AT first glance, it looks like a fairly ordinary scarf – the kind lovingly knitted by a relative to keep a loved one warm in the winter.

But it’s a scarf with a fascinating thread going back to the uncertain days of the Second World War, though the mystery surrounding its owner has never been unravelled.

The story begins 80 years ago when Sheila Blair was working at the Aycliffe Royal Ordnance Factory, alongside her mother, Elizabeth Falls.

The women – members of the celebrated band of munitions workers known as “Aycliffe Angels” – lived in poor, rented accommodation in Coundon.

That changed when Sheila’s husband, Arthur, was called up to join the Royal Engineers – going on to take part in the D-Day operation. His service with the armed forces meant that his wife was entitled to move to a more comfortable, wooden property in Widgeon Road, in the Eastbourne area of Darlington.

While Arthur was away fighting, Sheila’s mother stayed with her, and the women enjoyed regular trips to the cinema. Canadian or British airmen would frequently be walking in the same direction on their way back to RAF Middleton St George, so Sheila and Elizabeth would politely invite them inside for tea and cake.

On one occasion, an airman left his soft, blue scarf behind and Sheila shouted after him from the doorstep. Having gone too far down the road, he called over his shoulder that he’d return for it soon...but never did.

Sheila kept the scarf just in case, but the most likely explanation is that its owner was killed during a airborne mission.

After the war, Sheila moved to a house in Aycliffe Village, where the scarf was kept safe in a drawer. She passed away, aged 96, on November 5, 2018, and it was her wish that the scarf should be passed on to someone who would respect its history.

Her son, David, who was born in Widgeon Road, has now fulfilled that request.

He has added the scarf to the memorabilia collected by the Middleton St George Memorial Association, which does so much to keep alive the memory of those who served at the wartime base that was to become Teesside International Airport.

“It’s not just a scarf – it’s a piece of history,” says the association’s chairman, Geoff Hill.

“For the old lady to keep it until she was 96, waiting month after month, year after year, for the airman to come back to collect it, is just incredible.

“We think it’s made of Newfoundland wool, and in air force blue, so it was probably sent over in a comfort parcel by a mother, wife or girlfriend. He must have been aircrew and we can only surmise that he didn’t return from an operation.”

Following the closure of St George Hotel – the former officers’ mess in wartime – discussions are continuing about the association’s historic collection being safely housed at the airport terminal.

Whoever the airman was, his scarf is certainly in good hands.

MEANWHILE, Norman Midgley has kindly ensured that a very different wartime relic has found its way into the care of the Middleton St George Memorial Association.

Norman, of Sedgefield, has given the association a beautiful model of a Bristol Short-Nosed Blenheim aircraft made from brass recovered from the crashed Lancaster bomber flown by Canadian war hero William McMullen.

McMullen famously saved countless lives by guiding his stricken plane away from houses in Darlington before crashing into a field in January 1945.

Norman’s father Herbert – a member of the Home Guard – recovered brass from the wreckage and had it cast into the model of a Blenheim. Finishing touches were applied at Urlay Nook Chrome Works, near Stockton.

“Every time McMullen’s anniversary comes around, and the story is told in The Northern Echo, something new comes to light,” says association chairman Geoff Hill.

The extra-special model will also become part of the collection once its new home is finally secured.

IF anyone needed a reminder of the value of volunteering, Darlington’s Dolphin Centre was the place to be last Thursday.

Sixty seven organisations were represented at the annual Volunteering Fair, organised by Darlington Cares.

It was a pleasure to find out more about what they all do and how much difference they make to the local community.

Darlington Street Champions, for example, has 300 volunteers dedicated to picking up litter across the borough.

How wonderful is that? I, for one, would like to thank every one of them.

IT’S 7pm and I’m just settling down with my egg and chips when the phone rings.

“Is that Mr Barron? It’s Tom from the Conservatives. We’re doing a survey on what’s important to you in the Tees Valley Mayoral elections.”

Before I’ve had chance to answer (or swallow a chip for that matter) Tom has launched very chirpily into his questions.

There’s no “Sorry to bother you” or attempt to check if it’s a good time. Just a “here we go”.

Irrespective of which party Tom might have been representing, one thing that’s important to me about the Tees Valley Mayor elections is a touch of old-fashioned courtesy.

IMAGINE the thought process somewhere deep in corridors of power before the Government ordered councils to fly the Union flag to mark Prince Andrew’s 60th birthday...

“Righto chaps, we need to take the heat out of this Prince Andrew scandal over that paedophile friend of his. I know, let’s send out an order to councils to fly a flag on his 60th birthday – that’ll keep it under the radar. We’re jolly good at this news management malarkey, aren’t we!”

THE Headline Challenge is a little radio contest fought out every weekday morning between BBC Radio Tees and yours truly.

I find a quirky story from somewhere around the world, come up with a headline, and the radio station’s listeners try to beat me.

The Headline Challenge highlight of the past week came from Teesside’s Premier League  darts hero Glen Durrant, pictured above, on a story about a van driver delivering seafood to a pub in Wales.

Due to a handbrake malfunction, the van rolled over a cliff.

My headline was “Crash, bang, scallop” but Glen countered with: “Good cod, I’ve dropped a pollock.”

It was deemed too rude to be broadcast on the BBC but, in my book, it scores a 180.

That’s it until next week – same time, same plaice.