Formby’s secret war with Hitler and the Nazis

Today the Freshfield area of Formby is one of Merseyside's most coveted postcodes and home to some of the biggest names in British football.

Builders and developers regularly unveil sprawling mansions with eye-watering price tags, and thousands of ordinary people dream of being able to move to the town.

But 80 years ago the Nazi leadership is believed to have had a keen interest in Formby's potential as a possible landing zone for an invading force.

But the generals and people at Whitehall running Britain's own war machine soon became aware of the alleged threat – and they began to plan for a possible invasion plot.

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Britain was seen to have been vulnerable to an invasion during the opening years of the war after Nazi Germany had swept across Europe.

But some military experts feared Formby could have provided the Nazis with the perfect landing spot in that it was near the mouth of the Mersey estuary and had a long flat beach ideal for amphibious landing craft.

At one point, British soldiers dug up trenches at Formby Golf club during the first few years of World War Two to repel a possible invasion by Nazi Germany.

In 1939, Major Austin Cartmell, Adjutant of King’s Liverpool Regiment based at Harrington Road Barracks, arrived at the golf club with his men.

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He apologised and said they had to dig trenches on the fairways. Although the military defences did interrupt some of the golf, it's understood some members were determined to carry on.

British soldiers would have used the trenches to fight off German forces as they made their way up Victoria Road after landing on the beach.

But Formby being Formby, the threat of invasion did not stop some of the locals from reportedly teeing off.

It is understood some golf was even played at the club during the Battle of Britain, when the RAF fought a dramatic air war with the Luftwaffe.

Spitfires based at the nearby RAF Woodvale roared over the town as the battle reached its zenith during the summer of 1941.

Many of the Spitfires based at Woodvale were flown by Polish airmen who had been deployed there.

Several accidents marred the squadron's stay in Sefton and six Polish airmen are buried in war graves at Our Lady of Compassion Church in Formby.

An old photograph of Formby golf club, thought to have been taken in the late 1930s

Locals have also told the ECHO that during the Battle of Britain a large anti-aircraft gun was mounted on the roof of the town's police station, on the corner of Church Road.

Although some lives were lost in Formby during the bombing, the town escaped the relentless raids that were experienced in Bootle.

Bootle was a strategic target for the Luftwaffe during the war, and bombers pounded docks and residential areas.

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And nearby West Lancashire was also the scene of some remarkable incidents during the Battle of Britain.

On one occasion a German Junker bomber crashed in fields near Hesketh Bank area after being shot down by an RAF Defiant. The Defiant was flown by pilots D R West and RT Adams.

The bombing raid, which took place on the night of April 14, 1941, is said to have killed cattle and damaged headstones at Becconsall Old Church. Some of the damage can still be seen today.

Children inspect a bomb crater in Hesketh bank

A few years ago a remarkable photograph emerged which showed children playing in one of the craters left by the raid.

In 2016 a local man claimed he once spotted a German U-boat off Formby beach during the war.

Harold James was just a schoolboy when he was looking out across Formby bay with his telescope when he spotted something in the water.

Speaking in 2016 Mr James said: "I knew exactly what it was straight away. And then a German sailor came on deck, and lit a cigarette. I remember seeing the marking U7 on the side of the boat. I was around 12 at the time. I think the year was around 1944."

"I told my parents straight away and they believed me. There was coast guard station nearby and they must have spotted something too."

An aerial photograph of Formby Golf Club taken by the Luftwaffe during WWII

He added: "I think the fact the Royal Navy had a presence on Formby's coast suggests there was enemy activity nearby.

"Sadly one of my friends lost his dad during the war. His dad was an engineer on Thesis submarine, which was sunk in the Irish sea during the war. All the crew perished.

"German U-boats were out there during the war. I remember hearing that the authorities sank mesh type gates at the mouth of the Mersey, to keep them out"

As the war progressed Hitler lost interest in the idea of invading Britain and eventually switched his sights toward invading Russia.

Formby was spared.

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