The Second World War began on September 3rd 1939. It heralded a preiod of great drama for Saint Francis Xavier's which would cost the lives of many in the parish.

 

It was widely believed in Great Britain that German bombing of our cities would begin almost immediately and, in view of this, the evacuation of many SFX children began on September 3rd. Most of the children were sent to North Wales and, although some returned to their homes in Liverpool, we have in on Father Ryan’s authority that most of the children remained in North Wales for most of the war. The first bombs fell on Liverpool on August 17th 1940 in the area of Caryl Street and the overhead railway suffered some damage. SFX had its own record of the bombing thanks to Father Whittaker who kept a diary. He records that many bombs fell in the area without threatening SFX until September 18th when a time-bomb fell in Carver Street, although it did not explode and was later defused. Three days later, however, the church had a narrow escape when a bomb exploded in Salisbury Street. It smashed the windows above the Sodality Altar and the door leading from Salisbury Street to the Sodality Chapel was blown off. A large piece of stone crashed through the roof of the church on the Gospel side of the centre aisle. Extensive damage was done to the windows of the presbytery and college. This was the night when two members of the Guild of St Agnes, Sadie McDonough and Agnes Wilson, were killed. The view from Islington - Salisbury Street
They were the first of many to die. The air-raids on the city continued and more bombs landed around the church with terrible consequences. In the early hours of the morning of October 13th 1941, two bombs landed at the corner of Salisbury Street and Carver Street, very close to the college, shattering its windows. The bombs had hit two houses and fourteen people were killed. On December 21st, Salisbury Street was hit again but this time the Synagogue took the brunt of the attack with the College again losing many of its windows.
What the bombs started, the developers finished!


The worst air-raids on Liverpool took place during May 1941 in what became known as “The May Blitz” when thousands were killed and injured. There was a great destruction of property and 76,000 people were made homeless in Liverpool and Bootle. SFX parish suffered most on May 3rd in air-raids which began at 6:30 pm on Saturday evening and did not end until 5 am on Sunday morning. The whole area was extensively bombed with land-mines, high explosives and incendiary bombs and fifteen parishioners lost their lives. Following the May Blitz, there were a few air attacks on Liverpool and SFX was still standing though it had more than a few battle scars. The roof had been badly damaged and two of the stained glass windows behind the High Altar had been completely destroyed while others had been splintered. Windows all over the church had been blown out and the East end of the presbytery had been devastated.

 

During the raids, the Jesuit community had stood shoulder to shoulder with the parishioners and had won much praise. Indeed, throughout the whole of the war, services in the church were carried on as usual, as far as that was possible The church organisations continued to meet and various church premises were often kept open all night to give shelter and sleeping accommodation to those who were unable to return home because of the raids. When the war ended, one minute after midnight on May 8th 1945, SFX shared the joy and relief of the nation.