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World War Two and Post War 1939 to 1949

Like the Great War of 1914-18, the Second World War caused a huge loss of life among men of the region who were fighting abroad, and it also placed a great demand on the manufacturing industries back home. Many lives were lost in the North-East, where the great industrial centres of the Tyne, Tees and Wear were a constant victim of the bombing raids of German aircraft. Even non-industrial cities like York were in danger and were targeted specifically because of their rich heritage in the so-called 'Baedeker raids' aimed at demoralising the British nation by the destruction of its history.

1939 September 3, - NATION AT WAR (Britain)

Neville Chamberlain announces that the nation is at war with Germany.


Throughout the Second World War, the North East and particularly the industrial heartlands of Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside suffered constant raids from enemy aircraft. For full details of these raids on a day by day basis, Roy Ripley and Brian Pears' North East Diary 1939-45 is recommended. This is an external site and is not connected with the England's North East site but for details of raids on the North East durng the Second World War it cannot be beaten.

Visit Roy Ripley and Brian Pears' North East Diary 1939-45

1940 May 7, - WINSTON CHURCHILL (Britain)

Winston Churchill succeeds Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister. Chamberlain resigned following criticism from members of the House of Commons.


German troops have seized Norway and Denmark providing them with a base for air raids on the North-East of England.

1940 May 7, - WINSTON CHURCHILL (Britain)

Winston Churchill succeeds Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister. Chamberlain resigned following criticism from members of the House of Commons.

May-July 1940 - BATTLE OF BRITAIN (The North)

After over-running France, Belgium and Holland, the German forces gather on the coasts of Europe in preparation for an invasion of Britain. German air raids commence as they must gain air supremacy over Britain before any planned invasion can begin. Some of the first German bombs to hit England are in the South Bank Road area of Middlesbrough and in June a bomb hits the car of the Transporter Bridge.

August 1940 - NORTH-EAST RAID)

On August 13, German aircraft start bombing British airfields and on August 15, German Air Fleet 15 begins raiding the North of England from its bases in Stavanger, Norway, and Aalborg, Denmark. Most of the targets lie between the Tyne and the Humber and German aircraft have to fly 400 to 450 miles to reach them. The first wave of bombers is intercepted off the Farne Islands by 12 Spitfires from RAF Acklington in Northumberland. The German bombers had planned to fly across the coast south of the Tyne on their way to attack the North Yorkshire airfields, but they make a navigational error. The Spitfires are assisted by Hurricanes and the force of German bombers is broken up. Some bombers hit Newcastle and Sunderland but they are forced home after further air assistance from Catterick and Usworth. A second wave of German bombers crosses the coast at Flamborough Head and causes severe damage to RAF Driffield, although many bombers are shot down. These are the first of many raids across the region.

1941 - RAF STATIONS (The North)

Goosepool RAF Station is established at Middleton St. George. It will later become Teesside Airport. This is one of many RAF stations situated throughout the region.

1941 - GOODS STATION BOMBED (Newcastle)

Newcastle Goods Station is severely destroyed in a bombing raid. Railway stations, engineering works, iron and chemical works are major targets. The Germans make detailed plans and aerial reconnaissance photographs of industrial sites on the Tyne, Wear and Tees which they intend to bomb.

June 26, 1942 - MURTON COLLIERY DISASTER (Murton)

Thirteen men are killed in an explosion at Murton Colliery.


York is bombarded in one of the so-called Baedeker raids. These are aimed at cities with outstanding architectural features. They take their name from the famous Baedeker guide books which are published in Germany for tourists visiting the sites of Europe.

1944 June 6, - D-DAY (Normandy)

The Allied invasion of Europe has begun. Originally it is planned for June 5, but is postponed due to unfavourable weather conditions. Around 4,000 ships and 11,000 planes are involved in the invasion of the Normandy beaches.

1945 May 8, - VE DAY (Europe)

Victory in Europe is declared today. Throughout the region the end of the war is declared by the local mayor and special church services are held. Spontaneous dancing breaks out in many town streets and flags are flying almost everywhere, notably from the winding gear of local pits. A fanfare of trumpets hails the end of the war in Sunderland and the Mayor of Jarrow raises the flags of all the Allies on the Town Hall. In Darlington a football match is held in Tubwell Row using beacons from a pedestrian crossing. A warship in Sunderland harbour accidentally fires shells into the town during the celebrations, but fortunately nobody is hurt. Many street parties are held on May 9, the day after VE Day.


During the war there are 298 air raids on the North. Hundreds of civilians are killed as a result of the raids, but thousands more North-Easterners lose their lives fighting in Europe.

1945 - SHIPBUILDING BOON (North-East)

At the beginning of the war more than 67,000 skilled shipyard workers were unemployed in the North-East. During the war years there has been a great increase in shipbuilding activity for the war effort and 545 ships have been built in North-East yards.


Official Victory celebrations are still being held throughout the region. In Durham events in the city on June 8 include hymns in the market place, boating and boat races, children's sports, a grand cricket match, dancing in the Town Hall, and a prize for the best decorated house. The cathedral and castle are floodlit form dusk to 2am.

1946 - ICI STARTS WILTON WORKS (Middlesbrough)

ICI start building Wilton Works near Middlesbrough on the south side of the Tees. The works will complement their extensive works at Billingham on the north side of the river where around 11,000 workers are now employed.

1947 - NEW TOWNS (North-East)

The New Towns of Newton Aycliffe and Peterlee are established. Peterlee is named after a County Durham miners' leader.

August 22, 1947 - LOUISA COLLIERY DISASTER (Stanley)

Twenty-one men are killed in an explosion at the Louisa Colliery.


The coal mines of Great Britain are 'nationalized' and will now come under the control of the Government-controlled National Coal Board (NCB). Mines were previously controlled by private companies.

1948 - DHSS AT LONGBENTON (Tyneside)

The Department of Health and Social Services has established its huge records centre at Longbenton near Newcastle. The service sector will increasingly become a major employer in the north in the later part of the 20th Century.

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