A recent post showing Prime Minister Winston Churchill signing the Birkenhead Visitor Book caused quite a stir. It is of particular interest as it depicts the aftermath of a bombing raid in one Birkenhead street. Wirral and Merseyside on the whole was bombed extensively during the conflict, making it somewhat difficult to pinpoint exactly where this photograph was taken. However, local historian Neil Holmes, whose books include ‘Merseyside Blitzed’ and ‘Liverpool Blitzed: Seventy Years On’ has put forward a very plausible possibility.
Batten Road is a residential street off the main Birkenhead thoroughfare of Borough Road. It sits upon a gradual slope leading all the way up to Woodchurch Road. Neil argues six key points for this being the location of Churchill’s signing.
1) It is known that Brattan Road was severely damaged in the air raids of March 1941 when a land mine flattened houses on both sides of the road. The photo shows considerable damage to both sides of the road
2) The publication ‘Birkenhead at War’ states that Brattan Road was one of those visited by the PM during his April 1941 visit.
3) The width of the road matches Brattan Road, also anyone stood in the road looking away from Borough Road would be looking uphill so to speak, as the photograph appears to show.
4) You can just see the base of a lamp post on the left of the photo. In the wartime panoramic image of Brattan Road there is a lamp post prominently featured in the centre of the photograph.
5) What surviving older properties exist on Brattan Road match the style of the buildings on the right of the photograph
6) It appears none of of the other roads we know the PM to have visited – Borough, Bidston Avenue, Mallaby St, Park Road North or Well Lane, would match anywhere near as well, if at all, to Brattan Road.
Although we can’t be 100% certain, Neil makes a very good case for Brattan Road as the exact spot where Winston Churchill recorded his official visit to Wirral in a much-needed effort to boost morale in this very crucial shipping town.