South Tyneside’s unsung war heroes brought to life in new book

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A South Tyneside-born author’s latest creation celebrates the unsung heroes of the home front during the Blitz.

John Orton’s new book has been published and chronicles the suffering and heroism of people in South Shields during the Second World War, with the help of South Tyneside photographic archives.

John’s first book - The Five Stone Steps: a tale of a Policeman’s life in 1920s’ South Shields - was a half fiction/half fact and a retelling of the memoirs of Thomas ‘Jock’ Gordon, a Shields bobby who went on to become station sergeant and who served during the Second World War.

John was working on a sequel and needed a final chapter on Shields during the Blitz when he stumbled across the material for his latest book Blitz Pams.

He said: “I wasn’t sure where to start. Jock had run out of steam when he came to the war although he spoke of the dedication of the police.

“As I now live in Portishead and wasn’t able to get to Shields Local History Library I thought I’d take a look at the South Tyneside Historic Images website.

“I found an absolute treasure trove of pictures of the aftermath of the German raids. Amy Flagg, local library historian and keen amateur photographer, went out after every German raid and took photos of the bomb damage. It’s a unique photographic archive.”

As soon as he started delving into it John realised how little he knew of the blitz on Shields.

He said: “The police had one of the toughest jobs and had lost many young constables who had joined up or had been called up. They made do with retired policemen who were called back into service, special constables and the War Reserve Police.

“They also used Police Auxiliary Messengers (PAMs). These were young lads aged between 16 and 18 with bikes, whose job was to take messages when needed during or after a raid. The thought of the lads riding bikes over the cobbles in the blackout, in all weathers, and with bombs flying over their heads sparked my imagination. There was enough material here for a whole book not just a chapter!”

John’s novel tells the story of the blitz on South Shields from September 1940 to December 1941 through the eyes of one of the PAMs, Mossie Hamed, a grocery delivery boy from Maxwell Street,

The book is published by Tyneside-based UK Book Publishing and is available from online retailers including Amazon and selected regional outlets