I was born in 1923 and turned 18 in September of 1941. At the beginning of October 1941, we had to register at the King Hall (Imperial Buildings) on Durham Road, Houghton-le-Spring. This was used as a dole office next to the old brewery’s wine cellars.
At Easter 1942 I went for my medical, and not long after that I was called up to a training camp at Lockerbie.
I was a trooper, the old cavalry regiment, and I can still remember my number: 14245009
Being a Primitive Methodist, I have never drunk alcohol, but I have been drunk once before! We were pushing the Germans back from Normandy, and had to make sure we weren’t going to be cut off. We were sent on patrol to the next village, I can’t remember the name, as there were very few maps; a quarter inch to the mile wasn’t very good when trying to find your way through a strange country!
The French Resistance caught us up. There was fourteen or fifteen of them, armed up to the teeth with rifles (?baldaleers?) and grenades. We wanted to get away, but this old woman came down with a bottle and a tiny little glass. She filled it and gave it to the Sergeant, who was from Scotland; he wanted more but she said no and passed it on.
We were the first British troops they had seen. All I could make out was that she had a room in her house that had been used for troops on their way to Dunkirk to eat and drink and rest in. She had kept it the same to welcome any British troops that came through.
When she passed the glass to me, I said: “No, not for me” but one of them pushed his rifle to my chest and gave me the glass. I wasn’t going to say no twice, so I drank it!
When we got back, the Sergeant said to me, “Sit yourself still!” I replied that I was all right, but he said, “No you’re bloody drunk! If the Troop Officer comes and finds you, there’ll be trouble for your and me. Sit still and say nothing!”
I didn’t get back to Houghton until 1944, having been injured by a hand grenade (I woke up in hospital on my twenty-first birthday).
I can remember the tank that was used to barricade the front of St Michael’s Church in the Broadway. It was seven foot high and 5 foot wide, and full of concrete. It had barbed wire on the top. It was intended as blockade in case of an invasion, to hind the advance of any troops. There was space at the end, though, to allow the buses to go through!
I’ve never seen a photograph of it though. Copyright © Books of the North 2009.
There was an air raid shelter built out the back of Church House, 18 Church Street. This was the control centre for the ARP, where all messages were sent to and from. The air raid siren was on top of two telegraph poles.
Newbottle Street Junior School was closed for a while during the War, and was used as a first aid base. It was intended to be used for the injured during an air raid.
Jack Jordison, 2009
Collected & Edited by Paul Lanagan, local historian
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PAGE UPDATED: 03/09/2009
sergeant frank stamp and houghton-le-spring 1941 Hurrican fighter plan crashed in Houghton-le-Spring.
A tank parked outside of Robinson's Brewery on Durham Road, Houghton-le-Spring, during the First World War.
Frederick Denby of Houghton, joined the Durham Light Infantry, was a prisoner of war for four years and returned home at Christmas 1918.
Soldiers marched along Church Street, Houghton-le-Spring, 1940.
Bombing raids in World War 2 in Houghton-le-Spring, included four high explosive bombs being dropped onto Houghton Cut in July 1940, and an incendiary bomb being dropped between Houghton and Seaham in March 1943.
Houghton-le-Spring's adopted warship is HMS Welland, which was adopted during Warship Week in December 1941.
George Fenton of Houghton served with 8th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, and was a Prisoner of War in Stalag 8B.
During the Second World War, in 1941,a Hurricane fighter tried to make an emergency landing on Houghon Golf Course. The pilot Sergeant Frank Stamp of the Royal Canadian Air Force sadly lost his life.
Captain William Brown, a Territorial Officer, was a solicitor in the Sunderland Street firm of Legge & Miller.