VICTORIA CROSS WAR HEROES #7 JOHN SCOTT YOULL: FIGHT ON THE ITALIAN FRONT

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of an enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Youll was only 21 year old when he was awarded the VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 4th September 1918. He was also one of just eight men from County Durham to receive the VC in the Great War. This is his story.

I was born at home on 6 June 1897, my parents were Richard and Margaret of Thorncroft, Thornley, County Durham. I was educated at Thornley Council School and later a student at the Wingate technical classes. I started work at Thornley Colliery as an apprentice electrician at 15.

Then in 1915 I enlisted as a sapper in the Royal Engineers of 1st Durham Field Company. We trained for a year before leaving for France on 11th August 1916. Six month later I returned home for officer training then gazetted to the Northumberland Fusiliers and returned to France at the end of summer. Later that year I was made second lieutenant and our battalion was transferred to the Italian Front.

I was commanding a patrol near Asiago, north of Venice, Italy, when we came under heavy fire so I sent my men back to safety and I remained to watch the situation. Then I reported to a neighbouring unit where I took command of some men and we held our position against enemy attack.

But behind me a machine-gun opened fire. So I rushed in and captured the gun, then opened fire killing most of them. I carried out three separate counterattacks, and drove the enemy back each time.

Tragically, just over a month later, on 27 October 1918, John was killed during an attack across the River Piave. In the attack, Youll was first slightly wounded in the arm, the Army Chaplain arrived and advised him to stay where he was.

Later the Chaplain found his body laid out on a stretcher – he had been struck by a shell. His last words were “It’s all right, we got them stone cold.”

John’s family were notified of his death on 10th November 1918, the day before the Armistice was signed. He was first buried at Spresiano, north of Venice, and later, in June 1919, reburied at Giavera British Cemetery, Veneto, Italy.

In 1997, his medals were sold for £36,000, they included the VC, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 and Italian Silver Star. They were purchased by the Ashcroft Trust and displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.

Research: Commonwealth War Graves.

Comprehensive Guide to Victoria Cross.

Gary Alikivi  May 2021

VICTORIA CROSS WAR HEROES #6 CAPTAIN JAMES JACKMAN: FIRE ON TOBRUK

The 50th Northumbrian Infantry was a division of the British Army that saw distinguished service in the Second World War. The two T’s in the divisional insignia represent the main rivers of its recruitment area, the Tyne and Tees.

The division served in almost all major engagements of the war from 1940 until late ‘44, and served with distinction in North Africa, the Mediterranean and Middle East.  The 50th Division was one of two British divisions – the other being the 3rd Infantry, to land in Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944.

Four men of the division were awarded the Victoria Cross. The VC is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of an enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

One of those brave soldiers was Captain James Jackman. This is his story.

I was born on 19 March 1916, my father James was a doctor, and my mother Elizabeth lived in Glenageary, County Dublin, Republic of Ireland. I was educated at Stoneyhurst College in Lancashire and on the outbreak of the Second World War, was enlisted with the 1st Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.

I was posted with the Regiment to North Africa and at 25 year old was given command of a machine gun company. It was November 1941 when I was commanding Z Company during Operation Crusader when we launched an attack near Tobruk in Libya.

As our tanks reached the crest of the rise they were met by extremely intense fire from a large number of guns. The fire was so heavy that it was doubtful whether the Brigade could maintain its hold on the position. Our tanks settled to beat down the enemy fire and I pushed up the ridge leading the machine gun trucks. I saw anti-tank guns firing, as well as rows of batteries that the tanks were engaging.

I immediately got our guns into action and stood up in the front of the truck leading our trucks across the front between the tanks and guns.

James’ devotion to duty regardless of danger not only inspired his men but clinched the determination of the tank crews never to relinquish the position they had gained. He directed guns to their positions and indicated targets, inspiring everyone with confidence, but was later killed in action.

James Jackman died 26 November 1941 and was buried with full military honours in Tobruk War Cemetery, Libya. His posthumous VC was presented to his parents by King George VI at Buckingham Palace.

The medal was placed on long term loan to his former school, Stoneyhurst College, Lancashire.

Research: Commonwealth War Graves.

Comprehensive Guide to Victoria Cross.

