I met Harry at the 2018 Local History Day event and after a really interesting chat, I asked him to write his memories down. He has. Thanks very much Harry!

I was born on March 2nd 1935, so one can say that I was a child of the Depression. I cannot recall much of that time but I do know that my father was directed by the labour exchange to dig two deep underground shelters in Dockwray Square. This must have been late 1939 because I was old enough to be sent with Dad’s sandwiches for him at lunch time so I was not yet at school.

 

I remember this in particular because Dad gave me a bite of his sandwich and of course it had mustard on it.  Dad was soon called up into the Army which upset him as he was an experienced trawler man. Still ,as I eventually found out myself , one does not argue with the armed forces . He was a soldier, Worcester Regiment.

 

At this time we were living in a rented house in Hamilton Terrace which is part of Tynemouth Road and it was a two storied corner house with a haberdashery next door.

 

While Dad was away in the army we were told that the house was to be requestioned as an Air Raid Warden Centre and we would have to move. Mother was upset to say the least ,especially when she was told that we would have to move to Dockwray Square.This was a poorer area of town and not very desirable. Then she was told that it was a newly converted house with indoor toilet, kitchen and bathroom. Suddenly all was smiles and she was eager to move. I went to school from Dockwray Square and had all of the adventures that boys then had.

 

Sometime in 1940 I was evacuated to Rothbury together with many of my school mates . We went to school there and for the most part had a reasonable time. As there was little or no bombing my mother took me back home . The German High command must have heard that I had returned to North Shields because in 1941 they began bombing us.

 

The war affected everyone because men were away, everything was rationed and tragedy happened to someone everyday. Somehow as kids we did not grasp the enormity of the situation which is just as well for our unformed minds.

 

Mother was frightened as we had already lost her brother, my uncle Bob who was lost 8th  March 1941 aboard the steamship Togston.

 

Uncle Bob had already survived a sinking when aboard the Goodwood which was sunk 10th  Sept 1939 in the North Sea. Uncle Bob was awarded the British Empire Medal and Lloyds Gallantry Medal. (see North Shields library archives plus book “In Peril on the Sea” by D Masters – The Cresset Press 1960)

 

The war was exciting to me in my childish innocence and I happily gathered shrapnel with my school friends after an air raid.  We grew quite expert “so we thought “ at estimating where the spent bullets or shrapnel would be from the scars on the buildings. Some of the lads found all kinds of wonderful things such as the fins from incendiary bombs and bits of planes. Trouble started when some fellows found a load of unfired bullets that must have fallen from a damaged aeroplane. They fired these by wedging them in fence  planks and hitting the base with a brick. One can imagine the row that caused in the schools. We would be “frisked “ in the morning for “goodies” and various  important people went around the schools telling us of the dangers. I cannot say that it stopped it going on really. School kids are experts at deception when they wish to be and the “code of the closed mouth“ ruled.

 

My father was on leave on the 3rd of May 1941when Wilkinson’s factory shelter was hit, killing my cousin Sandy Frankland and  damaging his brother Arthur as well as lots of people I knew. During the raid the bombers were very close to our house which was in line with the tankers in the Tyne and Dad decided we should leave for somewhere safer,  preferably deeper. We all set off  for Wilkinsons to arrive not long after it was hit.  Mother and I with Mrs Talantyre and daughter Marjory were sent to Northumberland Street Mission while Dad started helping to dig for survivors hoping that this would mean his sister Nellie and her family . We were lucky in that Aunt Nellie and cousin Sepie had stayed at home in their own shelter.

 

Tragically Arthur and Sandy had gone to Wilkinsons for the “fun”. Sandy was among the dead and Arthur was never really the same again. He had been buried with Sandy for about a day . There were 107 people killed and 43 injured that night in Wilkinson’s Mineral Water factory shelter. The largest loss of life in a single raid that North Shields suffered.

 

Dad wanted to stay to be with Aunt Nellie but was told to return to his unit. Mother and I eventually left when mother got a position in Cumberland.