Home Front – Monkseaton in World War Two

Gustav, our milkman, was a minesweeper sailor from Konigsberg.

Mr. Welsh down our street had fought in the Middle East in the First World War, but was too old for call up so they made him a Captain in the Home Guard. He knew my Mother had a revolver and asked if she wanted ammunition to shoot a few Germans, but she said “I wouldn’t want to, they are not that bad”. She was very right wing and my Father was a Labour supporter but never discussed politics at home so as to have a peaceful life. Another ex-army man was Major Wilson who owned Marden Farm just south of the present riding stables. He looked fierce but was really very friendly. He had a herd of Jersey cows. They were smallish and smoky-brown in colour and gave high-cream very good milk. The milk was delivered in a smartly varnished cart drawn by a well-groomed light brown horse. A very superior horse, it never stopped looking down its nose at us common folk. It was only friendly towards the Major but may once or twice have noticed Captain Welsh. It was amazing how it managed always to exhibit its rear to us kids even when we were alongside. It had us weighed up all right!

A couple of dozen Italian prisoners of war worked at Monkhouse Farm. They were not very tall, thin, but happy people. Local people were annoyed that they regularly collected wild bird eggs for a fry up back at camp. They always looked, many of them, as though they needed a shave. We never saw Italian officers or maybe they removed their badges and mucked in with the lads. The German officers were a stuck up bunch wearing smart great coats and peaky hats and went on the bus to Marks and Spencer’s in Newcastle every Saturday returning with their leather brief cases bulging with food. The ordinary soldiers and sailors were decent chaps, although quiet.

We never saw any Luftwaffe prisoners, maybe they just fell in the North Sea and drowned. Gustav, our milkman, was a minesweeper sailor from Konigsberg on the Baltic. In the winter he was frozen stiff on his milk cart, so my Mother asked him to come in when he was finished and he did this most days before going back to camp. My Father, Mother, Brother and I used to sit around the fire with Gustav at teatime chatting and putting the post war world to rights. His sister was a nurse in their army, captured by the Russians and employed as a nurse at a mine in Siberia. His parents walked from Konigsberg to Hamburg something like 500 miles in front of the Russian advance. Gustav married a girl from Seaton Delaval and stayed here. He made myself and my Brother a pair of rope soled purple raffia topped slippers for Christmas 1945, a very nice chap, quite a craftsman.

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