Gary Alikivi  May 2021

WITNESS: 10 EVENTS of WORLD WAR TWO

pic Amy Flagg 1941. South Shields Market. Courtesy of South Tyneside Council.

War images by South Shields historian & photographer Amy Flagg are a reminder how the Second World War impacted the town. In the ‘70s I remember playing on bomb buildings and not realising that’s exactly what they were – big gaps in streets that had been flattened by German Luftwaffe.

On TV, a documentary series World at War had grainy black and white footage of soldiers fighting on the front line cut with colour interviews of people telling war stories, they were witnesses to armageddon.

On the big screen in the late ‘90s came Saving Private Ryan, there was audible gasps from the audience as one of the most brutal opening 20 minutes of film exploded on the screen. Using a hand held camera we were on board the landing craft shoulder to shoulder with troops riding the waves and hitting the Normandy beach. Then the noise. Gun fire, bullets on metal, screams from young men – welcome to hell.

For this post I’ve chosen events that shaped the war and eventual victory for the Allies in 1945. If some of them went another way the world would have looked a completely different place.  

Maginot Line : A series of concrete domes with weapons, underground rail and air–conditioned living quarters inside them, were built by France in the 1930’s. They were to deter a German invasion who had already conquered Poland, Belgium and Holland. The stronger defence line was positioned south at the border with Germany and Switzerland, but the enemy marched north through the Ardennes forest, which the French thought was impenetrable.

Operation Dynamo: The German war machine dominated mainland Europe and surrounded French, Belgian and British soldiers – it was a major military disaster. Luckily they stalled as the Germans occupied France and revelled in a triumphant march on the capital, Paris.

Meanwhile, a call went out to the British public and they responded by sending hundreds of small boats, yachts and fishing vessels to rescue thousands of British soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk in June 1940.

But with only the English channel holding the Germans back, the Luftwaffe now aimed for complete domination of the skies and ultimate surrender of the British.

Battle of Britain: Sirens howled all over Britain, blackouts, rations, evacuations, gas masks for children, broomsticks for the Home Guard, and gardens were being dug out for air raid shelters.

The Germans never countered for high numbers of radar stations along the UK coastline which instantly communicated to the British air force that an attack was imminent. Enemy positions were pinpointed rather than patrolling an area.

In one raid Spitfires and Hurricanes defended Britain against the might of over 250 German bombers. The Luftwaffe blitzkrieg was bringing the fire.

Black Saturday: 7 September 1940 sirens went off and like a dark cloud hundreds of German bombers filled the skies over the capital. The night sky was full of smoke and in its wake a trail of destruction. The blitz was in full force as airfields, shipyards, factories and civilians were targeted.

Battle of Britain Day: 15 September 1940 an all-out concentrated day attack from the Luftwaffe over the skies of London was pushed back by the British Air Force. Helped by heavy cloud cover, the Germans retreated and only night time raids were planned.

Operation Sea Lion: Hitler wanted a plan for an all-out invasion of Britain. But the German High Command went cool on the idea. New battleships weren’t ready, the Luftwaffe weren’t the success they thought they’d be, dates weren’t right for weather conditions, and the British were gaining strength. Hitler cancelled the operation and a new plan was needed. Enter the Russians.

Operation Barbarossa: Became known as one of the largest theatres of war during the conflict as the Germans turned their attention to the Soviet Union. As in mainland Europe the German war machine was expecting a speedy victory on the Eastern front. But taking on the Soviets in their own backyard during winter turned out to be a bad tactical decision.

First they were having difficulties making tracks as mud was bogging down the vehicles, then the ground was frozen. The infantry were tired and weakened without warm clothing. In this climate the Soviets were better prepared and more experienced.

Battle of Moscow: The capital was one of the main targets for the German invasion. But Soviet determination to hold their positions caused great concern to Nazi high command. Strategic defensive moves halted the attack and pushed back the Germans who after the defeat, dismissed their General. Were cracks beginning to show in the armour of the German war machine ?

The Black Pit: The mid-Atlantic was known as the black pit owing to the high number of ships that the German U boats would take out, in five month they sank 274 – it was an onslaught.

