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Boyhood Memories of WWII

by ayclifferoc

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Cllr J Atkinson and Sons Arnold and Lewis
Location of story: 
Aycliffe Village, County Durham
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
11 May 2005

Brother Arnold aged 16(ATC), myself aged 9, and Dad aged 51`(ROC)

I am Lewis Atkinson and I was born in Aycliffe Village, County Durham in 1934. My father, John Atkinson, served in the DLI in WW1 and was Chief Observer of the Aycliffe Royal Observer Corp Post — he was also the local Councillor.

My memories of the war are like most children of the day. We were nowhere near any of the bombing although as dad was Chief Observer in the Royal Observer Corp I spent many hours in the Observer Post on the top of a local windmill — I became very good at recognising aircraft, their speed and height. The post overlooked the Tees estuary (12 miles distant) and I recall many nights of persistent bombing - I had no understanding of what was going on under those explosions. One particular night I do remember the sound of an approaching plane which we identified as German (possibly Junker 88). Suddenly a door opened on the Aycliffe Royal Ordnance Factory - it was like a searchlight in the blackout! The plane got closer (it was known the German’s were seeking the factory) but the door closed and the plane turned. However, the door opened twice more with the plane continuing its search but, in the end, the door stayed shut. Was it intentional on the part of someone in the factory? Who knows?

I never saw much of dad and Arnold who started work at Stephenson Hawthorn, Darlington in 1942 and was in the Air Training Corp every evening. Dad, working for the North Eastern Electric Supply Company was busy most of the day and night maintaining supply in the North Tees area whilst doing his Observer and Councillor duties at the same time. My evenings were spent in the house on my own listening to the wireless (Variety Bandbox, ITMA, the news of the war) and doing jigsaws. But they were happy days and holidays were often spent playing British and German with toy weapons - all very exciting. Atrip to the seaside at Redcar had the added excitement of passing Goosepool RAF Station (now Tees-side Airport) and seeing the rows of Halifax bombers being prepared for the next raid.

Then, pre-D-Day, Aycliffe was on one of the main routes for the American armed forces heading for the south coast. I well remember crawling all over and under Sherman tanks on the village green and being plied with chocolate and sweets by the G.I.s The war was brought firmly home to me by a tragedy for one of my friends, Malcolm Matson. His father came home early in 1944 for an extended pre-embarkation leave and we were all so proud as we saw him off at the end but he never came back - his red beret was so striking but it meant he was going to Arnhem!! Not long after, in 1945, we were all celebrating VE Day - my bike, like all my friends bikes, was decorated with red, white and blue ribbons and we roared round the village cheering. The day ended with a giant bonfire on the village green enhanced by railway detonators donated, against the rules, by the Station Master. As a boy of my age the last five years had been good - totally different to how dad had seen it. This came home to me just after VE Day when he handed in the Short Magazined .303 Le Enfield rifle that had stood in the corner of our living room throughout the duration. He quite seriously told me that, had the Nazis invaded England, he would have first shot me then himself rather than us being captured. Dad being a leader in the community was also a Freemason and that organisation would be seen by the invader as a threat to security. His view of Germans, influenced by the First World War, was that not just the individual but the whole family would suffer and he was probably right — but that was all beyond a youngster like me.

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Air Raids and Other Bombing Category
Childhood and Evacuation Category
End of War 1945 Category
Wearside and County Durham Category
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