Three civilian deaths are recorded:

15 August 1940

  • William Armstrong Harrison, aged 9 of Collingwood Street, Hebburn-on-Tyne.
  • Levi Warton, aged 24 of Hecklewood Nook Farm, Woodside near Witton Park.

9 May 1941

  • Percy Pattison, aged 56 of 5 Brookside, Evenwood who is buried in Evenwood Cemetery – see WW2 Roll of Honour for further details

15 AUGUST 1940: William HARRISON & Levi WARTON

This was the day when a German aircraft was chased along the Gaunless Valley by an RAF fighter.  The event was recorded by Jean Green [nee Watson] and Doris Kay [nee Vickers] in their articles elsewhere on the website.  They didn’t mention that a young lad had been killed at Toft Hill and a chap at Woodside, Witton Park.

Clarrie Simon, a local press correspondent, reported the incident in his notebook:

“At certain points in the chase, during which the raiders were forced inland in a westerly direction, it was evident that the enemy airmen merely jettisoned their bombs in an attempt to escape…The dead people were: Levi Wharton aged 24, single, a farm hand and William Harrison aged 10, a schoolboy who had been evacuated from a Tyneside area…The 2 injured people include a local magistrate and Monica Pickering, aged 12 who was a passenger in the bus.  Both were wounded in the thigh, by machine gun bullets, though not severely…Both Wharton and the boy Harrison were killed by shrapnel from high explosive bombs.  Wharton was hedge-clipping…The boy Harrison was delivering congratulatory messages during the raid to a house at which a wedding party had gathered when he was caught by a piece of shrapnel which pierced his heart.”  

The name of the local magistrate went unreported but Clarrie Simon’s handwritten notes identify him as Robert Elliott JP.  The location of the bombs was given as between Pansy Villa on Etherley Road and Rose Cottage on the Witton Park/Escomb Road.  It was confirmed that gas and water pipes were fractured near Rose Cottage and telegraph and electric poles were felled near Pansy Villa.  13 cows and 2 horses were either killed outright or had to be destroyed.

A later account reported:[1]

Day 348: Thursday, 15th August 1940

Blackout end 05.10 Begins 21.10

Public Alert: 12.47 All Clear: 14.10

12.47-13.30:  Co Durham. Cockfield: Twenty-eight HEs dropped in Cockfield district between Gibbsneese and Summerson’s Quarry. 170 windows in Cockfield were broken and 30 ceilings came down. A byre, a garage, and a small wooden tool shed were damaged. No casualties.

Co Durham. High Etherley, Toft Hill, Woodside and California: Approximately sixty HEs and one hundred IBs were dropped in this district. At High Etherley forty bombs were dropped; one killed a boy and injured another person. The other bombs dropped in fields where sheep and a number of cattle were injured. At California, Witton Park, one man was killed and four persons injured.

A Messerschmitt Bf 110D from 1/ZG76 was shot down and crashed at Streatlam near Barnard Castle at 13.36. The aircraft was destroyed, the crew were captured unhurt.

13.36.. Steathlam.. Enemy plane crashed at Steathlam near to site of New Military Camp. Both occupants of plane conveyed to Barnard Castle Police Station. When plane crashed an explosion occurred and a workman on the site received slight injuries.



Compiled by Brian Pears]


We are aware of another tragic death.


Jean Sanderson was the oldest daughter of widower John Sanderson who lived on the Green, Evenwood.  Her mother Nora [nee Mason] died in 1938 when Jean was 14 years old so she left school to look after her father, 3 brothers and younger sister.  During the blackout on Christmas Day, 1941, at 9pm she was walking along the new road between Evenwood and Cockfield when an army lorry mounted the footpath and ran into her.  Her injuries were so severe that she died that night.  She was 17 years old.


On 7 January, 1941 the Inquest conducted by John Brown-Humes concluded that Jean died of:

“Compression of the brain following Cerebral Haemorrhage accidentally sustained upon 25 December 1941 whilst walking on the road and being struck by an Army Motor Truck.”

Her Uncle Alf recalled:

“At this time, you could not sue the Crown and her father got no damages.  I managed to get him £150 compassionate grant from the Crown Office.”


 Norman Sanderson 

 Jean’s oldest brother Norman joined the Army, the Royal Artillery in November 1936.

 “There was only farm work at five shillings a week and the army advert said 14s – which I never got.”

He was drafted to India in 1939 and to the Middle East in 1940.

“I was up and down the blue like a yo-yo”, he said.

Soldiers of the British Eight Army, nicknamed “the Desert Rats” referred to the Sahara Desert as “the Blue” on account of the blue train that carried them from their base in Alexandria to the end of the line at Mesa Mutruh, where the desert began.  Norman was captured 20 June 1942, when Tobruk fell.

“I was lying on my back, injured – shrapnel in my right elbow.”

He was flown to Italy as a POW but he was repatriated in 1943.  He had received little attention for his wounds while in captivity and lost the use of his arm.   Norman was demobbed in 1946 and then worked at Bakelite at Aycliffe.  He lived until the ripe old age of 93 at Newton Aycliffe.

20 November 1942:  Jackie Sanderson

 Another brother, Jackie born 1923, joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and served as a navigator and gunner in the Middle East until the invasion of Italy.  His plane was shot down by “friendly fire” whilst it was trying to land at Malta and he was killed in action, 20 November 1942 – see WW2 Roll of Honour for further details.

Source:  Courtesy of Frank Sanderson, formerly Dale Street, St. Helens.