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WW2 - People's War

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Archive List > The Blitz

Contributed by 
Northumberland County Libraries
People in story: 
Margaret Snowball
Location of story: 
Sunderland
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4319714
Contributed on: 
01 July 2005

In raids later on in the war, the bombs dropped by the Germans were very much larger than those dropped in earlier raids. The devastation from one bomb covered a much wider area. We were to discover this to our cost in one raid, which took place on a Saturday night in May 1943. On this particular Saturday, my brother Dick was home from Leeds and was due to return there later that evening. We had had visitors that day and he had been amusing the little boy by playing a game he invented with pennies and buttons. My mother had just agreed the night before to sell this house at No. 19 Ashleigh Grove to a lady. The new house was more modern and had a garden. During the night, the sirens went, and having no shelter and observing the fact that there was a great deal of activity, we all decided to take refuge in the cupboard under the stairs. There were four people and a dog in there, making it a very tight fit, but it was fortunate that we were in there. After a while, there seemed to be a tremendous explosion and for a split second there seemed to be a vacuem and then a horrendous noise. When the noise subsided, we came out of our makeshift shelter to find that our house was still standing. There was not a window intact in it and all the ceilings were down on the floor. Every inside wall had a huge area of plaster misssing, and there was glass everywhere. If we had not taken shelter, flying glass and masonry would have injured us. My bed was covered in glass splinters.

We all emerged with the feeling that we were lucky to be alive, and that it was just hard luck that the house had been so badly damaged. As there was nowhere to sit or rest, we decided that if my elder brother, Osmond and my aunt stayed in the house and began shovelling out the debris, my mother and I would go to a nearby rest centre to have a rest, then we could tackle more of the clearing up when it was daylight. The dog, Max, a little wire-haired fox terrier, was tied up on a chair, so that he would not wander and would not get his paws cut. We went off to the rest centre, which was in a nearly school. Rest centre was a bit of misnomer as we would have been better off back home. Every few minutes someone would rouse us to ask who we were and where we lived and how badly damaged was our home. They did advise us where to go and make claims for restoration and damage.

On the Sunday, we were please and surprised to find one of the directors from the place where I worked, making us a priority and measuring up for replacement windows and we had them installed in a very short time. We worked very hard to clear all the debris from the floors and to get the beds back into use. There was so much glass about that it was difficult to remove every sliver. There was also a lot of soot from down the chimneys, so we had white powder and black powder embedded everywhere. When we swept up the rubble in the sitting room, we found many buttons, counters and coins from the previous evening's game. Surprisingly, we managed to make it habitable and slept that night in our beds. During the afternoon, Mother and I had found our way to a help centre and set the ball rolling for repairs to be done.

Apart from the damage to the fabric of the house, curtains were ripped, bedclothes ruined and any clothes not put away overnight were cut ragged by the flying glass, as we would have been if we had not taken shelter. The glass had also cut the mirror of the wardrobe in the main bedroom. It bore the scars for the rest of its time. Ornaments and pictures were also damaged, but surprisingly, apart from one cup out of a dozen of my grandmother's teaset being cracked, no other pieces of my mother's china were damaged.

When we found out about the damage, which the land mine had done, we were appalled to discover that a nearby family of six had been killed, their house having taken a direct hit. Another four people died nearby. There was also a wide area of structural damage to houses all around, some of which had to be demolished. It was all very sad, but was the last raid which took place on Sunderland. We would have been very pleased about this, if we had known at the time.

There were some complications over the sale of the house, but at least we had a home to move into when the purchase of the new home was complete and we did not have to cope with temporary housing while our home was repaired.

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