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North-East Diary

Roy Ripley &
Brian Pears
© Copyright Brian Pears 1994-2011


11th September 1941 to
30th September/1st October 1941

Thursday, 11th September 1941  D740

11.35.. Co Durham.. Two HEs fell in a grass field at the rear of Dawdon Hill Farm, Dawdon, 100 yards west of Dawdon Viaduct causing damage to house windows in Edith Street, Dawdon.

'SS Empire Crossbill' (5,463t) cargo ship, Philadelphia to Hull sunk by U 82, E of Cape Farewell. All forty-eight people on board died.

Day 740. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.00, begins: 20.05

Thursday, 11th/Friday, 12th September 1941  N740

Of the twenty long-range bombers and five fighters sent into action on Thursday / Friday night about thirteen operated over eastern England between Tynemouth and Brighton. Bombs were dropped at a dozen points including Durham and the North Riding. An incident occurred at Saltburn in Yorkshire, where some damage was caused to an ironworks (Skinningrove Iron Works), production was delayed for no more than three hours, however. One person was killed in this attack.

21.10.. Co Durham.. Two HEs were dropped in a field 300 yards W of the Towers, Hawthorn making two craters. No person was killed but a horse was injured and had to be destroyed.

Night 740. All times BST. Blackout begins: 20.05, ends: 06.01
Public Alert: 20.45, All-Clear: 21.43
Industrial Alarm: 20.49, Release: 21.42

Friday, 12th September 1941  D741

Co Durham.. One of the three enemy aircraft overland dropped bombs in fields near Seaham Harbour. There was slight window damage.

Day 741. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.01, begins: 20.02
Industrial Alarm: 11.18, Release: 11.31

Friday, 12th/Saturday, 13th September 1941  N741

During a raid on Durham, damage was reported to the railway and at Flamborough, damage was done to some houses.

02.00.. Co Durham.. Seven HEs dropped and one of these fell on the LNER's Lanchester Valley line between Blackhill and Knitsley. A railway engine and ten wagons were derailed. Other bombs fell harmlessly in open fields.

Night 741. All times BST. Blackout begins: 20.02, ends: 06.03

Saturday, 13th September 1941  D742

Day 742. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.03, begins: 20.00
Industrial Alarm: 12.20, Release: 12.26

Saturday, 13th/Sunday, 14th September 1941  N742

Yorkshire.. Bombs fell in the North Riding of Yorkshire.

Night 742. All times BST. Blackout begins: 20.00, ends: 06.05

Sunday, 14th/Monday, 15th September 1941  N743

Yorkshire.. A very small number of German aircraft operated off Scarborough apparently looking for a convoy. One flew over Scarborough and dropped two bombs there. Two houses were demolished, water and gas mains damaged, and the main Scarborough - Whitby railway line was damaged and temporarily blocked. One person was killed and a few injured in the town. This was the only bombing incident of the night.

Night 743. All times BST. Blackout begins: 19.57, ends: 06.07

Monday, 15th/Tuesday, 16th September 1941  N744

Night 744. All times BST. Blackout begins: 19.54, ends: 06.09
Industrial Alarm: 01.17, Release: 01.27

Saturday, 20th/Sunday, 21st September 1941  N749

01.35.. Hull.. An IB cluster and five small HEs were dropped around Priory Sidings, Hessle Road, causing slight damage to four railway tracks.

Night 749. All times BST. Blackout begins: 19.41, ends: 06.18
Public Alert (Hull Warning Dist): 01.21, All Clear: 03.52

Sunday, 21st September 1941  D750

Day 750. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.18, begins: 19.39
Public Alert: 09.27, All-Clear: 09.52
Industrial Alarm: 09.25, Release: 09.42

Monday, 22nd September 1941  D751

Leeds.. In an air raid on Leeds, houses were demolished and others damaged in Cliff Side Gardens.

Hull starts its 'Tanks for Russia' week in local factories.

