF songs! – It happened out of the blue during a car journey from Maghull to the Littleborough & Saddleworth Parliamentary by-election where Uncle Albert, Andrew Beattie Andrew Blackburn and myself were off to deliver leaflets. The nice gentleman sharing the back seat of the car with one of the Andrews just started to sing what I will call a risqué song of the kind those acquainted with rugby songs would understand. We knew then that we had a right one with us!

Fire watching on top of George Henry Lees during the Liverpool Blitz – Yes Charles did that and he saw incendiary bombs hitting the city all around him. One night he was at his lofty dangerous post and saw the incendiary fall and hit St Luke’s Church. Yet when he told us about it he seemed to have no comprehension of the extreme danger he had been in. To him it was his job as an employee of George Henry Lees to try to put out any fires. A brave man indeed.

Pitch and Put – He had played on the pitch and put course at Harrison Drive, New Brighton many times, especially before the war, and it showed. Neither of the Andrews nor I could beat him despite around a dozen attempts to do so on our days out with Uncle Albert around this childhood stamping ground of The Wirral.

East Lancashire Railway – Uncle Albert went with us to this persevered railway a number of times over the years and he loved it. What with steam locomotives, old fashioned carriages and travelling on them with his mates. But what he seemed to like best was the buffet facility on Bury Bolton Street Station where he would climb into an all day breakfast whilst watching steam trains pass by.

Mushroom Omelettes? – By now uncle Albert had been ‘adopted’ by both the Robertson and Blackburn families and Sheila Robertson wanted to take Charles (she always called him Charles) out for a meal. And what a hit it was as he loved the mushroom omelettes at the Stanley Arms in Aughton. Unsurprisingly Sheila kept taking him back there and he kept enjoying them.

Other visits – we took Charles to the RAF Cosford museum a couple of times, to Crich Tramway Museum, to Birkenhead Tramway Preservation Society and to the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington. He loved these trips out and was great company. At Elvington we turned around and he had disappeared only to be found later deep in conversation with another elderly ex-RAF chap talking about their life and times in the Royal Air Force. In Birkenhead he rode a Wallasey tram like those that ran in his youth and he was delighted.

And what of his times as a Maghull Town Councillor? Japanese Knotweed was one of his big campaigns. Trouble is it is still there in Foxhouse Lane despite him hounding Network Rail to eradicate it.

The potholed surface of Maghull Station car park was another, thankfully it’s now in good nick.

And what about Mrs Bradley’s Passage? It’s a short footpath that joins Poverty Lane and Summerhill Drive and was a littered and potholed mess at the time. Mrs Bradley lived next to it and she asked Charles to get Sefton Council to tidy it up regularly. In turn he gave Sefton Council grief to the extent that even the dead hand of a local authority could take it no longer and they tidied it up. But he was not satisfied and said only recently that the beggars had still not resurfaced it as they promised him they would do some 8 or 9 years ago!

He was Vice Chair of the Council’s Policy and Resources Committee for quite a number of years. Sheila Nelson chaired the committee and he enjoyed working with her. We used to joke with him that Sheila kept him in line. I think he looked upon her as his Station Commander!

To the two Andrews and I he was Uncle Albert (after the Only Fools & Horses character of course) to many others he was Charles. To the ladies he was a lovely old gentleman; to us he was a cheeky chap who was one of the boys. He may have been 35+ years older than us but he was our mate and we will miss him terribly.

Goodbye Uncle Albert

I have mentioned Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker many times on this blog site even though he was not my Uncle nor was his name Albert. He was though a close personal friend over the past 20 years+ and sadly he died this morning at the age of 95.

Charles and I at his 91st Birthday Party in the Punch Bowl Pub, Sefton Village

Charles and I at his 91st Birthday Party in the Punch Bowl Pub, Sefton Village

Yes he was old, he had been admitted into hospital yesterday and he was physically frail but his death came as a huge shock bearing in mind Sheila and I had visited him yesterday afternoon and had been laughing and joking with him up until 5pm. It seems that pneumonia crept up and took him very quickly despite the great care he got in Aintree Hospital A&E and later on Ward 1.

