Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Memories Of German Bombs

Christmas is a good time to visit St Andrew's Church, Bolam, situated about 16 miles North West of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on the way towards the Scottish border. Not only is it is a hidden Saxon Church of great simplicity, beauty and peace, but it also was subjected to an attack by a German bomber in the Second World War.

One night a Luftwaffe bomber was following the railway line which the pilot thought would lead to Newcastle, where he could drop his bombs. But either because he was being pursued by a Spitfire, or was just lost in the clouds, combined with the fact that it was the wrong railway line conspired to put the pilot in an unenviable situation. As he came out the fog at zero level, his windshield was filled with the shape of a church spire.

The only way he could avoid a collision was to drop his bombs so that he could rapidly gain height. He did and he missed.

My father, a little boy, was in bed in a nearby house when he was awoken by the explosions. The vicarage fared worse and had all its windows blown out. The vicar went down to check the church without a light or torch. In the darkness he tripped over something cold and solid. An unexploded bomb.

There is now a stained glass window showing where the bomb came into the church.

The pilot came back to apologise in 2004. My father met him.

This year is the first Christmas without my father. It is important to remember the stories and the delight he had in telling them. They were always interesting. Often funny.

So the Accidental Bus Driver is vacating England for a few days. To the Czech Republic. A few days of Borovicka, carp and knedliky. Not a glimpse of a turkey or a soggy roast potato.

Paradise. A true white, frozen Christmas. Thank you King Wenceslas.

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