Day 751. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.20, begins: 19.36

Friday, 26th September 1941  D755

'SS British Prince' (4,979t) on a voyage from New York to London, calling at North-East ports, was attacked and sunk by German aircraft off the Humber.

Day 755. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.28, begins: 19.26

Tuesday, 30th September/Wednesday, 1st October 1941  N759

Editing the entries for this particular day was difficult, the three initial reports are full of detailed information but they emphasise slightly different aspects of the raids. It is important to me that I lose as little data as possible in recording these events, so I have included all three.

Northumberland.. Tynemouth Borough.. A major raid causing sixty-one deaths and widespread damage. Thirty-eight HEs dropped over residential areas in the eastern half of North Shields causing major damage to property including North Shields Railway Station. A single HE fell at Whitehill Point Ferry Landing. Seven HEs fell at Albert Edward Dock and the railway lines serving the docks. Four HEs fell at Percy Main affecting Rothbury Terrace, Morpeth Terrace, Wallsend Road and Waterville Road and a single HE between Regent Terrace and Queen Alexander Road.

Raids on the north-east were carried out by some of the eighty enemy aircraft that flew over Britain today. In North Shields: Bedford Street, Saville Street, and Coach Lane were among the streets hit. The buildings damaged included the Wesleyan Hall, which was set on fire, Prince's Theatre, Chirton Co-operative Store, and Queen Victoria Council School - the school was badly damaged, five classrooms were found to be unusable, pupils were transferred to the Western Board School. For further information on the subsequent fate of the Queen Victoria Council School, see chapter - 'Bombed Out' in Background Information.

A number of residential and industrial premises were also among the places hit and at least sixty-one people were killed. The minesweeping trawlers 'Eileen Duncan' and 'Star of Deveron' were attacked and sunk, probably during this same air raid. Three bombs fell on Prince Albert Edward Dock. In South Shields, all of the E side of the Market Place was devastated including the Shields Evening News and Gazette building.. Compiled from official accounts.

With some eighty enemy aircraft over the country on the night of 30th/1st, some serious damage was done in the North Shields area, where at least forty-one people were killed. Bombs also fell at Sunderland, Preston Colliery in Northumberland and in Yorkshire.

Coach Lane in North Shields received a hammering on September 30. The Wesleyan Hall, fortunately unoccupied, was reportedly set on fire by oil bombs, the colloquial term for the Flammenbombe. The Hall was rebuilt by the Methodists, the foundation stone being laid on March 10, 1956, but, following the amalgamation of the three Methodist Churches in the town in 1980, the building was sold and later re-opened its doors as a Gospel Hall.

Preliminary reports estimate that about eighty enemy aircraft were in action on the last night of the week, and of these some twenty bombers made a seventy-minute raid on areas at the mouth of the Tyne. The main weight of attack fell on North Shields, to the west of Tynemouth, where some fifty HEs were dropped.

Four fires of medium category (two to ten pumps) and another five small ones were started in this district; all were in hand by midnight, the last of them was extinguished early in the morning. Houses and business premises were damaged, (82 houses were destroyed and another 609 seriously damaged), and nearly 400 people were admitted to the five rest centres opened. 500 men are at work on repairs, which should be completed in a week's time. Bombs fell in the docks, the only effective damage done there was the sinking of two trawlers.

Rather more serious damage was done to the railway system; a fire was started at the Goods Station, and both lines were blocked by damage to buildings at the passenger station. Trains are terminating outside the town for the time being, and workers are going in by bus, but normal working is expected in two or three days. Damage to utilities seems largely to have been confined to gas supplies. A hit on the gasworks has temporarily stopped production, but industry and most other consumers can be supplied straight away from other sources and, though some damage was done to mains, general dislocation is expected to be slight. Sixty-one people are so far known to have been killed in this district.