Hitler tried to starve Britain out of the war by cutting off supplies. He sent hundreds of U boats in wolf packs to hunt down, create havoc and attack merchant ships crossing the Atlantic with food and oil. The U boats were close enough to attack from ports around France and Norway, they could reach top speeds, dive to extremely low depths, find their targets with deadly precision and co-ordinate missions to attack all at once. They were so successful that the sea became a mass grave of seaman and ships.

Fortune turned when the Americans, who had so far kept out of the war, came in with a Lend-Lease deal. They supplied Britain with a number of war ships including the Corvette – which earned a reputation as a supreme U boat hunter.

Then one of the worst military decisions of the war was made at the end of 1941. Japanese war planes attacked stationary American warships at Pearl Harbour – the USA declared war and the killing business was taken up a notch. Ultimately, Hiroshima and Nagasaki would suffer dire consequences.

HMS Bulldog: A Royal Navy destroyer built at Tyneside’s Swan Hunter shipyard, saw escort duty in the Battle of the Atlantic. In May 1941 near Greenland, HMS Aubretia depth charged a U boat forcing her to the surface, Bulldog fired and closed in on the crew who were abandoning the boat.

Sub Lieutenant David Balme of Bulldog led a small party to board the U boat, enter the wireless room, and remove the coding machine. It was taken to Bletchley Park, England where a team of intelligence officers broke the code.

By 1943 U boat power was annihilated – the hunter became the hunted. The end of the German war machine was in sight and the balance of power had shifted toward the Allies.

Research: TV History programmes and official BBC websites.

Gary Alikivi  May 2021.

AMY FLAGG WAR DIARIES #5 BOMBS FALL ON JARROW

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. Miss Flagg also recorded incidents in the surrounding areas including Jarrow. Detail from Tyneside newspapers and maps have been added to some entries.

Amy Flagg, Historian & Photographer, 1893-1965.

Friday, 25th/Saturday, 26th April 1941: 

On Saturday morning German radio claimed the main attack of the previous night’s raid was on the Sunderland Flying Boat Works at Sunderland. In fact this was another bungled raid by the Luftwaffe, as no bombs fell there. Home Security could only deduce that inexperienced crews were being used. They felt the large number of parachute mines exploding on Tyneside was believed explained by a strong to gale force NE wind which had blown them inland during sea mining operations.

22.08pm Five injured. Incendiary bombs fell on the Old Granary near Jarrow Staithes and at Hebburn. Fires were started but were quickly controlled. A parachute mine fell at Primrose – no damage. Another fell near the Old Staithes causing damage to houses and shops.

In great detail Miss Flagg describes this large scale attack on 10th April 1941.

23.30 – 03.00am High explosives fell on Station Street and Sheldon Street, Jarrow. Houses were destroyed and suffered a death roll of twenty-four, seven members of one family being wiped out, nine people were seriously injured and nineteen slightly injured. A Roman Catholic Priest died from shock. A police constable was slightly injured by an incendiary bomb.

Fires were started at the Petroleum Installation at Jarrow, Jarrow Tube Works and at Mercantile Dry Dock but were quickly subdued. High explosives fell on a colliery railway line leading to Jarrow Staithes, on a coal depot at Jarrow Railway Station and on the A185 near to Old Church, Jarrow, where the road was blocked and gas and water mains damaged.

pic Amy Flagg. courtesy of South Tyneside Council.

Published reports in Tyneside newspapers:

Tuesday, 2nd July 1940:

Newcastle and Jarrow were attacked during the late afternoon. The damage was considerable. A single German Dornier bomber passed over Blaydon, shot down a balloon and dropped bombs on Newcastle and Jarrow.

Fourteen dead and 120 injured in Jarrow. Three high explosives dropped in streets. Four houses and six flats demolished, six houses and thirty flats damaged. School partly collapsed. Three domestic shelters and five others damaged. Four or five streets were affected but most casualties occurred in Princess Street, a search of the debris for trapped victims went on throughout the night, firemen, ARP workers and others working in relays.

It was announced that the August Bank Holiday is to be cancelled.

