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Last Updated: Monday, 21 April, 2003, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Memorial to shelter bomb victims
Wilkinson's bombing factory
The factory was thought to have the safest shelters

After 62 years, one of the worst incidents of World War II bombing on Tyneside is to be commemorated. BBC News Online's Bill Wilson looks back at the tragedy of North Shields in 1941.

Families who were killed as they took shelter in a lemonade factory during a German air raid over Tyneside in World War II are to finally be officially remembered.

On the night of Saturday, 3 May, 1941, an air raid alert sounded over North Shields as a Luftwaffe bomber burst through gunnery defences.

Men, women, and children dashed to Wilkinson's Lemonade Factory, at the junction of King Street and George Street, where they took refuge in the communal air raid shelter in the basement.

Shortly before midnight a German bomber raider, probably a Junkers 88, dropped four bombs.

The German Naval Co-Operation Units attacked the UK's coastlines, attacking British shipping, and the attacker may have been from this unit.

Serious injuries

One bomb hit the beach, another burst in Stephenson Street, the third hit a house in George Street, and the fourth bomb made a direct hit on the lemonade factory.

There were 195 people in the shelter when the bomb hit the factory, and down in their basement haven 96 people were killed.

Seven died later from their injuries, bringing the death toll to 103, and many of the survivors were seriously injured.

Unfortunately there was machinery above the shelter, and when the bomb hit the factory that fell in on the people below
Major Bill Campbell, memorial organiser

Until now there has been no memorial to the people that died that night.

However, on Sunday, 4 May, 2003, a commemorative plaque will be unveiled, dedicated to those who died and to the bravery of the official and voluntary services.

It will be based at the Beacon Shopping Centre in North Shields, and one of those behind the memorial is Major Bill Campbell.

He told BBC News Online: "It will be in memory of all those who died in North Shields on the night of 3 May, 1941, which was by far the worst night of bombing in the North East.

Nellie's bravery

"By far the biggest number of deaths were at the lemonade factory, where there were huge casualties.

"It had the best shelters so everyone had gone there to take cover. Unfortunately there was machinery above the shelter, and when the bomb hit the factory that fell in on the people below."

Particularly remembered at the ceremony will be the local air raid warden on that fateful night, Ellen Lee, known to all as Nellie.

Mrs Lee was a local warden living on Tynemouth Road, just round the corner from Wilkinson's, when the bombs came whistling down.

Albert Lee
Albert Lee was 16 when the bombing took place

Despite suffering from many burns to her body she helped 32 survivors escape from the shelter.

Mrs Lee never received an official award for her bravery, but the soldiers billeted at Kettlewell School honoured her with a special presentation in recognition of her selfless courage.

Major Campbell said: "She showed tremendous bravery, even though she suffered burns, but it was never officially recognised at the time."

North Tyneside Veterans and North Tyneside Challenge, who are behind the plaque ceremony, have invited along Mrs Lee's son, Albert, now aged 85, to the unveiling.

He said his mother never regained her health after the bombing, and was still finding bits of shrapnel in her body until her death in 1951.

Mr Lee said: "She gave first aid and helped countless people that night."





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SEE ALSO:
The bomb factory that blew up
10 Feb 03  |  England
Hope amid raw memories of war
21 Dec 02  |  From Our Own Correspondent
Wartime bomb closes station
28 Apr 03  |  England
Wartime bombers reunited
22 Jun 02  |  Wales
Britain 'sitting on a time-bomb'
24 Sep 98  |  UK News


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