- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Jean Graham
- Location of story:
- Newcastle on Tyne
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 01 September 2005
Our Air Raid Shelter Newcastle on Tyne September 1939
This story was submitted to the People's War by a volunteer Lis Edwards on behalf of Mrs Jean Ward and has been added to the site with her permission. Mrs Ward fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
At the beginning of the war, in September 1939 my parents and two neighbours got together to convert half our garage into an air-raid shelter for the 6 adults and 6 children living in the three houses. Tea chests were filled with sand and gravel to form the lower level in front of the garage doors and the dividing wall inside the garage. On top of these were placed sandbags up to the top and across the flat roof. It was not a pretty site but it was to prove very effective.
In 1940 my sister and I were sent to Grandmother’s house in Swaledale North Yorkshire, where we attended the local village school. I had sat the ‘scholarship’ earlier in the year and in due course was informed that I had won a place at Dame Allan’s in Newcastle-on-Tyne to commence in September. My mother bought my school uniform by guesswork since I was not available to try it on and laid it out on my bed before both parents came, by bus (we did not have a car then) to Gunnerside to bring me back to Newcastle to commence at my new school. I was very excited and looking forward to being at home again, but Hitler had other ideas. It was September 3rd 1940, the first anniversary of the declaration of war, although there had been very little evidence of hostilities locally up to then. However we were woken at 6.00 am by the local policeman hammering on the door to say that ‘our house had been bombed, badly bombed’, and my parents were to return to Newcastle immediately.
My parents left me with my Grandmother and went back home, or to what was left of it. Most of the upstairs and roof were severely damaged. My new school uniform was covered in plaster and rubble. Downstairs, doors had been blown off their hinges, shrapnel had torn holes in cupboards and china cabinets but surprisingly little china or glass was broken. The pantry door was blown off, yet seven eggs in a paper bag on the shelf were intact, as were seven dozen eggs preserved in isinglass in a large crock in the garage. All eight occupants of the air raid shelter were unhurt but one neighbour three houses away was killed; she and her husband were lying on the floor in an indoor table shelter (known as a Morrison Shelter I think). She sat up when she heard the whine of the falling bomb and was killed instantly while her husband remained lying down and survived. Another neighbour in the house at the back which received the direct hit always refused to go to his air raid shelter. He said “I’d like to see the bomb that gets me out of bed”. Well he may not have seen it but he was picked up out of his back garden, miraculously unhurt. He promptly emigrated to Australia for the rest of his life.
My parents were offered a home with friends while repairs were carried out to our house. It took nine months to complete essential repairs and the rest were not carried out until after the war ended. A concrete air raid shelter was built in the back garden, while the garage reverted to its intended purpose and held a second-hand car purchased in 1942. We also had a telephone installed for the first time.
After the war, the air raid shelter was dismantled and the concrete blocks were laid down as a garden path and still survive to this day. As for me, I eventually joined my new school at half term in October as an evacuee in Ambleside — but that is another story….!
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