Never miss anything again. Sign up for our RSS news feeds and Newsletters.

Taking cover from Bomb and Jerry

Whatever the flanneled feats these many years at Tudhoe Cricket Club, the old sward has a more surprising claim to fame - the most northerly place in Britain to be hit by a doodlebug.

The V1 flying bomb was aimed, in truth, at Manchester. Jerry had missed again.

Tudhoe's near Spennymoor, Durham County League. It was Christmas Eve 1944, six o'clock on a Sunday morning, when next-day dreaming villagers were literally thrown from their beds - and some across the landing - by the force of the explosion.

In St Mary's orphanage, just down the hill, 200 boys were similarly awoken. No one, mercifully, was killed or badly hurt.

For this steer (as a Luftwaffe bomb aimer might say) we are grateful to Martin Birtle in Billingham, who came across another bit of doodlebuggeration in a book by Andrew Ward called Cricket's Strangest Matches.

Ward recounts the Army against the RAF at Lord's, August 1944, a droning doodlebug came down 200 yards away and both players and spectators dived for cover ("or even square leg" adds Martin, shamelessly.)

The airmen included Bill Edrich, Wally Hammond, Bob Wyatt and Reg Simpson; the Army fielded Maurice Leyland, Gubby Allen, Godfrey Evans and Captain David Townsend - top scorer with 54 - the Stockton solicitor who will always be the last man to win an England cap without playing for a first class county.

Also in the colours was Cpl Harry Halliday, subsequently cricket coach to the North Riding education authority, whose exploits we recalled a couple of years back.

The V1s, initially fired from ground sites in France, had a range of around 250 miles. Unmanned, unguided and largely indiscriminate. they were at least pointed in the appropriate direction.

But back to Christmas Eve in Tudhoe, and to the doodlebug which destroyed the wooden pavilion, tore up the adjoining red ash tennis court, wrecked the vicarage and shattered over 1,000 windows.

Retired headmaster Tony Coia, writing a book on wartime Spennymoor, believes it was one of 50 launched from Heinkels over the North Sea - "the Garmans' last fling" - and aimed at the North-West.

Only about 15 got there. Many fell in the sea off the Humber estuary, others in open countryside. In Middlesbrough, an Observer Corps member spotted the buzz bomb overhead.

He was the father of Tudhoe's vicar. "That one's heading for our place" he joked, prophetically, to a colleague.

Well he might have done. Tudhoe had been hit twice previously be German bombs - in the same week in 1940 - and each time, believes Tony Coia, by accident.

"I don't think there was any particular malice against Tudhoe, it's just that their navigation was a bit hairy.

"The pit heap was always burning and probably they were attracted by that whilst over Teesside, thinking bombs had already fallen there."

The second attack, on August 30 1940, destroyed Tudhoe Colliery Co-op. "There are still all sorts of stories about that, people seen running away with sides of bacon still smouldering" says Spennymoor photographer George Teasdale.

"I could name names" he adds darkly, "but I'm not."

A stone marks the building of the replacement Co-op in 1946. These days it belongs to a window company.

The years have embellished the stories - "never two the same" says Tony - though he himself attended 8am Mass in St Charles Church, Tudhoe, shortly after the blast.

"St Charles's was in a bit of a state and the vicarage got a right pasting, My father-in-law was coming down North Road, half a mile away, and was knocked flat on his back by the force of it.

"There were a lot of ruined Christmas presents and turkeys full of glass, but there was a tremendous spirit, too. We were winning at the time, we just got on with it."

News strictly censored, The Northern Echo on December 27 reported merely that the V1 had landed in a field in the north of England and that the orphanage boys had calmly helped clear up the mess.

"It seems certain that the Germans had gambled on surprising our defences" wrote our Air Correspondent. More likely they'd missed again.

Doodlebugs notwithstanding, Spennymoor folk were probably cheered by a 6-2 Christmas Day win over Hartlepool Reserves. The following afternoon, 41,000 at St James' Park saw goals from Albert Stubbins (2) and Charlie Wayman give the Magpies a 3-1 victory over Sunderland.

Jewell and Wariss were in pantomime at the Theatre Royal, Jill Summers (later the battleaxe Phyllis Pearce in Coronation Street) was Dick Whittington's cat at Stockton; the young Gracie Fields and still younger Yehudi Menuhin entertained the Stage Door Canteen boys at the Ritz in Catterick.

