An enemy plane

I have heard this account many times and I ‘remember’ seeing the wreckage on the beach. We were definitely there. Tommy says that we saw it too, but do I really remember it at such an early age? This is how I see it in my mind’s eye.

The minute Mam arrived home she made a bee line for the wireless. She had stood for an hour in the long queue at Hopkins for our meagre ration of meat. Little Tommy and me (aged one) in the tansad had been very patient, but we were now demanding food. The news on the Light Programme was just ending and Mam’s favourite daytime show ‘Workers Playtime’ hosted by Wilfred Pickles was about to start.

“…Soap rationing has now been included. British forces surrender to the Japanese at Singapore after heavy losses. Here is the weather forecast…”

‘Workers Playtime’ was intended as a morale-booster for industrial workers in Britain during the war. The program was broadcast at lunchtime, three times a week, live from a factory canteen “somewhere in Britain”, with the Ministry of Labour choosing which factory it would visit. ‘Workers Playtime’ continued for years after the war.

Jimmy Dorsey – ‘Tangerine’  1943
Yes, she has them all on the run
But her heart belongs to just one
Her heart belongs to Tangerine

Dad arrived home mid-afternoon from the morning shift.

“I’m taking the kids to Red-ceh’ (Redcar) tomorrow after work,” announced Dad. “The lads tell me thez a Jerry plane on the beach.”

“Don’t you think they’re a bit little for that? They won’t know what they’re looking at,” replied Mam.

The following morning was bright and sunny. Cargo Fleet platform was packed with excited kids and parents all hoping for a glimpse of the plane. No-one was even sure if they would be allowed onto the beach. The train from Darlington was packed but everyone managed to squeeze aboard.

As the train passed through Grangetown and South Bank the travellers stared in silence at the carnage the recent air raids had wrought. A stick of bombs meant for the steel works had missed their target and one had dropped on the end of a row of terrace houses. Six houses in the row had collapsed or been badly damaged. Fortunately, Redcar, the seaside town about six miles east of North Ormesby, remained unscathed at that stage.

From the official war records the following details were recorded.

“The Germans had been sending over two ME 210s every day to photograph the shipping and industry along the River Tees. At Thornaby, the RAF had Mark 5 Spitfires. The Mark 5’s had no problem shooting down the odd bomber but they couldn’t catch the ME 210 which had height on its side and could dive away with its photographs. On this occasion, the RAF imported two Typhoons from down South with a 2400 horsepower engine as opposed to about 1500 in a Spitfire. The Typhoons could out-run the German fighters easily. One of the enemy had turned towards Redcar and was shot down over New Marske and one turned south and was shot down over Whitby.”

Dad alighted from the train with me and Tommy and followed the crowd down to The Stray. The entire beach was fenced off with rolls of barbed wire along the prom wall, but the authorities had relented and staked off a section of the beach to allow the public access to the roped off remains of the plane. We stared in awe at the sight.

The plane shot down over Redcar had fallen to earth near the fishing village of Marske. The tail ended up in the sea near Redcar Scar, was recovered by a fishing boat and dragged up the beach. The grey tail, emblazoned with a black and white swastika, looked massive to us two small lads.

A local boy was an eyewitness to the event:

“I was cycling down West Dyke Road on my way to the swimming baths. It was a nice sunny day about 11 o’clock in the morning. No sirens had gone. I suddenly heard a ‘brum brum’ cannon fire or machine-gun fire and I looked up and saw two aircraft twisting round in the sky leaving vapour trails.

“Suddenly one of them started to tumble end over end over end, passing right over Redcar and finishing up in a farmer’s field near New Marske crossroads. The plane ended up in the small dam near the Half Mile bank in New Marske.

“I went up to see the aircraft with my dad in the afternoon and it was a Messerschmitt 210 twin-engine two-seater. It landed flat in the field. It had not dived in and was recognisable, but the tail plane was missing.”

Alvino Rey and his Orchestra – ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’ 1943
The sage in bloom is like perfume
Deep in the heart of Texas
Reminds me of, the one I love
Deep in the heart of Texas

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