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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, May 16, 2006
    War drags on for generations
     
    War drags on for generations. The people of Liverpool were reminded of this today, as were the passengers of the Irish ferry boats stranded for hours on the Mersey after the discovery of an unexploded World War II bomb in the Birkenhead docks brought all river and tunnel traffic to a standstill.

    As a Navy crew drags the 500kg monster out to sea for a controlled detonation and the city returns to normal there is a display of giant photographic prints attached to the fences of St Luke's, the bombed-out church, featuring images from the blitz of 65 years ago this month. Liverpool was a prime target because of its port significance, and the city was battered. While developers spent the sixties replacing the city centre rubble with since-discredited concrete shopping centres and flyovers St Luke's was bought from the Church of England by the City Council in 1968 as a lasting memorial to the civilian dead of that - and every kind of - war. Its peaceful gardens house a tribute to the victims of the Irish Famine and the roofless building itself is one of Liverpool's most loved landmarks.

    But the Finest Hour project, responsible (I think) for the outdoor photo gallery on Hardman Street, contains, online, many spoken-word accounts of the blitz from local people who survived it, which demonstrate how their lives and many others have been totally defined by the horrors of that bombing campaign. Generations living in the aftershock.

    Today I've been reading about another war which generations later is still in our blood and in the air. I've been reading The Trophy is Democracy: Merseyside, Anti-fascism and the Spanish Civil War, a 32-page booklet by Dave Auty, which I found in News From Nowhere. It's a good primer to a conflict which preceded the blitz by a decade, and which involved many of Liverpool's ordinary citizens in a confrontation with fascism which cost 28 of them their lives, and caught many others in struggles which again, defined their lives, and those of their families and peers for generations.

    I'm privileged to meet families today whose ethic is a socialism of the heart and whose inspiration is a grandparent trade unionist or great-grandparent Spanish War campaigner. And their ethic, though unfashionable these days, continues to be absolutely relevant because the struggle against fascism, in our communities and in our craven hearts, by sad necessity must continue.