The south bank of the river got off more lightly. Twenty-eight HEs were dropped at South Shields and one medium fire was started. The electric lines were blocked for a short time near High Shields station, and damage was also done to the power station. All the Corporation's electric supplies temporarily failed. Four people were killed when a ferry boat was hit and sunk. A good deal of house damage is reported (20? destroyed and nearly 200 seriously damaged), and casualties in South Shields are at present given as eleven killed and fifty-five seriously injured. About 300 people were made homeless. First-aid repairs should be complete in two or three days.

Northumberland.. Preston Colliery.. Homes were damaged, a shelter hit and two people killed.

This extensive report was copied from Miss Flagg's excellent document 'Air Raids on South Shields'. Some duplication has been omitted and some text simplified but the details of the raid are as reported.

"Enemy activity over this country last night was not on a large scale, but included a fairly sharp attack on a North-East coast town. Considerable damage was done and there were a number of casualties, some of which were fatal. One enemy aircraft was destroyed during the night".

Behind this terse statement by the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Home Security, (October 1st), lies a story of widespread bombing, some miraculous escapes and many acts of individual heroism in South Shields.

At 20.52 on this evening a stick of bombs fell on North Shields, two major fires being started. Seventeen minutes later the attack was carried to South Shields when a 1,000kg bomb fell in the garden behind the Simonside Arms on the Newcastle Road. A crater 50' by 15' was made and 90' of a wall was demolished, but the explosion only caused superficial damage to the hotel and some breakage of windows nearby. There were no casualties. At the same time two bombs fell in Commercial Road; one struck the foundations of an old house on the bankside below Smith's Foundry, ricocheted, passed through the exterior wall of a house on the opposite side of the road and came to rest on the floor of an upstairs room between a partition wall and a bed, failing to explode. In the course of its flight the base plate and fins of the bomb were broken off but it weighed 500 lbs. without them. It was removed by the Bomb Disposal Squad the next day. The other bomb hit Holy Trinity School, completely wrecking the buildings and blocking the road with debris. A gas main was burst, the windows in the Holy Trinity Church were shattered and structural damage was done to other buildings in the vicinity.

A few minutes later, a 1,000kg bomb fell immediately behind 4 houses in Harton Lane. These houses were reduced to rubble, and covered a frontage of 86'. There was 1 fatal casualty, a woman who had remained in her house during the raid, the other occupants of the houses, who had gone to their Anderson Shelters, were unharmed. A gas main and a water pipe were fractured. Other houses in the neighbourhood were damaged. At Harton Dye Works the main buildings were completely wrecked by another 1,000kg bomb which fell in the centre of the works; all the heavy machinery in the laundry was destroyed and much harm done to surrounding departments, necessitating further demolition. There were no casualties. 3 more bombs fell on the fields near Prince Edward Road, 1 between the Royal Engineers hutments and the searchlight battery on Brinkburn Farm field. There was no damage to the huts or the searchlights but a soldier on sentry duty was injured. The other 2 bombs fell harmlessly in fields.

At 21.20, Union Alley received a blow which was to prove providential later in the week. It fell near the Market Place entrance, behind Crofton's warehouses. A cafe at the corner was totally obliterated and a number of people were trapped in a basement. A Rescue Party foreman, who afterwards received the George Medal for his gallantry, was lowered head first into the cellar and succeeded in rescuing 3 people, despite the danger from a broken gas main and the possible collapse of heavy masonry, he continued searching for the remaining victims. A youth and an elderly woman were found and extricated but another woman was buried up to her neck and in danger from the likely collapse of wreckage. Without hesitation he placed himself in a position to hold up the unsafe debris and maintained this position until the casualty was removed. The rear of Crofton's premises was badly damaged, rolls of lino, carpets and other goods being flung considerable distances. The roadway at the entrance to Union Alley from the Market was completely blocked by the large crater and debris.