Monday, 7th /Tuesday 8th April 1941:  

‘HMS Manchester’, waiting in Jarrow Slake to convoy the new aircraft carrier ‘Illustrious’, may have been the objective of the two disastrous raids this week; but it proved quite ineffective so far as naval vessels were concerned, no hit being scored on either. Considerable damage, however, resulted along the riverside from Tyne Docks to the oil tanks, as well as other parts of the town.

Immediately after the ‘Alert’, enemy aircraft became very active and there was an intense barrage from ground defences. At 23.45, 4 high explosive bombs dropped on Henry Wilson’s Timber Yard, Tyne Dock, Clayton and Armstrong’s Timber Yard, Tyne Dock, the Anglo Iron Foundry, Tyne Dock and a dwelling house and shop in Porchester Street.

Friday, 6th June 1941:

At 15.00 an enemy aircraft dropped one 500kg bomb, 20 yards West of the LNER railway line at East Jarrow. Two pigs and a number of hens were killed by blast. No other damage or casualties were reported.

Pic. Amy Flagg. Courtesy of South Tyneside Council.

Monday, 29th/Tuesday, 30th December 1941:

Two high explosives – damage to Primrose Hospital windows.

Single high explosive fell, believed to be a 1000kg, in a field 100yds East of the Pontop – Jarrow railway causing damage to a signal box, Wardens’ Post, overhead colliery electricity cables and a seed drill. A smaller bomb also fell in this vicinity. An UXB or aircraft shell went through the roof of a house and penetrated the soft ground under the floorboards.

Thursday, 30th April/Friday, 1st May 1942:

Explosive incendiary bombs were dropped. A hut adjoining the Jarrow Tube Works was set on fire and a woman was slightly injured. No damage to the Tube works but an electricity pylon 500 yards NW of Boldon Railway Station was short circuited. A single high explosive was believed to be dropped in the river Tyne about 50 yards from Hawthorn Leslies Shipyard and was suspected of being unexploded.

Link to Amy Flagg’s war photographs on the excellent South Tyneside History website.

https://southtynesidehistory.co.uk/

Link to Amy Flagg documentary film ‘Westoe Rose’.

WESTOE ROSE – making the documentary about South Shields Historian & Photographer Amy Flagg | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Gary Alikivi  April 2021

AMY FLAGG WAR DIARIES #4 AUTUMN RAIDS & RESCUES OF ‘41

In 2016 when researching in South Shields Library about Historian and Photographer Amy Flagg (1893-1965), as well as 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’, these 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.

This entry includes reports of widespread bombing, miraculous escapes and acts of heroism in South Shields.

pic Amy Flagg. King Street, South Shields.

Tuesday 30th September/Wednesday, 1st October 1941:  

At 21.20 A bomb fell near the Market Place entrance. The rear of Crofton’s premises was badly damaged, rolls of lino, carpets and other goods being flung considerable distances. A cafe at the corner was totally obliterated and a number of people were trapped in a basement.

A Rescue Party foreman, who afterwards received the George Medal for his gallantry, was lowered head first into the cellar and succeeded in rescuing three people, despite the danger from a broken gas main and the possible collapse of heavy masonry, he continued searching for the remaining victims.

A youth and an elderly woman were found and extricated but another woman was buried up to her neck and in danger from the likely collapse of wreckage. Without hesitation he placed himself in a position to hold up the unsafe debris and maintained this position until the casualty was removed.

The Shields Gazette Offices and Printing Works received a direct hit by heavy calibre bombs, the whole printing department and part of the offices were wrecked. There were no casualties, the only occupants of the building at the time were the firewatchers who were unhurt and a reporter who was at the head of the stairs. He was knocked down by flying debris and nearly stepped out of a hole in the wall into space.

Another heroic deed resulted from a stick of bombs which fell at 21.21 near West Holborn. One 1,000kg bomb fell through the corrugated roof of the Electric Power Station, it hit and demolished a thick wall, twisted a steel girder and came to rest on the manhole of a boiler. It failed to explode but there was great danger of it doing so owing to the heat of the boiler.

A Corporation employee very courageously drew the fires. At 04.30 on October 1st it was removed by the Bomb Disposal Squad and dispatched to Newcastle as, owing to its damaged state, the officer in charge was unable to remove the fuse.