I first came across him when at the age of 74 he decided to get involved in Liberal politics. He soon got himself elected to Maghull Town Council and even had a lady offer to marry him when he was out canvassing in his first election! He served as a Town Councillor until he was 90!

Charles completing a form to protest about building on Maghull's Green Belt.

Charles completing a form to protest about building on Maghull’s Green Belt.

He got his ‘Uncle Albert’ nickname because he would often tell stories about his days in the RAF during WW2 when he had been an aircraft electrician working in the UK, Gibraltar and in Italy. The Only Fools and Horses character seemed to fit Charles so well that the name stuck and he even changed his name badge at one conference we attended to read ‘Uncle Albert’ rather than Charles Walker. And that kind of summed Charles up in that he was game for a laugh about anything.

He was very fit until he reached his mid 80’s and would regularly be out delivering Lib Dem leaflets with a group of us called ‘The Nutters’; we had a quiz team of the same name as well. The core members were Uncle Albert, Andrew Blackburn, Andrew Beattie (sadly now passed on as well) and myself.

I recall so well the visits we had to the Littleborough and Saddleworth by-election not least because uncle Albert would start to sing RAF songs in the car. If you know what rugby songs are like you have got my drift!

Charles Walker with his Grandfather in Vale Park Wallasey-1923or4.

Charles Walker with his Grandfather in Vale Park Wallasey-1923or4.

Charles was born in Egremont on the Wirral and he lived there until he married Margaret when they moved first to Bootle and then in 1960 to Maghull. His Poverty Lane bungalow had been his home since the day it was built.

He worked at George Henry Lees in Liverpool up until he was called up in WW2 and he was in the Home Guard as a lad. Yes, he got called ‘Private Pike’ as well when we were teasing him. His stories of fire watching on top of GHL’s during the Liverpool Blitz were astonishing to us as he seemed to have little concern about the danger he had been in. And he saw St. Lukes Church go up in flames from that dangerous vantage point too.

He clearly loved his time in the RAF and could still rattle off a long list of aircraft he had worked on, how he had met and spoken to Field Marshal Montgomery (whose brother was a Vicar in Wallasey at the time who Charles knew) and been close to Winston Churchill.

After the war he worked in both the sugar and metal plating trades in Liverpool and he only retired when in his 70’s. He was also a regular attender at Goodison Park as an Everton supporter until the early 1970’s. Only last weekend we were exchanging texts as both Everton and my club (Mansfield Town) had matches on.

He had a life-long interest in aircraft, railways and ships so being a railway buff myself Charles and I got on very well, often exchanging books, videos and magazines with each other.

In recent years Charles suffered mobility problems but until about 3 months ago he was regularly getting a taxi to The Square in Maghull to visit shops there. He was well known and liked at Waterfields, Home Bargains, Superdrug and TSB.

Charles Shaking hands with Wing Commander Greg Smith at RAF Gibraltar in 2013

Charles Shaking hands with Wing Commander Greg Smith at RAF Gibraltar in 2013

His wife was taken into care in 2013 because of dementia but later that year his daughter Carole and son-in-law Phil took him on a cruise which took in Gibraltar where he had been stationed for around 3 years during his national service. What’s more they had arranged for him to visit RAF Gibraltar and meet the Station Commander. His grandson also took him, only 3 months ago, to the RAF Museum at Cosford where he had been twice before with Andrew and I. Of course he loved all these outings.

Particularly since 2013 Sheila, Andrew and I had taken Charles under our wing and helped him as much as we could alongside his loving family. Indeed, Charles was considered to be a part of our family and indeed Andrew’s. Wednesday night would always be beer and chips night at Uncle Albert’s for Andrew and I (and Jen would pop along as well sometimes). He then decided to name his bungalow ‘Poverty Pub’.

A trip out to the Stanley Arms was a favourite of his and Sheila made sure he went about once a month. He loved their omelette and chips.

Charles will have known countless people in Maghull during his 66 years living there and he treated virtually everyone he met as though they were his friends. A kind generous man indeed who rarely had a bad word to say about anyone. I so recall after the Brexit vote how upset he was about Polish people being told to get out of the UK by ignorant people. To Charles the Poles were WW2 heroes and he was disgusted at the way some had been spoken to since June 2016.

