'PORT AT WAR' - The ordeals and achievements of the Port of Liverpool during the second World War

“When Britain goes to war one battle always has to be won, the battle of the high seas.”

80 years ago the survival of the British Isles fell upon the Port of Liverpool and the dock laborers, ship builders and repairers working for the Mersey Dock and Harbour Board.

Between 1939 and 1945, Liverpool and Mersey docks were the main transatlantic convoy port for the country, marking it as a strategically vital location for both allied and enemy forces. In what became known as the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest continuous military campaign in World War II, the workers of the Mersey Dock and Harbour Board (MDHB) endured some of, if not the heaviest shelling of any area in the country to keep the port running, ensuring the British people were fed and that the armed forces were supplied.


At the Battle of the Atlantic 80th anniversary celebration event, recently held in Liverpool, we committed to a headline sponsor slot and sought to honor the legacy of those who steered the MDHB through its most difficult period.

As such, the marketing department began communicating with local museums, scouring online archives and working with event organisers to produce a document that could be handed out at the event, featuring relevant photos and information that celebrated the Port’s impact during WW2.

After weeks of discussions and research, the department found itself coming up short. Unable to obtain the necessary images from direct sources and struggling to collate the most relevant stories – plans shifted to producing a simple flipbook containing general images of Liverpool’s Wartime effort along with the little pieces of information that accompanied them. That was until a discovery was made. Whilst searching through historic Peel Port files, a previously unknown document was found. The document was a scanned copy of a 64-page book, published in 1946 by the MDHB. Now known as the Mersey Dock and Harbour Company, the MDHB was acquired by Peel Ports in 2005, providing access to the company’s historical files.

The book, titled ‘Port at War’ was an incredible and poignant find. Having been published just one year after the end of WW2 it compiles an incredible array of information detailing the ordeals and achievements at the Port of Liverpool during this time. Sections include scenes from the devastation caused by German Luffwaffe raids, statistics of wartime import and export quantities and stories of the many distinguished wartime visitors to the Port.

This mix of fact-based and human-focused stories saw the publication receive a fantastic reception at the event and garner interest from those within Peel Ports. As such, we wanted to make this document available to all. Click the download button below to receive your copy or read the book's opening extract below.

Excerpt from 'Port at War'

London and Liverpool, Britain’s two greatest ports were naturally objects of fierce attack, and this story tells how Liverpool bore its share of the engagement, triumphed over death and disaster, kept it great river and docks open and remained the chief gateway of the country, handling a large proportion of all its ocean-borne traffic.

It is not the story of the whole of the port. It does not tell how Merseyside men manned ships and defied death by mine or submarine attack; it does not tell how thousands Merseyside men, women and children bore with fortitude nightly ordeals which might well have shaken the sternest morale; nor does it tell, except incidentally, of the work of Civil Defence in the great city and its adjacent boroughs nor of the trials of ancillary trades and businesses which feed a great port and, in turn, subsist upon it. It is, rather, the story of what happened at the heart of the port, its docks, and of the work of their controlling authority, the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board and the men and women who serve it.