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Gas Attack! by Ted Bage

In 2005 Hartlepool's Museum and Library Services worked together on a project called 'Their Past, Your Future', which commemorated the part played by local people in the Second World War. As part of the project Ted Bage from the 'Writing Together' group reminisced about his experiences as a child during the War. This is his story, in his own words:

In 1942 I was ten years of age.  When I think about that night in 1942 I can’t help having a little laugh.  It seems now that it could be a scene in a Charlie Chaplin picture or Laurel and Hardy but believe me that night we were petrified, panic stricken, you name it we had it all.

The air raid siren had sounded and myself, mam, my sister Manna brother Ronnie and baby Terence huddled together under the stairs.  Guns fire, bombs dropping, it seemed as if the gunfire was running down our path.  My dad always stood outside just in case any emergencies happened.  He could hear wardens running along the street blowing whistles.  A man ran past our gateway (not a warden) and shouted “GAS!”  Dad came hurrying into the house and quickly put us all in the downstairs bathroom.  We all had gas masks.  Dad and mam helped us to put ours on and make sure they were on right.  Little Terence was put inside his gas mask and placed in the bath.  How mam and dad got those masks on I do not know. But with the bombs dropping, gunfire etc. and all of us panic-stricken they still managed.  Dad eventually got us all calmed down then got a couple of blankets and doused them with water.  He put them on the door and window trying to keep out as much as possible.  He told us how to breathe and not panic, we did as we were told but we could not stop the sweat and fear that we felt.

Our bathroom window was next to our front door. We had a path from our street to the front door and bathroom window.  It was from this window we heard knocking and at the same time the all clear was sounding.  Apparently Big Jack Lamplough had just finished his shift as an engine driver for L.N.E.R. and his wife had told him that she hadn’t heard from next door.

               “Are you in there Walter? (dad)”

               “Yes Jack, has the gas cleared up yet?”

“What gas? They haven’t dropped gas, just incendiary bombs (fire bombs).”

Dad told us to take our gas masks off, took off the blankets and opened the bathroom window.  We were matted in sweat and I can tell you now we thanked God for our safety.  With masks off and fresh air getting into our lungs, it was one of the best moments of that awful night. 

And to dad I would say again what he always said.

               “Better safe than sorry”

Good old dad.

               “Shush”, said mam. “Don’t wake the bairn up.”

The baby had slept through the lot.

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