MEMORIES 212 told of the bravery of Pilot Officer William McMullen who, 70 years ago this month, stayed with his stricken Lancaster bomber in an attempt to steer it away from houses on the eastern edge of Darlington.

John Smith, a funeral director and councillor in Northallerton, grew up in those houses in the 1930s.

“We lived at 19, Lingfield Lane, which was a brand new row of houses,” he says. “Lingfield Lane was then an untarmaced country lane that ran from Yarm Road to Haughton Road, and in front of which was just farmland.”

When the war broke out, anti-aircraft guns on flatbed trucks were stationed on the farmland outside John’s home to keep Darlington safe from aerial attack.

Canadian airmen, stationed at Middleton St George, were stationed in many of the surrounding houses – John’s family took in two, but they had to move on when his mother became pregnant.

“I was disappointed because it mean I no longer got any bubblegum,” he says. “St Herbert’s Church was the centre where song parties, card parties and suppers were held for the Canadian airmen. They were sent regular food parcels from home which were a lot better than the food we were used to.”

On the evening of January 13, 1945, the Smiths were listening to their radio. “My father was an ARP warden and I remember him saying “that’s a strange sound”, and it was the aircraft circling with one engine out,” says John. “We could see the wing was on fire as he came over our house and, by the light of it, we could see a parachute drop out into the field opposite.”

This must have been Sgt “Lew” Lewellin, McMullen’s engineer who was the last to leave the Lancaster, jumping at 600ft and landing unscathed in what is now a retail park.

“McMullen took the plane over our house – it was a great big whoosh – and then seconds later the whole sky was lit up by the fireball,” says John, who was 11 at the time. “I remember the ladies rushed out with towels to help, and I remember being held back with them, not allowed into the field.

“The talk at the time was that the pilot had realised that he was so low that if he had bailed out the plane would have crashed on the houses.”

Lingfield Lane was renamed after McMullen in recognition of his bravery.

PILOT Officer McMullen flew from RAF Middleton St George which, you will know from a previous page, ceased being a military airport in April 1964. The first civilian flight flew from the newly-named Teesside Airport on April 18.

While we were looking to see if this inaugural flight had been covered in the newspapers of the day – it hadn’t – but there was an interesting paragraph about Frank Bough in Darlington’s Evening Despatch.

It said that Mr Bough was leaving his job as the presenter of BBC Look North in Newcastle to move to London to anchor a programme which was to be called Sportsview and which evolved into Grandstand.

The Despatch noted that Mr Bough had joined the BBC in autumn 1962 from ICI Billingham to host a new nightly regional news programme, Home At Six, which evolved into North At Six before becoming Look North in 1963.

Mr Bough, said the Despatch, was to be replaced in Newcastle by a 27-year-old reporter poached from Tyne Tees: Michael Neville.

Mr Bough enjoyed a long and respected career as a sportscaster and genial TV personality until 1988 when a tabloid newspaper exposed his drug-fuelled appointment with a vice-girl which involved a slave cage and a school cane.

Mr Bough said: “It was a brief but appalling period in my life. Don’t condemn my entire career for a brief episode I regret.”

So, in that spirit, we ask: what was Frank Bough doing at ICI Billingham?

PAT WOODWARD was interested in a black splodge on the 1890s picture of Durham City on the front of last week’s Memories. The square splodge obscured the Georgian townhouse in Castle Chare which is now called St Anne’s Court.

“I remember from my early chartered surveyor training,” says Pat who is nearly 90 and was the land agent for Durham Cathedral, “that a householder had the right to opt out of having his property photographed and a screen had to be put up to conceal it.”

The photograph was developed from a glass slide by Michael Richardson of the Gilesgate Archive. It isn’t a well defined photo, but the splodge is very dark. Could it be a photographer’s concealing screen?

Chris Lloyd’s new local history book is entitled Darlington in 100 Dates is now available, and it will be formally launched in Darlington library on Saturday, February 21, with a free illustrated talk.

The book features 100 of the best Darlington historical stories, many of which have appeared in Memories.

The talk is to be called A Year in Darlo and everyone is extremely welcome to attend. The kind people at the library are hosting it, and tickets need to be booked on 01325-462034. Please come along – we’ll even run to a free cup of tea and a biscuit.

The book is published by The History Press, costs £7.99 and is available online from Amazon or in the Darlington branch of Waterstones. Signed copies will be available at the launch.