Air raids July 1942

Mirry Jones, stepped out of the corner door of Alec’s greengrocery shop on the corner of High Street and Charles, and slid the bag of potatoes into the back of the tansad1. A slow drone escalating to a shrill wail pierced the still air. Mirry’s heart started to thump. It was the first time she had heard an air raid siren that wasn’t a drill. Good God this is it, she thought. Got to get to the shelter. She kicked off the pram’s brake and she and Freda rushed to the newly erected shelter on the Market Square.

Baby Raymond, fast asleep in the pram, slept on oblivious to the unfolding drama. It was Market Day so there were crowds of people making their way to the shelter. She parked the pram near the entrance, kicked on the brake and taking young Tommy’s hand, joined the crush on the concrete steps down to safety below. The warden followed the last one in and announced that there was a baby outside in a pram. Mirry was horrified. In her panic to get to safety she had left Raymond in the pram!

At the start of the war, air raid shelters were erected at strategic points in the town. The shelters were rectangular structures, constructed of reinforced concrete, with flat rooves. Blast walls protected the narrow entrances. Middlesbrough was one of the first major British towns to be bombed during the Second World War. On 25th May 1940 thirteen bombs were dropped not far from our house between South Bank Road and the South Steel Plant. Most fell harmlessly with one of the bombs falling on the football ground, making a three-meter crater in the pitch. The bomber was forced to leave after RAF fighters were scrambled from nearby Thornaby airfield to intercept.

Andrews Sisters – ‘Pistol Packing Mama’ 1942
Oh, lay that pistol down, babe
Lay that pistol down
Pistol packing mama
Lay that pistol down


As time went on, people became more relaxed when the siren sounded. They often ignored the warden’s pleas to take cover, and stood in the street watching the vapour trails of the fighting planes or the criss-cross of search lights, cheering when they saw a German plane spiral to earth. At the sound of the siren, most men in the Nash, (National Service Club), not wanting to appear weak, ignored the warning and stayed sipping their beer. Dad quickly downed his pint and headed for the door.

“What’s up Tommy lad? Scared a bomb‘ll drop on yeh?” they jeered.

Tommy just smiled. “Just going home t’ check on Mirry and the bairns.”

Next: Evacuation

Previous: A war baby

  1. Lightweight pram