The Netmaker

"The Netmaker" the story follows four families who are all linked in some way to the Wilkinsons Lemonade Factory that was bombed during WW2. This is a tribute to the 107 people who lost their lives on 3rd May 1941

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By the end of February 1941 the war in Europe intensified as the allies tried to break the German lines. London was being bombed nightly and the people of North Shields and the North East knew that the bombing raids were beginning to come closer to home. The air raid warnings became more and more frequent as the German Bombers were sent out night after night to bomb our towns and cities. The rail and shipping lines were the main targets but the Germans dropped bombs on housing areas as well; killing hundreds of people.

May Johnson had just took off her coat and explained to Mr Hogg why she was late when the air raid warning went off and they made their way to Wilkinson’s Lemonade factory along the road. They had converted the basement of the factory in 1940 at a cost of £95.00 then given an extra £9.00 for protection against splinter and blast damage. People felt safe in there as they had even brought bunks down there for people to sleep. There were three rooms which led on to one another but the walls and floors cold; especially at night. There was a large steel door and when you opened the door the lights went out and came on again once the door was closed. The shelter could hold up to two hundred people at one time and many families would go down there feeling safer than they would above ground. Mr Hogg and May Johnson entered the shelter in George Street at ten o’clock and sat down where they were given a cup of tea. The shelter was equipped with food supplies and drinks in case of an emergency. Mrs Nelly Lee was the warden and she ran the shelter like a barracks. Nelly the forty two year old was a big made woman, round faced; who wasn’t what you would call attractive; but she stood for no nonsense from the children everyone had to be quiet except for the sound from Harry Miller the accordion player or Billy Hepple who played a canny tune on his mouth organ. Nelly counted all the people going in and then out again as they left.

Above the sky on Washington terrace you could see the barrage balloons that were there to protect the area from attack.

The all clear was given half an hour later and May Johnson and Mr Hogg made their way back to the chemists shop. May looked on the posters outside of the Albion Picture house as they passed. She usually went with “Danny the Gulls wife Enid on a Saturday night. The 49th Parallel with Laurence Olivier, Eric Portman, and Leslie Howard were showing so she would be calling in on her friend tonight to ask if she would go with her. It was only thu’pence to get in and if you brought a jam jar it was only a penny. Enid worked in the Lemonade factory and would often bring a bottle with her to the pictures. May brought a sandwich each for them and two cups so they could pour out the drinks in the interval. May served an old man as he came into the chemist to buy some snuff which was made by Lorillard it came in a small round tin.

That will be four pence ha’penny Sir said May as the man handed her a shilling.

After giving change she asked if there was anything else the man required.

He doffed his cap then left the shop.

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