Walking tour highlights the Coventry Blitz experience
Mary and Harry may also be joined by other characters, including a spiv
A preview of the Coventry Blitz Experience tour
By BBC Coventry & Warwickshire's Hannah Tobin
A new walking tour is taking people on a wartime journey through historic Coventry.
Step back in time with Mary Burgess and Harry Waite as the characters take you through the streets of Coventry and share some of their WWII stories.
These characters lived through the blitz, but are in fact relatives and alter-egos of Leigh and David Waite.
They are Blue Badge guides and have created the Coventry Blitz Walk Experience.
Down to the shelters
BBC Coventry & Warwickshire's Marian McNamee from the Breakfast Show and Hannah Tobin from the website were treated to a special preview of the new tour, which takes in sites such as the cathedral, Holy Trinity Church and Broadgate. We were greeted by an ARP warden in full uniform and a smartly dressed lady in a long blue coat.
From that moment we were no longer in 2010, but back on the streets of wartime Coventry with Mary and Harry who describe the night of 14 November 1940.
Our first stop was along Bailey Lane, a medieval part of the city which is still, more or less, intact.
Then we went on to the site of a public shelter in St Mary Street. You can still see the one-time entrance to a shelter underneath Drapers Hall, which is where many would escape to during a raid. Apparently there are still posters and propaganda from WWII down in the cellars.
The guides stand outside the boarded up entrance to Drapers Hall
The next stop, en-route to High Street and Broadgate, is Earl Street and the council house. If you know where to look, you can still see gun and shrapnel damage on the walls of the building, which was left virtually undamaged after the Coventry Blitz. The windows were smashed during the raid and the area in front was bombed, but the council house was left standing.
The wall of the council house was also where information was displayed on the morning of 15 November 1940. It gave details of deaths and casualties from the air raids of the previous evening.
A very different Broadgate
The walk then continues on to a very different Broadgate, compared to that of 1940. Before the Coventry Blitz, Broadgate had a hotel, lots of bustling medieval streets, shops, restaurants and factories nearby. The modern day version would be totally unrecognisable to anyone who was transported there from 1940.
The walk is called the Coventry Blitz Walk Experience, and that is certainly what it is. It makes you look stop and look at the city around you and imagine how it may have been in wartime. Having the characters of Mary and Harry (and possibly more to come), really does make you feel like you are hearing the stories and experiences from those who lived through it.
Many of the stories are based on real accounts and, as there are so many tales to tell, we are told that every tour will be different.
And finally, who are Mary and Harry?
Mary and Harry describe, and show, the changing face of Broadgate
Leigh Waite, who is also a guide at St Mary's Guildhall, concludes: "The nice thing about our characters is that they were real people. Mary Burgess is actually my grandmother and I'm standing here with a handbag just like the one she used to carry; and inside the handbag I've got her ID card with all her addresses throughout the war. If you were in Coventry, you would have had to go to the Guildhall to have your ID cards and ration books issued to you.
And David adds: "Harry Waite is a cousin of my father who came to live in Coventry in the 1930s, so he was around during the second world war. He was in fact a policeman."
For further information about the tours, please visit the GuidingYou website:
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