Sunday, 12 March 2017

Another story from Tony Goulding .....PEOPLE AND PLACES OF WORLD WAR 2 Part 2 Egerton Road Area

A) St Werburgh’s Hall – H.Q. of a U.S. Army Legal Team, 1944-5.

St Werburgh's 1960-61 before demolition
The personnel were billeted in nearby homes prior to their departure for Germany to take up their roles in the   prosecution of Nazi War Crimes at the Nuremburg Trials.

Records relating to this use of the hall by the U. S Army are difficult to trace.

A lot would have been deposited in the U.S. Archives in Washington. Others may have been destroyed for security or to preserve confidentiality.

St Werburgh's today
However, the brochure produced for the 75th anniversary of St. Werburgh’s parish --------

  ------------   included this passage referring to the roll of the hall during the war; and immediate, post-war years.

The parish records and minutes of parish meetings also contain references to these uses.

They indicate that initially the hall was occupied by an A.R.P. unit. In October 1943 they were replaced by the Americans. Finally after the U.S. Army moved on the hall was utilised by The Ministry of Food for the issuing of ration books.

B) 19, Salisbury Road / 2, Silverdale Road

2, Silverdale Road as it is today. The new build graphically illustrating a “bombers’ gap” created on that night in 1940.

The 1939 Register,  shows 19, Salisbury Road occupied by Mr. Bertram R. Leaver, (1) an Inspector of Taxes with the Inland Revenue and his wife Evelyn (née Blake)(2)  Mr. Leaver was an Air Warden with the Manchester Constabulary and his wife, a qualified nurse and midwife, joined the civil nursing reserve of the Manchester Local Emergency Committee.

This was despite the fact that she had not practiced since her marriage – at Portsmouth in March quarter of 1919. Meanwhile at No. 2 of the adjacent Silverdale Road lived the Watterstons, (3) 65.year old James, a retired clothing inspector, and his wife Anastasia Mary aged, 61.

The Christmas Blitz of late December, 1940 proved significant for both households. Mr. & Mrs. Watterston were killed when their house received a direct hit.

On the same night Evelyn Leaver responded to a plea for medical assistance from a pregnant woman who had gone into labour in a bomb damaged house nearby. Braving the threat of further bombs and the dangers from falling masonry and fire from a fractured gas main she reached the woman, got her to a place of relative safety, and tended her until the arrival of a doctor and then remaining with her until the baby was delivered 2-3 hours later.

In April the following year Evelyn was awarded the O.B.E. for this conspicuous act of courage. The citation for the medal describing her heroic actions was widely reported in local and national press.

She was also later further recognised when she became one of the first 74 recipients of “The British Red Cross Certificate for Distinguished War Service.” 

This honour was presented to her by Queen Mary at Buckingham Palace, on Wednesday, 22cnd October, 1941. Evelyn seems to have become a local celebrity as on 26th January, 1943, at a ceremony in the Manchester Opera House, she was one of the women presented to the wife of the Soviet ambassador, Madame Maisky, who was on a goodwill visit to city.

2 Silverdale Road bombers gap created on that night in 1940
Just a few months later, on 16th May, 1943 she lost her youngest son to the conflict. Flying officer Keith Bertram Leaver, 21 was killed in action in India. He is buried in Madras St. Mary’s cemetery, Chennai, India.


1) Bertram Russell Leaver was a native of Hertfordshire - born on 16th February, 1882 at Aldenham Nr. Watford. His parents William and Harriet (née Russell) were both schoolteachers in an elementary school. During his childhood his family moved around several places in the counties of the south of England (Kensal Green, Middlesex and Sittingbourne, Kent) after Watford until finally settling in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire where at the time of the 1901 census Bertram was employed as a railway booking clerk. In 1911 he was already a civil servant working for

The Inland Revenue still residing with his widowed mother who had, by this time, been promoted to Head Teacher. During the First World War he served in The Royal Engineers, attaining the rank of sergeant and first arriving in France on 20th October, 1915.

Soon after the end of hostilities Bertram married Evelyn and settled in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, first, briefly, at 11, Ansdell Avenue then from 1922 Salisbury Road.

2) Evelyn Leaver was born Evelyn Blake on 1st November, 1888 at Kew, Surrey. Her parents were Arthur William and Kate (née Street).

Her father became a prominent citizen of Portsmouth where he was a partner in Bowler & Blake Estate Agents. Her uncle, Alfred laid the foundation stone for Portsmouth’s Guildhall and her cousin Leonard Nicholson Blake served as the city’s Lord Mayor in 1938. Evelyn’s father died in Portsmouth during the first  quarter of 1911.

The census of that year records Evelyn living with her recently widowed mother, at I, Exeter Road, Southsea. Of no particular significance except to note in passing the “Leavers” were bequeathed considerable bequests in the 1930,s Bertram’s mother Harriet died in Beckenham, Kent in May, 1933 leaving him over £1500 Evelyn’s mother, Kate, passed away in Southsea, Portsmouth in May of the following tear leaving her a half share of a similar amount, Thus Bertram and Evelyn would have been very comfortably off.

3) The “Watterstons” had lived in the Chorlton-cum-Hardy area since the birth of the fifth of their five sons in 1914 The family initially lived at 108, Oswald Road, before moving to Silverdale Road in the early 1930’s James was born on 16th May, 1872 in Forfar, Scotland. His father, also a James, was a prominent builder and quarry master in that town.

The Watterston's Grave
After serving an apprenticeship to a draper he moved south of the border, first to London then Liverpool where in the March quarter of 1905 he married Anastasia Mary (née Codd) in the West Derby district. As well as the 5 sons the couple also raised 5 daughters.

The couple were buried together in Grave D 2060 in the Roman Catholic part of Southern Cemetery,

One of Mr. & Mrs. Watterston’s sons, Patrick Charles, became a Roman Catholic priest. He assisted for 7 years at St. John’s in Rochdale and a further 4 in Burnley, at St. Mary’s, before in November, 1941 commencing training to be an army chaplain.

Additional material courtesy of Linda and Denise of St. Werburgh’s Church.

Pictures; St Werburgh’s Church Hall - captured by A. E. Landers just prior to it being demolished and replaced by present building in 1960-1 M 18342, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and the remainder courtesy of Tony Goulding

1 comment:

  1. Sister Anastasia, head of St John's RC Primary during the mid-60's, told me that it was her family living at 2 Silverdale Rd when it was bombed. Never knew her surname, or if Anastasia was her adopted name as a nun.