About 21.30, a bomb fell in Rydal Gardens, two houses in Ambleside Avenue were destroyed, seven people were going to an Anderson shelter in the garden and were in the hall of their house when the bomb dropped. They were trapped at the foot of the stairs, they eventually got out by a Rescue Party and Wardens, two were dead,  two injured and the rest were suffering from shock.

pic Amy Flagg. courtesy of South Tyneside Council.

In 2012 I made a documentary, ‘War Stories’, in the film South Shields resident Doris Johnson talked about her memories growing up during the Second World War. She remembers this night vividly as her parents lived in the area.

Friday, 3rd October 1941:

At 21.23 Hyde Street and Wharton Street was the scene of further casualties and destruction. One bomb fell in Wharton Street, six houses were razed to the ground and many more made unsafe. Two bombs fell in Hyde Street where twenty houses were destroyed and a large number damaged. In both streets people were trapped under the debris or in their surface shelters and some of the casualties were fatal.

Small fires broke out under the wreckage, human chains were formed and buckets of water were passed along, the fires were soon put out. Gas and water mains were affected and upwards of forty houses had to be taken down later. Some of the many homeless were accommodated in Rest Centres.

Nearby in Anderson Street, a bomb fell in the middle of the road between Challoner Terrace East and West. It wrecked houses on both sides of the road and a number of people were trapped in the basements; some were dead when, after strenuous tunnelling and digging they were extricated. Severe damage was done to the Synagogue, some dwellings and the service mains in Ogle and Wellington Terraces.

Throughout the remainder of the raid the whole town was without electric light and the activities of the Rescue Parties, First Aid Parties and Ambulance Service were severely impeded. The ‘All Clear’ at the end of the raid had to be sounded on police car sirens.

Gary Alikivi  April 2021

Link to Amy Flagg’s war photographs on the excellent South Tyneside History website.

https://southtynesidehistory.co.uk/

Link to Amy Flagg documentary ‘Westoe Rose’.

WESTOE ROSE – making the documentary about South Shields Historian & Photographer Amy Flagg | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

AMY FLAGG WAR DIARIES #3 THE LUFTWAFFE EXPLOSIVE RAID ON SHIELDS

In 2016 when researching in South Shields Library about Historian and Photographer Amy Flagg (1893-1965), as well as 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’, these 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.

pic Amy Flagg. Courtesy of South Tyneside Council.

This post tells how in over two hours King Street and the Market Place were made almost derelict by high explosive bombing. This was the night when the German Luftwaffe carried out an intensive and determined air raid on South Shields.

Thursday, 2nd/Friday, 3rd October 1941:

At 20.05 the Air Raid Message ‘Red’ was received and the ‘Alert’ sounded. A large number of enemy aircraft, flying at low altitude came in over the river. One or more of these planes succeeded in cutting loose some of the barrage balloons and it was evident that a heavy attack was developing. At 22.30 the Air Raid Message ‘White’ was received and the ‘Raiders Passed’ was sounded. In between the times Shields suffered.

The first bombs fell at 20.55. Wardle’s Timber Yard in Long Row where stacks of timber was damaged and a boundary wall was blown down blocking the road leading to Brigham and Cowan’s Shipyard. The attack was then carried, at 21.20 to the riverside and the Market Place. Three bombs fell near the river, one on vacant land near Comical Corner, one in Shadwell Street where the road and some adjoining railway lines were torn up, and the third on the new quay near Pilot Street.

A stick of bombs fell over the Market Place causing some of the worst damage done in the raid – one fell in vacant ground between the foot of River Drive and the Tyne Dock Engineering Company’s premises in Thrift Street. An Air Raid Warden on duty in River Drive was killed by blast and on the north side of the Market Place a messenger was seriously hurt.

Two more fell in the Market Place, one on the entrance to the shelter under the south east quarter, near East Street, the explosion fractured a gas main which burst into flame and set fire to a trolley bus standing nearby, the other fell on the shelter in the north east quarter.

The Market Place fires soon spread to adjoining buildings. Miller’s Stores caught fire and the flames crossed East Street and spread to the Tram Hotel, the Grapes Hotel, Jackson’s the Tailors at the corner of King Street and the King’s Shoe shop. The whole of this block was soon ablaze and had it not been for the solidity of the dividing walls at Lipton’s and Mason’s shops, more fire damage would have occurred in King Street.

pics Amy Flagg. Taken from her pamphlet ‘Humanity & Courage’.

