Letter of the week: 'South Shields war heroes should be remembered now'

Ronnie Mews next to the Temple Park war memorial plaque.
Ronnie Mews next to the Temple Park war memorial plaque.

I commend the efforts of Mr Mews in protecting Temple Park as a memorial to those who risked and sacrificed their lives during the Second World War.

I was disappointed to read that South Tyneside Council officials think that having a new plaque in place would be a “costly exercise”.

It is coming up to the 80-year anniversary that Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany on September 3,1939. We should remember that nationalism and racism lead to regimes like those of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

We should not wait until the century to pay our respects to those who lived through the Second World War. We should do so while they are still alive.

It was not just those who were in the armed forces who sacrificed themselves.South Shields suffered over 200 air raid alerts and at least 156 people were killed. Many more were injured.

Many houses were damaged, by incendiary bombs and parachute mines. One direct hit on the Market Place killed more than 40 people.

South Shields, it is said, lost more seafarers than any other port in Britain.

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An account in the Shields Gazette reported of a single raid that: “Forty-four bombs exploded in the borough, causing 67 deaths, and 204 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 homes. 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.”

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South Tyneside Council says it is committed to recognising the sacrifices our service men and women make. It signed up to armed forces covenant which recognises the first duty of Government is the defence of the realm.

Our Armed Forces fulfill that responsibility on behalf of the Government, sacrificing some civilian freedoms, facing danger and, sometimes, suffering serious injury or death.

It is time to do something about Temple Park so we never forget the very ‘costly exercise’ that generation made to defend us against racism and protect our freedom and democracy.

Some of them will still be counting the cost in terms of lives, health and hardship.

Martin Lightfoot.