South Shields bombed

The remains of the Woolworths Store, South Shields bombed on 2nd October 1941

Cecilia Brennan was a schoolteacher living in Jarrow in North East England. She regularly wrote to her sister Frances (Franc) and her letters provide a pretty comprehensive history of wartime life in the area:

Oct 3rd, 1941

My dear Franc,

….. I haven’t had a chance to write and tell you of the two hammerings we have had from Jeremiah this week….. The chief sufferers have been North and South Shields. Tuesday night’s raid made hay of Shields Market Place and High Shields station – about 28 or 30 people killed I believe.

When we were crouching in our shelter listening to the thundering barrage, two awful whistles sounded and then two fearful crashes; I thought Wansbeck Road was levelled but by God’s mercy the two landed in fields – one near the coke ovens and another on Lawson’s farm near the golf course. The new pub at Simonside has a huge bomb crater in the back garden and the back of the house wrecked.

Last night’s do was much worse than Tuesday’s. St Bede’s junior school (South Shields) got a direct hit, Laygate school is also wrecked, Croftons, Woolworths and Black’s Regal are done for and Binns is badly damaged. The patrons of Black’s Regal rushed to the public shelter in the market place and shortly afterwards the shelter got a direct hit. I was told there were 80 killed in there alone….. One of the jerries shot down three barrage balloons. He got the three in line and pumped tracer bullets into them.

We haven’t got a door on our shelter yet and it was pretty chilly these two nights especially as we had last night’s session before supper. To add to our troubles we discovered yesterday that Fred Giles next door is cherishing a rat among all the rubbish in his back yard. We have seen it nipping up and down the laburnum tree hand over hand like a monkey. We were terrified to go in to our door-less shelter in the dark in case that rat was there before us, but rat or no rat we had to run into it in the end.

In fact there were only 12 people killed in the public shelter but Cecilia was writing before everyone had been dug out.

See Wartime letters from Jarrow. For extensive details on these raids see Brian Pears’ comprehensive North East Diary 1939-1945.

Bombing was still on a small scale, although there was considerably more activity on the 2nd/3rd October.

On that night the Tyneside and Tees-side areas were attacked. South Shields suffered most. Fifty people were killed and about 250 buildings were destroyed.

On the same night Dover was attacked three times. House property suffered extensively and there were ten fatal casualties. Bombs were also dropped without serious effect at many points in north-east and eastern counties, Kent and Cornwall.

South Shields.

The Ship-building and ship repairing industries suffered severely. The electrical gear of the new sub-station of Brigham and Cowan, Ltd., Shipbuilders, was wrecked and workshops and stores of the Tyne Dock Engineering Company were damaged. Seventeen gas mains were broken but supply as a whole was maintained

From the Home Security Situation Report for the week see TNA CAB 66/19/9

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Anja Gurr December 31, 2015 at 2:59 pm

I`m a german woman, born in Hannover in 1964. In WW II my parents were little children, but my grandfather was a soldier :( Now I have two adult children of my own and they feel far away from this very bad and sad history.
Last year I visited England for several days and it was a wonderful stay! Most of the people I met were really helpful and friendly. I really was impressed of what I saw: Workers, industrial innovation, culture, great architecture, rich people, poor people, amazing parcs and countrysides and much more. I had several talks to different people, e.g. a bus and a taxi driver, workers and staff in the pub, a rich lady sharing my table in a bistro… They all were so friendly and interested
in telling and listening.
One day I stood on a great bridge. The building to the north often were lovely old and full of
history, the buildings to the south were new made in modern architecture. Suddenly I realized that
this might was, because of the german bombs reaching the south part of the city. (I`ve had read
of it) And I felt very very sad thinking of what an awful german Nation did to this good innocent
people, to their children, men, women and their country.
Today I found this site coincidentally because I searched for the Barbour production place. By
reading the letter from Cecilia Brennan I felt again this deep sadness with tears in my eyes.
My children are 25 and 21 years old. I first visited London with my son when he was 16 years old. He was really delighted and wants to visit GB as often as possible. My daughter makes an apprentice as a carpenter and wants to go to Australia this autumn. They both have diverse international contacts and that`s what gives hope for the future.
Happy New Year to you all ! (please excuse my faults, my English should be better… :)
Yours sincerely

David henzell November 19, 2015 at 1:53 pm

My mother and grandfather were injured by a bomb that fell in their back garden at 24 Fairview Avenue, South Shields. Mam (then only 5 yrs old had previously been evacuated to the lake district but given the all clear returned home to shields only to be bombed soon after. She had wounds in her neck from flying glass but narrowly escaped being killed as she had just left her bedroom which was totally destroyed. Grandpa had every bone in his face smashed but survived. He looked very different after! The house was repaired and 22 yrs later I was born in the back bedroom in the coldest week of the century in January 1963.

Doreen Purvis June 9, 2015 at 7:57 pm

In the mid sixties I worked with a man who had been the deputy manager at Blacks Regal cinema. He was also an air raid warden. When the air raid siren went he directed patrons to the shelter in the Market Place where some were killed. He still felt guilty about it.

T hansen November 19, 2014 at 10:51 pm

Vi hansen you have the same last name as me

Vi Hansen November 15, 2014 at 2:49 pm

my brother and I were evacuated after that bombing. I still remember the fear in all of us children

Margaret Fannen November 13, 2014 at 10:33 pm

I remember that night as if it were yesterday. I was 5 and we were in the Anderson shelter in the garden in East Boldon. Dad let me come up the ladder when the bombers were gone and the skies were a blaze of red from the fires in Shields

David Osborne October 5, 2014 at 12:01 am

I worked with manageress of South Shields
A Gateshead Woolworth

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