This coming Sunday marks the 75th anniversary of a devastating attack on South Shields by German bombers during the Second World War.
The attack left scores dead and injured, and caused considerable damage to the town.
Recently, while going through the old Gazette archives, I stumbled upon a bound file containing page upon page of ‘copy’ written by the paper’s reporters at the time of the conflict.
Included in the file is an account of the day on October 2, 1941, when the enemy’s planes bombed Shields, and left death and destruction in their wake.
To mark the anniversary, I am reproducing their words.
The account, dated October 2, states: “Forty-four bombs exploded in the borough, causing 67 deaths, and 204 were injured, 12 fires were also caused.
“Mutual aid was obtained from Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland, and aid was rendered by the military authorities for cordon duties.
“Extensive damage was caused to business premises, shops and dwelling houses.
“One thousand six hundred and forty persons were rendered homeless; 25 shops were demolished; 39 seriously damaged, and 86 slightly damaged.
“Two hundred and thirty three houses were demolished; 504 seriously damaged, and 2,375 slightly damaged.
“Two persons were rescued from a demolished house in Bolingbroke Street, from a Morrison shelter, unharmed.”
Talking to people in the town about this horrific air raid, some still believe that it was case of “mistaken identity”.
For they suggest that the German bombers were, in fact, under orders to target bridges across the Tyne, at Newcastle, but mistook the bridge at the top of Mile End, in Shields, for one of the city’s, and struck here rather than farther north.
What cannot be doubted, however, is the fact that the air raid caused terrible loss of life, awful injuries and devastating damage to the homes of a great many Shields families.
The attack occurred just days after an earlier air raid resulted in the deaths of 18 people and caused injuries to 86 others.
The report is just one of many in the file which gives a fascinating and grim insight into the way in which the air raids affected people here on South Tyneside.
Here is an account from December 8, when 14 bombs fell on the borough.
“They caused injuries to two people, while four persons were trapped in a Morrison shelter in Erskine Road. But they were rescued unharmed.
“The houses themselves were blown to pieces.”
On March 8, 1942, the Gazette’s reporters wrote: “A parachute mine exploded harmlessly on the railway track at Tyne Dock.
“Another caused damage to houses in the vicinity.”
By July 31, 1942, more than 3,147 people had been made homeless as a result of the air raids, according to the notes.
Four hundred and forty three houses had been demolished, along with 39 shops and offices, while 1,257 homes and 67 commercial properties were seriously damaged.
Almost 9,500 houses were slightly damaged, while 259 shops and offices sustained minor damage.
Such statistics certainly bring into focus the ferocity of the enemy attacks, and reveal just how many people were affected by Hitler’s aggression.
How were you or your family affected by the raids? Please get in touch with your thoughts.