Incredible images provide a new insight into life in Greater Manchester during the Second World War.

The rarely seen photos of the city and surrounding areas, as Britain faced its darkest hour, have been unearthed by a new publication launched by the Daily Express.

They form part of a huge archive of newspaper pictures now managed by Reach PLC, the parent company of the Manchester Evening News and the Daily Express.

Starting tomorrow, the Express features The People's War - featuring many unseen photos from wartime Britain.

Feb 1941: King George VI & Queen Elizabeth talking to a group warden in Salford

The collectible partwork series runs in the national title from Friday, October 30 until November 4.

The first part includes an introduction by historian and Express columnist Leo McKinstry.

It draws parallels with what is happening now with the Covid pandemic - looking back at the courage, stoicism and spirit of the British people.

Part 1 also showcases the so-called 'Phoney War' at home and abroad – pictures of young men off to fight, gas mask drills, the Home Guard, British Expeditionary Force troops celebrating Christmas in France and the evacuation of children from big cities.

Manchester was a vital inland port and industrial city, and sites like Trafford Park were major producers of goods for the war effort.

Meanwhile, at the Gaythorn gasworks in the city, which was near Whitworth Street, workers assembled barrage balloons - large unmanned, tethered kite balloons used to defend ground targets.

February 1939: Workers prepare barrage balloons at the Gaythorn gasworks in Manchester

Saturday's edition of the People's War - Part 2 - features key moments on the road to victory, the important battles and brilliant wins that marked Britain’s journey from reluctant combatants to conquering heroes.

By 1940, Britain and its empire stood alone against the might of the German war machine. France had been defeated and the Battle of Britain was still raging in the skies above.

Adolf Hitler had launched 'Operation Sealion' - the plan to invade the United Kingdom - in July, and the Blitz, the Nazi bombing campaign, was pounding London and cities across the nation.

As the Germans targeted the important industrial cities, Manchester and its surrounding towns fell victim to a brutal shelling operation.

October 21, 1940: A Salford house is ripped apart by a Luftwaffe bomb after the Germans step up their raids on the North West


It's estimated that more than 8,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the bombing in Salford alone, with hundreds killed or injured.

Sunday's Express will carry Part 3, focusing on the Blitz and how brave Britons endured under the Nazi bombing raids - and includes a dramatic eye witness account of the destruction of Coventry from former Observer editor Donald Trelford.

April of 1941 saw Prime Minister Winston Churchill make a surprise visit to war-torn Manchester.

A photo, revealed as part of the Express' series, shows him stopping to share a joke on his way through Chorlton.

The trip came months after King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to Salford, where they spoke to residents and group wardens who were keeping people safe.

April 1941: Prime Minister Winston Churchill on his surprise visit to Manchester - he shares a joke on his way through Chorlton

October of 1942 saw the start of the Battle of El Alamein, and some heavy losses for the British Empire.

According to records held by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, on October 31 of that year there were 216 deaths of British and Commonwealth troops in Egypt alone, where the Battle of El Alamein was being fought.

Among them was Trooper Eric Corbin, of the Royal Tank Regiment. The 29-year-old from Moss Side was the son of James and Alice Corbin and the husband of Iris May Corbin.

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During the month of October, German U-Boats sank and damaged 120 allied ships, and on October 31 itself, 67 sailors with the Merchant Navy and nine with the Royal Navy lost their lives.

The final part of the project features pictures from the home front, and of victory. It highlights how brave Britons kept the home fires burning – rationing, wartime fashion, fire wardens, the Home Guard, Land Girls, digging for victory and pig keeping clubs.

Several new photos show the 'keep calm and carry on' attitude in Greater Manchester, including children playing games and enjoying adventures in the summer of 1943, amongst the devastation and desolation caused by the air raids.

June 1943: Children continue to play games and enjoy adventures, even amongst the devastation caused by German Luftwaffe air raids in Manchester

By 1944 the tide of war had turned in favour of Britain and her Allies - but even then families were not safe in their own homes.

November 1, 1944, was a day of heavy losses for the British Empire.

In bombing raids across the UK 70 civilians lost their lives. Meanwhile, British troops stormed the beaches of the island of Walcheren, in order to silence the German guns menacing the Scheldt to the port of Antwerp.

Of the assault troops who led the attack on November 1, 102 Royal Marine Commandos were killed, according to records held by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Among them was Sergeant Herbert William Heywood, a 22-year-old Royal Marine Commando from Fallowfield.

The son of Frederick and Alice Heywood, he is buried at Bergen-Op-Zoom War Cemetery in the Netherlands.

8th May 1945: VE Day scene at a market in Manchester

VE Day saw a jubilant atmosphere in Manchester, as relatives looked forward to seeing their loved ones come home.

But 1945 also saw protests in the city, as 2000 Vickers Armstrong Aircraft workers rallied against proposed redundancies - 'we worked for Hitler's destruction, we can work for Britain's construction', one banner read.

The People's War, a four-part special in the Daily Express and Sunday Express, starts tomorrow.

Don't miss this collectable series in the Daily Express

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