Another heroic deed resulted from a stick of bombs which fell at 21.21 near West Holborn. One 1,000kg bomb fell through the corrugated iron roof of the Electric Power Station; it hit and demolished a 22½" thick wall which was 16' high, twisted a steel girder contained therein and came to rest on the manhole of a boiler with a steam pressure of 250 lbs. to the sq". It failed to explode but there was great danger of it doing so owing to the heat of the boiler. A Corporation employee very courageously drew the fires. At 04.30 on October 1st it was removed by the Bomb Disposal Squad and dispatched to Newcastle as, owing to its damaged state, the officer in charge was unable to remove the fuse. Throughout the remainder of the raid the whole town was without electric light and the activities of the Rescue Parties, First Aid Parties and Ambulance Service were severely impeded. The 'All Clear' at the end of the raid had to be sounded on police car sirens. Another 1,000kg bomb fell in No.3 dock in Middle Docks, passing through the side of a ship and on to the dock bottom. Another of the same size fell on the west side of the Middle Docks, demolishing the canteen and the Whitehill Point ferry landing stage; it sank the ferry with 4 of the crew on board. Surrounding premises were severely damaged.

Widespread havoc was caused by another heavy bomb which fell in the back lane between Morton Street and Livingstone Street, 34' of property was shattered and an additional 79' had to be taken down later. A number of the casualties in this thickly populated area were fatal. Water and gas mains were damaged.

About 21.30, 3 bombs fell at Trow Rocks and a 4th at Frenchman's Bay, near to the Fort but there were no casualties or damage. A further bomb fell in Rydal Gardens, 2 houses in Ambleside Avenue were destroyed, 7 people were just going to an Anderson shelter in the garden and were actually in the hall of their house when the bomb dropped; they were trapped at the foot of the stairs, they were eventually got out by a Rescue Party and Wardens, 2 were dead, 2 injured and the rest were suffering from shock. Water and gas mains were fractured and a fire started which was put out by the NFS.

The Shields Gazette Offices and Printing Works received a direct hit by heavy calibre bombs, the whole printing department and part of the offices were wrecked. There were no casualties, the only occupants of the building at the time were the firewatchers who were unhurt and a reporter who was at the head of the stairs, after being knocked down by flying debris he nearly stepped out of a hole in the wall - into space. ARP Headquarters, formerly the Gas Company Offices was slightly damaged, other buildings in Barrington Street suffered minor damage. A bomb dropped in the north-east corner of St Hilda's churchyard where a large number of graves were disturbed. The roof and windows were damaged and 150' of the boundary wall was destroyed. Damage was done to the Gas Company's purifiers, etc., adjoining Coronation Street and the old Northern Press buildings at the corner of St Hilda Lane, used for housing fire engines was damaged.

At 21.40, 2 x 1,000kg bombs fell in the Westoe district. 1 fell in the middle of the road at the Grosvenor Road end of Eastfield Road which destroyed 6 houses and killed an Air Raid Warden as she was on her way to the Warden's post, she was the first Warden to die in South Shields as a result of enemy action. The 2nd bomb partly demolished the gable end of a house in Tynedale Road but it did not explode. It proved to be yet another 1,000kg bomb and it had embedded itself between 2 houses and was subsequently removed by the Bomb Disposal Squad. A bomb hit the rear of some tenement houses in George Pott's Street, the backs of the buildings being torn off, the fronts showed but little damage. These houses and an additional 79' of property had to be demolished later. Another bomb fell in a cutting on the Harton Coal Company's railway between Laygate Schools and Chichester Place; 75' of permanent way was torn up and a length of rail 35' long, was thrown on to the end of a house in Raglan Street by the force of the explosion, the roof was damaged and the rail fell into the street, blocking the roadway. There were no casualties. An 18" compressed air pipe was broken and an electric cable severely damaged. Houses and sheds in Chichester Place suffered considerably and subsequent demolition was necessary.

