Searchlight & AA Battery
Posted by Llyn Green on November 24, 2021, 20:46:08
Catching up with the messages and photographs on the Board, when I spotted the one about the AA Battery and Searchlight Unit on the Mill Lane / South Shields Road junction. |
The statement under the photograph says that the A.A Battery was manned by Americans, if it was it must be the best kept wartime secret ever.
I have lived in Wardley, (which is about a half mile from the old site), all of my life and have never ever heard of any American presence in the area.
I worked with a guy who was stationed on the site as an A.A. Gunner, he was from South Yorkshire, met and married a Wardley lass and stayed here after the war. Although he often mentioned his wartime experiences, I never heard him mention any Americans.
The White Mare Pool and Railway Hotel, two pubs local to the site, where I drank with a lot of old men who would have known, again no mention of any Americans using the pubs.
Wartime dances in the Minerís Hall were popular, and Iím sure some young ladies would have gotten themselves never to be forgotten reputations in such a close-knit community as Wardley used to be, with the over-paid, over-sexed and over here Americans, but still no mention.
Apparently, according to news-reels etc. (and Foyle's War), they were very generous with the local schools, providing food and toys for Xmas parties etc.
Wardley School pupils never saw them, and I was there at the time.
Perhaps Bill Quay School pupils were the lucky ones.
Any old timers on the Message Board who were at Bill Quay School during the War and can remember any Americans?
Perhaps the searchlight equipment was American and they may have installed it.
Writing this brought back some memories, but also raised some questions which I had never thought about until now, perhaps some-one can come up with some answers.
I was born in my grand-motherís house in White Mere Gardens, Wardley, and we lived with her until about 1950.
I can remember lying in bed with her watching the searchlights from the site moving back and forwards across the night sky. She told me they were to catch the German planes and, in my innocence, I had this picture of something like giant butterfly nets hooking the planes out of the sky.
The question I have about this is, why did the searchlights operate when there were no enemy aircraft about?
Surely, they would have attracted the attention of any enemy aircraft for miles around, making them think there was something there that needed protecting.
If there had been enemy aircraft around, we would have been in the air-raid shelters, not watching the light show.
Were they practicing, acting as a deterrent or were they just kept running every night as long as it was dark?
The site was taken over by squatters when the Army left.
Life must have been grim for them.
One of the boys was in my class and lived there with his brothers and sisters, who used to walk to Wardley School in all weathers.
I remember him coming to school in the middle of winter through the snow, in a pair of white Plimsol sandshoes, his feet were soaked. One of the teachers, Miss Hall, brought him in an old pair of shoes. She had to pack them with old newspapers to make them fit.
There were two pre-fabricated concrete buildings with iron framed windows behind Wardley School, also taken over by squatters.
I never knew what they were for.