Another bomb fell on Dunn’s Paint Stores and shop, demolishing the building and starting major fires spreading to Hanlon’s shop, the Locomotive Hotel, Campbell’s Lodging House and the Union Flag public house. Tins of burning oil and paint were hurled into the air and started fires in the City of Durham public house, the Metropole Hotel and the Imperial Hotel.

Crofton’s drapery stores at the corner of King Street was set on fire by a leaking gas main, then the fire spread to Woolworth’s next door, which was completely gutted. The side entrance to the Regal Theatre and Galt’s Fruit Store in Union Alley were also damaged by fire.

With so many fires and so much damage to the water mains, water had to be relayed from the Ferry Landing and the static water tank in North Street. Despite many rumours at the time, the loss of life in the Market Place shelters was comparatively small – twelve killed, five were rescued, this was partly due to the fact that as the road to the Market Place from Union Alley had been blocked in the previous raid, many people from the cinema had to go in the opposite direction to the shelters in North Street.

Three men on their way to work were crossing the Market Place as the bombs began to fall, one took refuge in the shelter nearby, but was injured, the second was killed just outside the shelter and the body of the third was never found. It was suspected that he had been blown by blast into the burning paint shop, long digging to recover his body was without result.

pic Amy Flagg. Courtesy of South Tyneside Council.

At daylight on Friday morning, the Market Place looked like the ruins of Ypres. Nothing could be seen but broken buildings the square was littered with debris and a tangle of fire hose. It was a scene of complete devastation. In addition, all remaining windows in St Hilda’s church were shattered, the roof dislodged and old stone walls pitted and scarred with shrapnel.

The Old Town Hall suffered heavy interior harm and none of the business premises was left intact. All the overhead wires were down and it was not until the afternoon of October 9th that buses were able to pass along King Street.

Gary Alikivi  April 2021

Link to Amy Flagg’s war photographs on the excellent South Tyneside History website.

https://southtynesidehistory.co.uk/

Link to Amy Flagg documentary ‘Westoe Rose’.

WESTOE ROSE – making the documentary about South Shields Historian & Photographer Amy Flagg | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

AMY FLAGG WAR DIARIES #2 SHIELDS BLITZ

In 2016 when researching in South Shields Library about Historian and Photographer Amy Flagg (1893-1965), as well as 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’, these 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 this post Miss Flagg describes in great detail a large scale enemy attack by over 70 German planes. Water, gas and telephone lines damaged, shipyards under siege, trains flung around like toys, houses obliterated, Ingham Infirmary on full alert. An attack so severe that one of the largest bombs in the country,  a ‘Satan’, was dropped on the town.

Fire brigades from across the North East were called in to help – it was a night when South Shields was caught in a ‘blitz by fire’.

Thursday 10th April 1941:

Shortly before the siren sounded, enemy aircraft were heard, ground defences became very active and two high explosive bombs were dropped. Then came a shower of incendiaries, an estimated 6,000 falling in the Tyne Dock area, Mile End Road, River Drive and Wapping Street district. It soon became clear that a large scale attack was developing and directed  on the shipbuilding, ship repairing and timber yards on the riverside.

After this, a series of flares were dropped, illuminating the whole region. Major fires were started on the west side of Tyne Dock, Redhead’s Yards, Middle Docks, Tyne Dock Engineering Company, Wardle’s Timber Yard and Brigham and Cowan’s Store Shed.

The Queen’s Theatre, the Railway Station tower and houses in Fawcett Street and Robertson Street were ablaze. Houses in Westoe Road, Tyne Dock and east Jarrow were also involved.

Pic. Amy Flagg. Taken from her pamphlet ‘Humanity & Courage’.

The resources of the Fire Services were fully extended and a call for ‘Mutual Aid’ had to be made – this was a reciprocal system that enabled a service to get help from other districts. Fire Brigades from Durham, Gateshead, Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Sunderland arrived, each town sending their complement of Rescue and First Aid Parties.