I have lost a close personal friend who enriched my life immeasurably and I will miss him terribly.

Christmas Day with Uncle Albert

Our dear friend Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker a Maghull resident since 1960 (so he’s nearly a local) hosted a party on Christmas day evening.

Charles at his Christmas Day party

Charles at his Christmas Day party

Well he not so much hosted it as it came to him as a collection of local friends brought the celebrations to him because he was otherwise spending Christmas Day on his own. The event was the idea of former local councillor Andrew Blackburn who had previously invited Charles to his own house for the last 3 Christmas Days.

This year however Charles’ limited mobility precluded him getting to Andrew’s house and kind hearted Andrew (a wonderful big softie really) decided that if Uncle Albert (Charles’ nick name – think of the Only Fools & Horses) could not go to a party then one would come to him.

Thanks to those who made it possible – Keith and Janet Page, Ian Blackburn and Sheila and Jen Robertson ( I was the ‘taxi’ driver) and of course Andrew for giving up a part of their Christmas Day to help Charles celebrate the festive season.

Note:- Charles is now 95 years years old. He served as an RAF aircraft electrician (in the UK, Gibraltar and Italy) during WWII having previously served in the Home Guard in Wallasey where he hails from (we often tease him about being Private Pike) before being called up. His claim to fame is that he was fire watching on top of the old George Henry Lees building in Liverpool (where he worked) on the night the incendiary bomb hit St Lukes Church and he saw it happen. Charles got involved in local politics at the age of 74, soon got himself elected to Maghull Town Council and served on the Council until he was 90! He may be physically frail these days but he is as sharp as anyone I know. I have retold various historical stories he has told me on this blog site previously.

I nice story to help round off a trying year I hope.

Poles the 2nd World War & Uncle Albert

This evening Sheila and I took 95 year old Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker out for a meal at the Stanley Arms in Aughton.

Charles looking back on Gibraltar (in the distance) from the cruise ship Victoria a couple of years ago. Charles was based in Gib' (RAF) during part of the WW2.

Charles looking back on Gibraltar (in the distance) from the cruise ship Victoria a couple of years ago. Charles was based in Gib’ (RAF) during part of the WW2.

Charles was an RAF electrician from 1942 during WW2 and prior to that he was a youngster in the Home Guard in Wallasey on The Wirral. His own family home was damaged by bombing and the family slept in the theatre of New Brighton Tower whilst having meals at his grandmother’s house. This went on for a number of weeks until they found a new property to move into. He worked at George Henry Lees in Liverpool in the early part of the war and was fire watching on the roof of GHL during the Blitz of Liverpool. He actually saw the incendiary bomb hit Liverpool’s famous St Lukes Church at the top of Bold Street whilst fire watching.

Unsurprisingly our conversation touched on the WW2 tonight and Charles made comment about the fact that some people are giving Poles living here a hard time when during WW2 they were fighting with us and for us. He clearly could not understand why memories are so short and was dismayed.

Sadly, today of all days, the BBC’s Andrew Marr show chose to interview French far right Leader Marine Le Pen! Would I not be right in saying that during WW2 it was the far right in France that was betraying the French resistance fighters? Have we forgotten that too?

What is going on in this Country of ours when the far right, which we fought a war against in Charles Walker’s lifetime, is treated to a TV interview on Remembrance Day? And why are we not celebrating our partnership with the French resistance and the Free Poles whom we fought alongside to beat fascism?

I am proud to know Charles Walker as he helped save this Country from fascism but I am not at all proud of how we are forgetting recent history.

St. Lukes bombed out church – Liverpool

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/more-20000-raised-bombed-out-7650720

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

I have posted before about this historic building so it’s nice to see what looks like a positive outcome to the recent difficulties surrounding its future. My original posting was in 2010 and coincidentally I went to see my old chum (now 93) a couple of days ago, who is mentioned in it, and he reminded me of the incendiary bombs falling on Liverpool that fateful night when St. Lukes was struck. That original posting is at:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2010/11/16/uncle-albert-he-saw-the-bombing-of-liverpool-from-a-birds-eye-view-point/