‘We left no one in bombed Market Place shelters’ – South Shields fireman

Digging air raid shelters in the Market before the Second World War.
Digging air raid shelters in the Market before the Second World War.

After 44 years with the Gazette, friends, I have decided it’s time to go, and will be saying goodbye in a couple of weeks’ time

I’m not sure at the minute how it will feel not instantly to take up my pen when I see something of interest (albeit it might be a sigh of relief on your part!). But we’ll talk more nearer the day.

It’s quite a spectacle at the minute, for instance, seeing one side of the Market Place in Shields in total upheaval as it’s dug up (though I like the relocation of some of the stalls to the side of St Hilda’s Church, in front of the bank).

It’s part of the redevelopment of the square, of course. But already I am hearing talk of “all the bodies under there”.

This is the story that has persisted since soon after the air raid in 1941 that destroyed half the Market, that people who died in the air raid shelters there were left buried underneath the rubble.

It has cropped up from time to time over the years in Cookson Country but I’ve never been able to find any grounds for it. Within weeks of the raid, the Gazette was carrying stories that the rumours flooding the town were untrue.

Years later, a regular contributor to Cookson Country, an old auxiliary fireman who had been on duty in the Market that night, told me “We left no one in those shelters” – and was quite upset at any suggestion that he and any of his colleagues had.