During the progress of this blitz by fire, a large number of high explosive bombs were dropped, causing great havoc. The largest number of casualties were found in the Mile End Road area, including Empress St, Palatine St, Fort St, and William Terrace. Two large calibre bombs fell close together in this thickly populated part of town, completely shattering a whole block of houses. Bombs also fell on the railway line near Studley Bridge and Ellesmere Street, where passenger coaches were flung about like toys.

Several bombs fell in Redhead’s Yards, doing much structural damage. Bombs also fell in Cayton and Armstrong’s Timber Yard, the TIC Docks, Middle Docks and a Fire Station in Anderson Street, and on the Battery Field at Westoe.

In King George Road, two houses were obliterated and a bomb also fell at the Deans. Prince Edward Road West was blocked by a large crater on the embankment below Dean Terrace. A water main burst, filling the crater and burying a motor car in mud.

pic. Amy Flagg. Taken from her pamphlet ‘Humanity & Courage’.

One of the largest bombs dropped in this country to date, was found unexploded in Newton and Nicholson’s premises, Templetown. It was a 1,800kg bomb, recognised as a ‘Satan’. The estimated number of bombs dropped was 38, but this does not include many which fell in the river, the harbour and the sea near the pier.

50 people were rendered homeless or evacuated. Two Rest and Feeding Centres were opened and maintained until all were housed elsewhere. On the following morning a request for the help of fifty men was made under the Police Mutual Aid Scheme. Two Mobile Canteens also came to supplement local arrangements for the feeding of personnel.

Casualties – 25 killed, 11 seriously injured, 65 slightly injured. Toll in human life was also taken at the Mile End Road area where a family of four was wiped out, but their pet spaniel was rescued alive after 80 hours. Four soldiers were injured at Marsden Battery through a shell burst from their own gun. Three suffered from head injuries and one from abdominal injury.

Gary Alikivi  April 2021

Link to Amy Flagg’s war photographs on the excellent South Tyneside History website.

https://southtynesidehistory.co.uk/

Link to Amy Flagg documentary ‘Westoe Rose’.

WESTOE ROSE – making the documentary about South Shields Historian & Photographer Amy Flagg | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

AMY FLAGG WAR DIARIES #1 AIR RAIDS on SOUTH SHIELDS

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.

Pic. Amy Flagg. Courtesy of South Tyneside Council.

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.

https://southtynesidehistory.co.uk/

Link to Amy Flagg documentary ‘Westoe Rose’.

WESTOE ROSE – making the documentary about South Shields Historian & Photographer Amy Flagg | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN (9) – Spanish Civil War volunteer, Teesside’s David Marshall

International Brigade Committee. David Marshall sitting at the front.

While researching for the Teesside International Brigades memorial, Tony Fox repeatedly came across one name – David Marshall. David was one of the first British volunteers to fight in Spain. Tony takes up the story…

On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, in September 1936, David had travelled to Spain to join the International Brigades in Barcelona. He joined one of the first groups, the German-speaking Thaelmann Battalion, with whom he fought to defend Madrid.

On 12th November 1936, a sniper’s bullet hit him just above his ankle. He was removed by stretcher under heavy fire, then transported on a lorry for more than two hours to a field hospital. After treatment in Alicante he was repatriated to England at the end of 1936 where he began campaigning for aid to be sent to the Spanish Government.

However his significant contribution on Teesside has not been been looked at. On his return from Spain he actively campaigned for aid to Spain. In 1939 he was instrumental in the production of the memorial. He was guest of honour with Frank Graham and John Longstaff when it was dedicated in 1991 and again at the 1996 rededication in Middlesbrough Town Hall.

When the Second World War broke out he, like many other Brigaders, was at first barred from entry into the armed forces. Working in the Civil Service he uncovered and published the directive barring Brigaders from serving, and worked to overturn the policy. The policy was overturned when Churchill formed his National Government.

David volunteered and served in the engineers, however when he was interviewed about his background in Spain, the Captain wrote on his records that David ‘was Communistic or fascist’, and even as a corporal he was never placed on guard duty when abroad. He fought in the Normandy campaign, liberating Belsen and serving in the occupying forces until 1947.