At 21.50, 2 bombs fell on the vacant ground to the south of Mill Dam, on the site of Forest Hill; they exploded without doing any damage, at the same moment a 500kg bomb hit a block of 12 houses in Cornwallis Square, destroying 2 and damaging others. A number of people including 2 Air Raid Wardens were injured. A 4th bomb weighing 1,000kg fell on the LNER embankment and bridge near Portberry Street. The main line from South Shields was out of commission the following day and a bus service was run between South Shields and Tyne Dock railway stations. There were no casualties from this bomb.

A bomb was reported to have fallen in the river at 21.55 and at 22.05 the last bombs of this disastrous evening descended on Mayfair Gardens and Harton Cemetery. Of the 2 that fell in Mayfair Gardens, one fell in a garden on the north side of the houses, causing no casualties but damaging windows and roofs. The 2nd scored a direct hit on 2 semi-detached villas which were completely obliterated. The inmates of these houses had taken refuge in a concrete shelter constructed by one of the owners, the occupants suffered from shock, there were no further casualties in the area. In the Cemetery, a bomb fell in the garden at the back of the Lodge, seriously damaging greenhouses and horticultural stock, the other fell in the middle of one of the drives, blocking it, which delayed the vehicles carrying the fatal casualties to the mortuary during the night.

34 bombs fell during this raid, no incendiary bombs were dropped and the NFS was only called out to attend one fire. The Military Authority was asked to implement arrangements for giving aid to heavily bombed areas. Approximately 300 people were rendered homeless or were evacuated from their homes; Feeding and Rest Centres were used, admitting 63 persons. Casualties were:- 11 men, 6 women and 1 child, killed / 18 men, 26 women and 7 children, seriously injured / 22 men, 9 women and 4 children, slightly injured.

This account of an incident at Harton near South Shields is taken from Mr E.B. Dobson's book 'Hartonclean 1884 - 1984'. "On September 30, 1941, a German plane dropped a bomb on the Harton works, (of what was, at that time, called Bird's Laundry). Heavy damage was done to the main floor and to adjoining buildings, the only section left intact being the dry-cleaning room. William Campbell, manager at Harton, happened to be on firewatching duty, as was his secretary, Miss Moira Leadley, when the bomb fell at 21.00. They sat down in the air raid shelter while he dictated his plans for coping with the situation. Leslie Bird was told about it at 08.00 and when he arrived at Harton he was presented with complete scheme, typed in triplicate, for maintaining a service. The workers were already there, pulling out clothing from a crater twenty feet deep.

Without steam even the dry-cleaning room could not be used. Competitors offered help and the companies of Bradburns, Presco and Northern Cleaners gave the use of their premises and plant each Saturday and Sunday, workers from Harton staffing them .... It was only a short time before Harton was back in full production, meeting what had become a heavy demand".

21.50.. Sunderland.. Dryden Street - Cobham Square - Shakespeare Street - Maplewood Avenue area. Casualties:- seven killed, four seriously injured, twelve slightly injured. Two HEs fell at Witherwack Farm in the north-western outskirts of the Borough; one in the Corporation Playing Field and another in a field beside Southwick Cemetery. Damage was caused to the Cemetery and to greenhouses on nearby allotments.

22.00.. Sunderland.. Four HEs fell in Ridley Street, Shakespeare Street, Dryden Street and Cobham Square in the Southwick District. Four houses completely demolished, sixteen to be demolished and sixty less seriously damaged. Water and gas mains were fractured and sixty-one people rendered homeless.

Yorkshire.. Two minor incidents, involving negligible damage and no casualties, were reported, both in Yorkshire.

A Junkers Ju 88 was shot down by a Beaufighter 50 miles off the Northumberland coast. The Beaufighter was also hit and returned to base on one engine.

Night 759. All times BST. Blackout begins: 19.16, ends: 06.37
Public Alert: 20.54, All-Clear: 22.59
Industrial Alarm: 20.55, Release: 22.36

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