Air Raid – a Home Lost

by Sheila Johnson

My parents, Elizabeth and James Bruce lived with their three children at 49 City Road, Newcastle.

The houses, which still stand today, were opposite the Headley’s soap works, later Proctor & Gamble. James (Jim) was serving in the R.A.F. and away fighting for his country, and Elizabeth (Liz) was at home with her children Nora, Elizabeth and James Jnr.

Liz, (my mam) told me when the sirens went, she would grab her children, and bag with her papers etc in, and run to Hedley’s air-raid shelter, the shelter was on Hedley’s stairs, which today lead down from City Road, to the Quayside.

The Bruce family, left to right James Bruce (father), James Jnr, Norah (middle back), Elizabeth Ann (middle front) and Elizabeth Ann Bruce (mother)

Mam often said, many of the neighbours refused to use the shelters, one elderly grandad would shout to Liz ‘get the bairns back in their beds bugger the jormans (Germans) and this grandad would stand with his pipe all-night, defying the sirens.

That fateful night of September 1st 1941 the raid went on from 10pm, until midnight, its been said the bombers were aiming to hit the soap works, and the docks.

Mam told me that some man came into the shelter, and pointed to women crying saying, your is doon, yours is doon,(down), the women were screaming to realise they had no homes to go back to. When Liz went to see what was left of her home, she said it looked like someone had sliced her beautiful home in two pieces, the kitchen still stood, but the bedrooms flattened, strange that the ony thing still hanging on the wall was her treasured mirror, it didn’t even splinter and the workmen salvaged that mirror which hangs in my home, my treasured possession.

Many families lost their lives that night, the town flower seller and many members of one big family who refused to use the shelters.
I have been asked how I know this story so well and its because during the power cuts of the 70, we sat by the candle light and my parents told me this sad story.

One thing mam was sure about, she said to me, Hinnie, not in my time but maybe in yours or your bains when they pull these hooses doon, be there as they built the houses up again so fast, nothing would convince mam that here treasures wont still be there under the foundations.

To This day the line is still visible between the old and new brick line.
When the houses were rebuilt the Bruce family eventually moved back into City Road to number 55a, where I was born then eventually we moved back to where it all started number 49 City Road.

My parents were the best, hard workers, dad being a Quayside docker, wed for 56 years and both lived well into their 80s. Proof that hard work wont kill us.

Also, on 1st September 41, the New Bridge Street goods yard took a direct hit, its said sugar burnt for days after.

Jim Bruce, circled, with R.A.F. comrades.