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An account of the bombing of Saltwell by Dougie Milburn

Saltwell Park. We lived beside Saltwell Park and each night we used to listen in to the radio, more for a laugh then anything else, because there was a fascist called William Joyce and he was dubbed Lord Haw-Haw. Now he was a peculiar sort of man; somebody once said to me that he was Irish, but I read a book once that old me that he was an American born in the USA. [United States of America] Be that as it may, he was a traitor. He followed the Mosley Gang around the busy streets, around the busy cities in the 30s [1930s]. This was led by the infamous Lord Mosley (1) and they used to preach Fascism in all the streets. They used to end up having fights and this William Joyce had a big scar across his cheek, probably sustained through a brawl or a fight in one of the streets.

So he got to Germany and someone set him up with a broadcasting system and he used to broadcast every night at about ten o’clock. I think he must have his nose broken, because he sounded very nasal. He had a nasal accent; I won’t try to imitate it, but I think that’s reason why he was dubbed Lord Haw-Haw. He used to make predictions and usually some of them came right and I rather think he once predicted that Saltwell Park would be bombed, because he knew everything about everything that went on locally and otherwise. It was, [bombed] but only just because two bombs fell in Saltwell Park, but just over the railings. The date was the early hours of Friday 1 st May 1942. A Heinkel 111(2), I should image would be flying from east to west and he would just want to jettison his bombs.

He dropped four bombs. The first two fell in the grounds of the Technical College in Low Fell. They exploded on impact. The second two bombs fell inside the park. If you go down from the Gateshead baths to the little theatre in Avenue Road, you come to the main park gates. If you walk through the main park gates, a few yards down and you either got to turn left or right. Well at that point, there was an unexploded bomb dropped on the grassed area. And the fourth bomb fell just inside the park gates at the bottom of Brinkburn Avenue. So, when we walked the next morning, halfway down our street it was railed off. A big notice which said “Unexploded Bombs.” The people below that mark had been evacuated, and it was quite an event. We went to school and we were told, in no uncertain terms, to keep well away from Saltwell Park. So, I came home for lunch and there was a terrific bang. That was the first one, the one beside the little theatre exploding, because they were timed to explode at sometime later. The other bomb at the Brinkburn Avenue entrance, that went off at about half-past three in the afternoon. But of course, there was a lot of sandstone thrown up into the air and it flew all over the place and people had their roofs damaged. And if you know where to look you can still see some of the replacement slates and tiles to this day.

1. Oswald Mosley founded the British Union of Fascists and his followers were known as the Black-shirts.

2. The Heinkel 111 was the primary Luftwaffe medium bomber during the early stages of World War II, and was used by the Germans the Battle of Britain.

With gracious thanks to Dougie Milburn for providing these inciteful memories of World War II

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