People's Memories

Edwin Saint - Remembers
RAF Usworth Aerodrome was located where the Nissan factory now stands, and I clearly recall one morning going by bus with my mother to Sunderland, the bus was halted outside the Aerodrome by a group of soldiers who boarded and everyone had to show their identity cards before being allowed to proceed. While writing this account I recall a more tragic story regarding Usworth Aerodrome. About 1942 a Polish squadron was stationed there. One night a Spitfire had been sent up to intercept some German bombers, in the course of the action the Spitfire was thought to have been damaged and the Polish pilot returned to land at Usworth. The last street in Washington going towards Sunderland was at that time called Havelock Terrace which continued into Elm terrace. At the end of Elm Terrace the road crossed the railway lines then turned 90 degrees left for a short distance then 90 degrees right running alongside Usworth Aerodrome main runway; this resulted in Havelock Terrace being directly in line with the main runway, which was only a short distance further on. No one ever found out what actually happened, but the pilot put the spitfire down in the middle of Havelock terrace, the fighter exploded killing the Polish pilot and damaging a considerable number of houses, but there were no civilians casualties. As far as I was aware it was never established whether the pilot mistook Havelock Terrace for the run way or whether he did not have enough power to reach the Aerodrome, but everyone in Washington regarded him as a hero. There was hardly a boy at school next day because we were all looking for the little bits of the Spitfire as souvenirs.
Contributed by newcastlecsv
People in story: Edwin Saint
Location of story: Washington, Co. Durham
Background to story: Civilian
Article ID: A6137165
Contributed on: 14 October 2005
'WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at'

Fighter Command WAAF - Doreen Kinsey Remembers
My Mother Doreen Kinsey as she was when she joined the WAAF in 1941, went to be kitted out at Bridgenorth. Then she was sent to Morecambe for square bashing and jabs.
Once finished she was posted to RAF Usworth on the Northwest outskirts of Sunderland. There her role was to update the airplane’s technical drawings for the engineers. I have a photograph taken at the Usworth NAFFI of Mum plus a number of other WAAFs. Mum’s sergeant is seated in the chair; Mum is seated on the arm of the chair (note the x). There are a number of other WAAFs. She remembers that the WAAFs to the right were part of the balloon team but cannot remember any names. Mum is now 83 and since her knee replacement last year is reasonably active and mentally alert!
Last month she went to Eastbourne for the Annual WAAF Association Reunion and AGM. There were 360 members from a total membership of over 3600. Many are now unable to travel the distance involved but look forward to the newsletter. They are very distinctive walking along the prom in navy blazers with the WAAF Association badge and the RAF tartan kilts. While Doreen was at Usworth there was an influx of trainee pilots and she was given a bike and transferred to a billet with her family in Ryhope. She remembers meeting other WAAFS in Ryhope village to travel in to Usworth for 8 a.m. The other WAAF’s travelled from Seaham and other villages in the area.
Some 10 months later Doreen was transferred to Fighter Command and based at Kenley. Down there she was in the thick of the fighting. One of her roles was to ride pillion on a motorcycle to deliver identity cards to airmen at other bases in the South East. In Kenley she met up with Dorothy, a Surry WAAF who shared her exact date of birth. They celebrated their 21’s at a Lyons Corner House in London. The final base that the ‘twins’ were posted to was RAF Durrington on the South coast. There they had night duty plotting the planes as they flew including the D-Day forces.
My father Robert Bowman Arrowsmith came from Ryhope too. He joined the RAF because he was an apprentice joiner who wanted a winter coat. His father would not help him so he got one from the King. His squadron was put on board a ship that set of, as he though for the Far East. He was wrong; the boat dropped them in South Africa where they spent the war repairing planes brought down from the dessert fight. As my Mother used to tease him — he had a cushy war.
While in South Africa he visited Kimberly with a colleague who had been a jeweller. They select a diamond, designed a ring and had it made up. Then it was posted home through the thick of the fighting! Mum still wears the ring even though my father died in 1974.
Contributed by Christine
People in story: Doreen Arrowsmith nee Kinsey and Robert Bowman Arrowsmith
Location of story: Sunderland, SE England and South Africa
Background to story: Royal Air Force
Article ID: A4025503
Contributed on: 07 May 2005
'WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at'