DID Clark Gable ever visit Darlington? More specifically, did one of the most famous Hollywood superstars of all time nip into Binns on High Row for a spot of shopping?

Brian McKerrell, of Ferryhill Local History Society, has been told by two separate sources that he did.

Gable really hit the big time in 1939 with Gone With the Wind, but in 1942 Gable felt he needed to contribute to the war effort and, despite the MGM studio’s misgivings, he joined the American Air Force and trained as an aerial gunner.

On January 27, 1943, he was sent with 351st Bomb Group to England and spent much of the year based at RAF Polebrook in Northamptonshire. He was the head of a six-man film unit, but flew on five combat missions – in one, his plane was hit, a crewman was killed and he was showered with shrapnel. This made MGM desperately anxious, but probably pleased Hitler, a movie fan who had placed a bounty on his head.

Gable returned to the US in November 1943 to edit his film, and was discharged the following year (his papers were signed by Captain Ronald Reagan).

It is perfectly conceivable that during 1943 that he could have found himself at one of the many airbases in south Durham or North Yorkshire and so, in a little down time, could have popped to Binns. Has anyone ever heard this story before?