Today local historian Dorothy Ramser begins her fascinating account of a local lad who, having seen the death and destruction brought about in his home town by the German Luftwaffe, decided to do something about it – in the most dramatic and daring way.
As Dorothy explains: “Having read the recent article in the Gazette about the air raids on South Shields during the Second World War, I subsequently came across an article in a local paper from October 1943 about a young man who had displayed outrage on witnessing the first raids on South Shields, and vowed to help do something about it by joining the RAF.”
Thiosw is the story of Flight Lieut Sidney Godfrey Falconer Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM).
“The headline in the paper ran ‘Joined RAF. to avenge Shields raid’.
”The article, dated October, 1943, revealed that three years earlier, a 19 year old King’s College agricultural student, Sidney Godfrey Falconer, of Fort Street, South Shields, stood watching air raid damage near to his home.
“He said to his father, William, ‘Someone has to go up there and pay them back for this. I’m going to join the R.A.F.’
“Two days after the talk with his father he volunteered for the RAF.”
The newspaper article went on to report that: ”Now, he is Acting Flight-Lieutenant Falconer DFC DFM. The award of the DFC is announced this morning and it follows the DFM he won in July last year.
“This piqued my interest in such a brave young man, so I dug a little deeper to see what I could find out about him.”
Dorothy learned that Sidney carried out his first operation on February 14 1942, flying as 2nd pilot to New Zealander Sgt Lamason in a raid of 28 aircraft on Le Havre.
In total he flew 10 operations with Lamason.
“His first operation as captain was on May 29, 1942 in Short Stirling Mk.I HA-L s/n R9311 on a raid to Gennevilliers, and he was officially commissioned as Pilot Officer on June 20 1942. His last operational sortie was on the August 24 August to Frankfurt.
“Sidney completed an amazing 50 operational missions over Germany (30 was the norm) and was transferred as an instructor, but volunteered again for operational flying duties.
“His DFM was for service with 218 Squadron, which was established in 1918 and was known as The Gold Coast Squadron. Its motto was ‘In Time’”.
Next time: Dorothy reveals how our South Shields hero won his DFM by “showing daring and adroitness of a very high order”.