‘My grandmother died as we sheltered under the stairs’

Devastation after the German air raid on the North-East coast.
Devastation after the German air raid on the North-East coast.

Another reader whose memories of the German attack on the North East coast in August 1940 were stirred by our recent article was Joyce Ord.

Here’s what Joyce, now 82, told us after reading our article.

“I was only seven years old at the time.

“My grandmother, Jane Gilhespy, who was in her 60s, was visiting our house in Lech Avenue, Hawthorn, from Felling, for the day.

“We had lunch, and then the air raid siren went off.

“We didn’t have an air raid shelter because we were supposed to live in a safe area, and my mother (Margaret Harbottle), my grandmother and myself were advised to go into a cupboard under the stairs.

“It was probably a good thing.

“I remember there was this bang and suddenly everything fell around us.

“I can clearly remember the three of us still sitting there, and when I looked up, being able to see the sky through the roof.

“We waited, not for a very long time, until we heard some voices, and my mother shouted to let them know we were there.

“I think they were local air raid wardens. They cleared some of the rubble away, and a man’s face appeared in the hole, and my mother explained to him that my grandmother had died. I think it was the shock.

“She wasn’t wounded, she was still sitting on the seat.

“The man cleared a bigger hole and reached in and pulled me out.

“He took me along to another house until an ambulance arrived. I was taken to hospital along with my mother, though I don’t remember being in the ambulance.

“At first, we were taken to Easington hospital, where we stayed for a day or so, and then to Ryhope hospital where I was treated for a hole on the top of my foot, where the door frame must have jammed it, and a nasty cut on my knee.

“But apart from that, I was okay, and remember running around the hospital ‘helping’ the nurses.

“My mother’s feet weren’t too good after the raid, and that was why we were in hospital for about a month.

“Our house was destroyed in the bombing and the house next door had to be demolished.

“There were only four houses in the street. I think they were all rebuilt.

“Because I was so young it all seemed very exciting.”

Many thanks to you too Mrs Ord, for this graphic account of the raid.