Hitler, His Part In Our Downfall

researched and written by David Bohl

Sefton RUFC suspended activities after Prime Minister Chamberlain's radio broadcast announcing Britain's declaration of war on Germany on September 3, 1939.

Most of the members had joined the Territorial Army before hostilities had begun and raising teams was not feasible. The ground was requisitioned very quickly by The War Department and a gun pit was dug in October of that year by 70th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery. Sefton was christened Mersey H.7, Gun Site "F".

Much to the annoyance of our sub-tenant Mr Wilson the Dairy-Man, he was told in no uncertain terms that he could not graze his cattle on the ground.

It took a Rates demand of £20 from Liverpool City Council to start the ball rolling (an oval one of course !) The Club Solicitor, Hector Munro asked the firm of Edmund Kirby & Son, Surveyors to assist him in the claim for Rental Compensation. There was much debate between the Command Land Agent, Hector Munro, the Surveyors and the Army as to when possession had taken place. Another argument broke out regarding the value of land as the raised banking either side of the pitch had reduced its ability to be used for allotments.

At that particular time Sefton had two loans from Lancashire County RFU to cover the purchase of the ground in 1928. After a few meetings, offers and counter-offers a figure of £85 per annum compensation was agreed to start from November 1st, 1939. According to the Command Land Agent this was "ample" to cover our out-goings as Lancashire County RFU had granted us a moratorium on interest payments for the duration of the war.

The unconditional surrender of Germany was signed at Rheims on May 7 and ratified at Berlin on May 8, 1945.

In December of that year Sefton Secretary J.F.Moore asked The War Department when was the ground going to be de-requisitioned and could we sub-let enough space for one pitch. Permission was duly granted but as time dragged on through March it was decided to accept the arrangements for the start of the 1946/47 season.

Jack Moore continued his mission to get the ground de-requisitioned and asked both the RFU and Lancashire RFU for some help in the matter. Lancashire indicated that Heaton Moor RUFC were in the same predicament but had involved their local Member of Parliament Arnold Gridley, a good friend of RFU committee member Sir W.Wakefield M.P. The RFU, god bless their souls agreed, and pressed Lancashire to reduce our interest payments from 2.5% to 2%.

The local Conservative M.P for West Derby turned out to be Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe who was busy in Nuremberg as Chief British Prosecutor in the War Crime Trials. He found time however, to write to the War Office for an investigation into the de-requisitioning of the ground.

In June of 1946 The War Department informed us that work on one pitch may commence once the gun pits and command posts had been wired off. In August terms and conditions of release were agreed.

W.B.Croxford observed that restoration of the first team pitch was going to be a rare job for somebody as it was dotted with gun pits, concrete ramps, humps and bumps and all semblance of hedges and fences had vanished. He also noted that squatters had moved into the Army huts but considered they were probably beneficial as their presence was preventing further damage which had occurred after the troops moved out.

In September The War Department allowed Mr Wilson back on the field to graze his cattle, this caused an immediate bout of friction with the Sefton committee. The restoration of the ground was categorized as low priority by the authorities and consequently the rugby season never kicked off.

It was not until March 1947 that Sefton were informed that ownership of the hutted area (now the infants school) was to be transferred to the Ministry of Health, the rest of the land was to be de-requisitioned.

In October The Ministry of Works said the temporary defence works on the land would be removed and the land restored so far as was practicable. However there is no indication as to the urgency of the matter and by December the contractors had only been notified to start clearance work.

During 1948 matters did not progress at all so Hector Munro organised rental compensation of £28 p.a. from Liverpool City Council and £100 p.a. from The War Department.

Eventually work commenced in September, finished in April 1949 and the ground was officially re-opened by Lancashire RFU President, Mr J. H. Roberts in December of 1952 with a game against Davenport.

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