Marshall returned to Teesside after demobilization, returning to the ministry for Labour once again. He maintained his links with Brigaders. It seems likely that Tommy Chilvers, who painted the Teesside International Brigades memorial introduced him to Ruth Pennyman. Ruth had formed her Basque refugee children into a concert party, and Tommy played the guitar.

David worked as a carpenter on the sets until joining the Joan Littlewood Who’s Theatre Workshop which began life at Ruth Pennyman’s home in Ormesby Hall. In 1975 his wife Joyce died, afterwards he bought a sailing barge which he refurbished.

Marshall was instrumental in the formation of the International Brigades Memorial Trust in 2000, serving on the executive committee, with fellow North East Brigaders, Dave Goodman, Frank Graham and John Longstaff.

Sadly, David died on 19th October 2005, his partner Marlene Sideaway is currently President of the IBMT, she led the 2009 IBMT AGM in the North East, in which the Teesside International Brigades memorial was rededicated and relocated within Middlesbrough Town Hall.

She also donated some of David’s materials to The Dorman Museum. David was a superb poet, I am honoured that Marlene has signed a copy of his 2005 book The Tilting Planet, which includes the wonderful I sing of my comrades.

Sources:

Richard Baxell, Unlikely Warriors (Aurum Press 2012), page 119

 David Goodman, From the Tees to the Ebro (London: CPGB, 1986), page 12

 http://www.international-brigades.org.uk/

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/local-news/service-honours-teesside-spanish-war-3713541

If you have any information about the North East men and women who were involved in the Spanish Civil War please get in touch at garyalikivi@yahoo.com

Gary Alikivi  April 2020.

 

POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN (7) – Sunderland men involved in the Spanish Civil War

Another story to be added to Postcards from Spain comes from local and family history researcher Linda Gowans from Sunderland. Linda was involved in a project researching the World War 2 memorial board at St Gabriels Church in Sunderland, when she came across two men who were involved in the Spanish Civil War….

Both men also received O.B.E awards in the New Year Honours list of January 1946. The first was Captain Frederick Robinson of 14 Hawarden Cresent, Sunderland who was Master of SS Garesfield. He was at sea a total of 30 years, served in both World Wars and brought food supplies to the people of Spain fighting General Franco.

I searched for some background on Frederick and found on the 1939 register taken just before the Second World War he was employed as Master Mariner on SS.Knitsley. He lived with his wife Elizabeth and had one son Frederick who was 5 year old.

Linda added….The second is Captain William Gould, Master of S.S. Monkleigh, he had been at sea for a total of 42 years. During World War One and Two he was torpedoed four times, twice in each war. He also ran the blockade to bring supplies to Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

Also searched for some background on William and found that on the 1891 census he was 4 year old and lived at 9 Princes Street, Sunderland with his father Thomas, who was a mariner, his mother Jane and brother George. Ten year later William was an apprentice steam engineer.

In 1910 he married Maggie Graham, they had two daughters Irene and Kathleen, and a son, William junior. Not long afterwards his wife Maggie died, aged 32. William remarried to Ada Moore in 1922, and three more children were born, Thomas, James and Poppy.

Linda also mentioned William and Ada’s son Thomas who joined the British Armed Forces but only for a short time as it ended in tragic circumstances….. Thomas decided not to follow his father to sea and in 1942 joined the RAF, gaining his wings in South Africa in 1943.

On April 29th 1945 he was part of 3 man Advanced Flying Unit out on a training flight. Joining Pilot Officer Thomas Gould on board were Flying Officer Gordon Aubrey from the Royal Canadian Air Force, and Sergeant Howard Montgomery of the Royal Australian Air Force.

They took off from RAF South Cerney, Gloucestershire but ran into poor weather and visibility was very low due to a snowstorm. While flying at low altitude the aircraft hit tree tops and crashed in a wooded area at New Barn Farm, Temple Guiting. All three men on board were killed. Thomas was only 21.

His body was brought home for burial at Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland and his grave bears the inscription, ‘His life, a noble sacrifice’.

A tragic end to a young man’s life, and sad that he went before his father William who died 7th April 1950.

 If you have any information about the North East men and women who were in any way involved in the Spanish Civil War please get in touch at garyalikivi@yahoo.com

 Gary Alikivi  April 2020.