And in his Christmas Day broadcast, the King forecast that the lights of Europe were already being rekindled.

At Tudhoe Cricket Club, they were lit up for the following season. "It would take more than a seriously stray doodlebug" observes Tony Coia, "to come between a Tudhoe man and his cricket."

It probably looked like a V-bomb had landed on Murton, the world's unluckiest football club, when that damn great crater opened up a few weeks back.

The chasm remains, whilst sundry bodies look into it. The Albany Northern League Club hopes to ground share at Peterlee.

On Tuesday evening, meanwhile, a camera crew arrived to begin filming one of these "Dreams can come true" programmes

"They're going to be back and forth all season. We've an awful lot of dreams" says club chairman Tommy Torrence.

The first, of course, is to renew the damaged culvert and fill in the hole. The latest estimate, give or take a few shovelfuls, is for £132,000.

Back to Spennymoor, and a PS to Tuesday's piece on Mad Frankie Fraser's round at the boxing academy presentation. The same night, Mike Tyson - fighting at Hampden Park - received a bouquet from Reggie Kray.

Reg Kray is certified insane and in Broadmoor Hospital; Mike Tyson isn't.

Frankie Fraser, coincidentally, had urged his Spennymoor audience to write to the Home Secretary demanding the surviving Kray's release; several put pen to paper.

A few days later, boxing club chief coach Robert Ellis received a letter from Reggie, enclosing photographs of him with Joe Louis, amongst others, reporting that Fraser had duly passed on their felicitations.

Club secretary Paul Hodgson has had another of his ideas. "Perhaps we'll get Reggie Kray as next year's speaker" he muses.

Q J Hughes, occasionally of Durham II, hit 119 for Cambridge last week in the last Varsity game at Lord's.

"Those to whom Oxford and Cambridge's annual squabble typifies the class-ridden soul of English cricket may find it rather fitting that the first century of the last match was courtesy of a chap called Quentin" observed The Guardian - and rather wished it hadn't.

"Ridiculous" wrote Lydia Aers from the Globe Theatre in London. "The Quentin in question was schooled at the local comprehensive in Durham before Cambridge."

Though uncommon in these parts, Quentin is apparently a very popular name among film critics. The Famous Five, memory suggests, had an Uncle Quentin, too - a mad professor, probably.

Quentin Hughes, whose father Tim also played for Durham and whose brother Joel is on the Academy staff, was a Durham Johnston lad who played for the Minor Counties side at 16, spun 7-30 in 1992 in the county's first game in the Second X1 championship but hardly bowled thereafter.

Known by the Riverside simply as Q, he also hit 223 in the seconds' final game of last season, but has never represented the first team.

A blue in each of his four years at Cambridge, he has now finished a history degree, plays club cricket for Chester-le-Street, and is said still to fancy a shot at the first class game.

This week he has been unavailable - a few days in Blackpool. It comes little more proletarian than that.

Geoffrey Boycott, known as many things but none of them Q, was at the Riverside for last week's internationals. Guesting at one of the lunch tables, he declined the main course. "I'm not partial to duck" said Sir Geoffrey, and his face remained immovable as ever.

In passing, Tuesday's column noted that the previous night's game between Crook and Shildon was already John Dawson's 12th of the season. It ended, remarkably, Crook Town 5 Shildon 6. "Eight of the 11 would have made goal of the month on the telly, real Van Basten stuff" insists Crook secretary Alan Stewart.

It was the Herbert Hutchinson Memorial Trophy. The final, Consett v Shildon, is at Crook on Sunday (3pm). Crook entertain Willington tomorrow (3pm) in the third and fourth place play-off.

Since the column's returned, so has Hails of Hartlepool - "welcome again to the world of semi-athleticism" he writes.

Little else to report, though, except that their Patch has just hit 105 in doggy years and still (he says) hobbling round the boundary at Park Drive.

Ron's perhaps a year or two younger (and still hobbling round the boundary at Park Drive.)

....so finally, the only footballer to hit a hat trick for three different Premiership clubs (Backtrack, July 18) is Kevin Campbell for Arsenal, Nottingham Forest and Everton. The five who've scored in the Premiership for four different clubs are Mark Hughes, Carlton Palmer, Dean Saunders, Neil Ruddock and Stan Collymore.

Brian Shaw: after beating Newcastle United in the FA Cup, which team did Hereford replace in the Football League in 1971-72?

We return, irreplaceable, on Tuesday.



About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree