In 2016 when researching in South Shields Library about Historian and Photographer Amy Flagg (1893-1965), along with her photographs of damage to the town by German air attacks during the Second World War, there was a number of personal scrapbooks full of the towns history and genealogy of families in the borough.
Also included was ‘Air Raids on South Shields’, the typed notes and diary entries were a record of official statistics of enemy attacks since the first bomb dropped in 1940. The next few posts feature selected pages from Amy’s war diaries. Detail from Tyneside newspapers and maps have been added to some entries.
In one of the entries Amy recorded the night the war came to ‘Chapel House’, the Flagg family home in Westoe Village on Thursday, 16th April 1942:
At 00.45 four bombs fell in the grounds of residential property in Westoe. The first on the edge of a field at ‘Seacroft’, failed to explode and was dealt with by the Bomb Disposal Squad. The second and third fell in the gardens of ‘Fairfield’ and ‘Eastgarth’ respectively. The last one fell on the lawn 10 yards from ‘Chapel House’.
No casualties were reported but considerable damage was done to a large number of houses in the neighbourhood, including over 40 roofs of houses in Horsley Hill Road which were penetrated by lumps of clay thrown up by the explosions.
In her diaries Amy recorded incidents that happened on Tyneside, she would add accounts of what she had seen, descriptions of her photographs or what was in official Air Raid Precautions (ARP) reports.
Saturday 22nd June 1940: The first bombs dropped on South Shields were four high explosives dropped near the junction of Marsden Road and Centenary Avenue. Several houses were slightly damaged by shrapnel. There were no casualties.
Friday 9th August 1940: One high explosive bomb fell in a garden at the back of Lawe Road near Pearson Street. Four people in an Anderson shelter ten feet from the crater were uninjured. One Home Guard was killed by machine-gun fire. No casualties from the bomb.
A comprehensive report by Amy detailed a raid by German aircraft on Sunday 16th February 1941:
This night will be long remembered in South Shields. 130 enemy aircraft were engaged in action on the coast from Hull to Berwick. Bombers and minelayers came over in waves and were met with intense Anti-Aircraft fire.
At 00.25 a Heinkel 111, was hit by gunfire and collided with a Barrage Balloon cable on the North Foreshore. Part of one wing was broken off and fell on the shore. The plane lost height very quickly and crashed in Beach Road.
One member of the crew bailed out but his parachute caught on the overhead wires and he hung downwards until rescued. He was badly injured and died shortly after admission to the Ingham Infirmary. The remainder of the crew perished with their plane on impact with the ground.
At 00.50 a mine, which had not been released from the bomb rack of the plane, exploded with terrific force. It was seen and heard from beyond Newcastle and windows were broken as far away as Tynemouth, North Shields, Westoe and Laygate.
The Model Yacht House in South Marine Park and a small building were completely wrecked. Parts of the plane, maps, papers and clothing were subsequently collected and dredged from the lake.
The explosion had tragic results – one officer of the Borough Police Force and one Auxiliary Fireman were killed. Two other members of the Auxiliary Fire Service died in hospital. Seventeen more members of the Police Force, Fire Brigade and Auxiliary Fire Service were injured, some very gravely, and were admitted to the Ingham Infirmary.
Other enemy aircraft, apparently taking the flames as target, dropped bombs on Broderick Street, where an elderly couple lost their lives and several houses were demolished. On the junction of Lawe Road and St Aidan’s Road, damage was caused to St Aidan’s church and a number of houses, ‘Sea Merge’ and ‘Tyne View’ being completely wrecked.
During the same raid six parachute mines descended on the South Sands near Trow Rocks, and on some fields near the New Marsden Inn, but caused no damage or casualties. Many houses severely damaged and widespread breakage of windows was suffered in many parts of the town. 85 people were rendered homeless, some of whom were taken to an Emergency Centre.
Gary Alikivi April 2021
Link to Amy Flagg’s war photographs on the excellent South Tyneside History website.
Link to Amy Flagg documentary ‘Westoe Rose’.