At the outbreak of WW2, my mother Mary Daniel and Grandmother, each rented a cottage on the fell at Cockfield. War had broken out and it would be safer to live there rather than our home in South Shields, Tyneside, with the shipyards being a potentially dangerous place to live. My dad had enlisted in the Northumbrian Hussars and was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1940 and spent the next 4 years in a Stalag POW Camp.
I was 6years old and my brother Price, 7 years old when we moved to Cockfield. Our neighbours welcomed us and we became very friendly with the Robson family and Mr & Mrs T. Mason. We attended the village school and later my brother went to Barnard Castle Public School, [he’d won a scholarship] as a day boy. At 11 years of age, I went to Cockton Hill School. My brother joined the Boy Scouts and I was a Brownie. We had great fun playing on the fell. In the winter months, sledging down the hill towards the beck. During the summer holidays, “helping” with the hay making a did our mam and neighbours. Swimming in the beck which had been damned up by neighbours for us.
I vividly remember the bombs being dropped by the German planes on the fell on 13th August 1940 at approximately mid-day. My brother and I were standing outside my Gran’s garden and watched some of the bombs being dropped. Some fell on the hen houses. The glass melted and hung like icicles. I still recall the smell of sulphur from the incendiary bombs. 28 bombs were dropped and this was to lighten the load so that the planes had enough fuel to get back to Germany as they were unable to attack their original target. Later the army bomb disposal unit came from Barnard Castle to deal with unexploded bombs.
My brother and I along with our friends would sit on top of the brick enclosure surrounding the mine air shaft and drop a stone down counting to see how long it took to hit the bottom. No health and safety regulations then!
My Aunt, who was the District Nurse in Hebburn was visiting us when my Grandmother’s neighbour who was expecting a baby, went into labour. My Aunt delivered the baby girl. How fortunate that my Aunt was visiting us at that particular time.
We returned to South Shields in 1945 when my dad came home. We had a very happy childhood on Cockfield Fell.
I did make a trip to the Fell with my husband many years later but the houses were no longer there. I often wondered what had happened to my childhood friends and neighbours. Luckily, with modern technology, I have recently been in contact with one of my Fell friends and we have been able to mull over happy childhood times.