Tear-gas explosions Liverpool Cinemas 1939

Liverpool Daily Post

May 3rd 1939

Tear-gas bombs explode in two Cinemas

22 persons overcome two ill in hospital

15 persons were taken to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary suffering from the effects of tear-gas following outrages in two of the city's principal cinemas, in which explosions occurred followed by choking fumes. In addition, seven members of the Liverpool Salvage Corps were treated in the special sick bay at their station opposite the Central Fire Station.

The outrages occurred at the Trocadero in Camden St and the Paramount, which stands opposite in London Rd. Officers of the C.I.D hurried to the scene led by Chief Constable A. K. WILSON and Superintendent Hubert MOORE head of the C.I.D. Chief Officer OAKES head of the city fire brigade, and a number of uniformed policemen who entered the Paramount were overcome by the gas and had to receive firs-aid treatment

. Two people were detained in hospital, Percy BIRCH, aged 47, fireman of the Trocadero Cinema, who lives in Miller Ave, Walton and M. M. ABDULLAH, aged 21, an Egyptian student at Liverpool University and lodging at Melville Lane. The other 13 members of the cinema audiences were allowed to leave after treatment.

A sizzling noise

The incidents occurred almost simultaneously, and a member of the audience at one of the theatres, Joyce SMITH, a mannequin of Oxton, Birkenhead, said, "I was sitting in the Paramount circle a few seats away from where the explosion occurred.

Shortly before it occurred a girl left her seat and hurried out. I then heard a sizzling noise, which five seconds later was followed by the explosion, like a loud firework going off.

"A girl screamed and the people below began to make for the exits. Meanwhile a terrifying smell, which coked me and made my eyes run, began to fill the theatre. The film was stopped, and the manager appeared and asked us to leave quietly, obtaining our admission fee at the exit."

Parcels and bags forbidden

The theatre holds 2,500 people and was three-quarters full, but there was no panic as the coughing and choking audience, many with tears streaming down their cheeks left. When it was discovered that the explosion was not serious the performance was resumed and many of the audience returned to their seats. Before anyone was readmitted, however, requests were made for parcels and bags to be left at the entrance.

A member of the Trocadero audience, Mr MILLINGTON of 27 Rosemary Lane, Formby, near Liverpool, said, " The main feature film was two-thirds through when there was a loud hiss, followed by thick, acrid smoke, which was undoubtedly tear-gas. It spread all over the circle, and one or two girls screamed. There was no sign of real panic, however, and the circle was quickly emptied. The manager assured the audience that it was not serious. It was a heavy discharge and everyone was coughing. When the fire brigade arrived, Chief Officer OAKES told the manager that it would not be necessary to empty the stalls"

The liquid giving off the gas appeared to be in small glass containers with metal stoppers. These were shattered and the parts collected, and, together with sections of the carpets removed by the police for examination by the city analyst.

Search for a woman

Police are searching for the woman who was seen to leave her seat in the Paramount shortly before the explosion occurred. They have circulated her description. They are now certain that the outrages were the work of the I.R.A, and precautions were taken at all the places of entertainment in the city, while warnings were sent to other cities in the North. The Chief Constable has issued an appeal to the public asking them to come forward with any information in their possession.

The police are looking for a girl about 23 years of age who was seen to leave each of the two cinemas shortly before the tear bombs burst. She is described as fairly tall, well-built, hatless, with dark hair worn low over the neck, and she was wearing a reddish-brown, two-piece suit.

May 29th 1939

Another tear-gas outrage in Liverpool cinema

25 people including 14 women taken to hospital

Police throughout the North of England is searching for a woman who is believed to have been concerned in another tear-gas bomb outrage in a Liverpool cinema, this time the Tatler News Theatre in Church St, this afternoon, when 25 members of the audience of 200 had to be taken to the Royal Infirmary for treatment.

A description finished by cinema goers at the Tatler tallies with others given by members of the audiences of the two Liverpool cinemas where two similar explosions occurred a few weeks ago. Police are searching for this woman who is believed to be a member of the I.R.A, organisation, and a particularly close watch is being kept at all ports, as it is believed she leaves for Ireland immediately after the outrages.

Landing Stage Scrutiny

All holiday-makers returning to Belfast and Dublin were closely scrutinised tonight on Liverpool landing-stage by plain-clothes police. Warnings were also flashed to all theatres and cinemas on Merseyside and a close watch was kept until the end of the performances.

The explosion at the Tatler, which sounded like a huge firework, occurred immediately after the showing of a "Popeye" film. There was a flash of flame, and the theatre which was only a quarter full owing to the exceptionally fine weather, was filled with a white mist which blinded and choked the audience.

The manager Mr Keith HANN, with his doorman and fireman, opened all the exit doors and quelled any panic leading out the women. Tears streaming down their faces, they were aided by five gallant girl attendants, all of whom were eventually overcome and had to be taken to hospital.

Meanwhile other members of staff reached the point of the explosion under a seat in the stalls half-way down the theatre, and extinguished an outbreak of fire. The Liverpool Fire Brigade were called, and although the firemen took the precaution of wearing gas masks, they came out choking after making certain that all was safe.

American type of bomb

Fragments of the bomb were later removed to the Central Police Headquarters for examination. I was a metal cylinder, 9 inches long and three inches in diameter identical with those used in the other two explosions. It was not home made but of the type used professionally in the United States.

Police paid particular attention to the statement given to them by a waitress, Helen BIRCHALL, of Cullen St, who stated, she was sitting in the stalls a row behind the one where the explosion occurred, and saw a young girl come in with a man, and although he sat down at once and kept his seat, she moved about among other seats, eventually coming back to sit with him. She left the cinema, and the man followed immediately before the explosion occurred.

An A.R.P, warden James HARRISON, who was close to the cylinder when it went off, helped his wife to leave and then went back to extinguish the flames. He said, "I picked up the bomb, but it burned my hand, and, dropping it on the floor, I stamped on it, burning my boot. It was eventually extinguished with chemicals."

The 25 people, including 6 members of staff, a police-constable, a 6 year old boy and a 74 year old woman, where taken to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary and were allowed to go home after treatment. In addition to treatment for gas, two of the women received attention for burns on their hands and legs.

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