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- Keith Yarrow
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- 09 February 2005
A Wartime Childhood in Darlington :-
During WW2, aircraft like Spitfires, Hurricanes and Lancasters were an everyday sight along with many other now extinct types. They were given scant regard by the blasé populace but Dad was in the RAF so I loved to see them and still have an interest in aviation.
As I laid in bed at night I would hear the drone of hard working aircraft engines as the bomb-laden Halifaxes or Lancasters circled, grouping up before their journey into Europe from Goosepool, (now Durham Tees Valley Airport) and Dalton, (now Croft Autodrome).
Later, in the early hours of the morning, in the darkness or dawn’s early light, I would sometimes hear them returning.
I’d try to imagine what they'd been through and how many were 'missing' or returning damaged.
I never considered the poor unfortunates in Germany and elsewhere who'd just been bombed.
I suppose even the kids were de-sensitised by war propaganda .
Air Attacks :-
Darlington suffered very few air attacks and I think those members of the Luftwaffe who did attempt to bomb us either couldn’t find their original target or they were completely lost.
I believe these errant aircraft were usually either shot down by the RAF or they ran out of fuel and crashed, usually locally.
The most memorable air raid I can recall was late one night when a Messershmitt 109 strafed the town in a last effort to cause some damage before running out of fuel.
I have no idea how or why he was overflying Darlington, the Me 109 was a short range aircraft and there was no possibility of him having enough fuel to get back home.
It was night-time and I think the air-raid siren must have sounded because we had taken shelter under the bed in my mother’s bedroom, for what that was worth.
The noise of the low flying high-speed aircraft compelled my brother and I to break cover to look out of the window.
The German fighter was flying straight down our street at a very low level with its guns blazing. Bullets could be heard ricocheting off the roof tiles and even though it was night time the crosses on the underside of its wings were visible.
Incredibly one of our neighbours on the opposite side of the road, was standing on his doorstep, his trousers pulled on over his pyjamas and his thumbs hooked into his braces, watching the event quite casually.
Ignorance is bliss.
There were occasional military processions through Darlington town centre and I remember the soldiers parking their tanks and lorries at the bottom of our street in preparation for these events.
I think the parades were some sort of public morale boosting exercise but if so it was lost on us kids, we just enjoyed the sense of occasion and the opportunity to wave our little Union Jack flags.
Later, to commemorate V.E.day (Victory in Europe Day), people were encouraged to organise parties on a street by street basis and they did so very successfully.
Street collection funds were set up to finance the big day and like most others, Kitchener St. provided a row of trestle tables down the middle of the road heaving with cakes and sandwiches.
Flags were hung from bedroom windows and there was a palpable party atmosphere.
After the eating and drinking the adults danced into the night to music provided by a small band whilst us kids chased about in their midst.
A good time was had by all.
Some months later, V.J. day, ( Victory over Japan Day ), was celebrated similarly but a little less boisterously.
During wartime and for some time afterwards the working classes enjoyed a great community spirit and a sense of togetherness, which is sadly lacking in modern society.
When war ended people were understandably euphoric. I could only remember living in wartime and I wondered what life would be like when things got back to a peace-time norm.
I thought that within weeks rationing would end and luxuries like bananas, ice-cream and chocolate would be freely available.
I was mistaken of course and in fact it was years before my Utopian vision materialised.
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