TRAGEDY: Death in the church

editorial image

With reference to your correspondent NK Lakey of Corbridge, (News Guardian, October 26), the boy killed in Cullercoats was my cousin, Denis Thomson Armstrong.

His father was William Arthur Armstrong, who formed and led the Whitley Bay Girls Choir and was also the church organist.

Denis was born on March 18, 1929, to William and Ivy Armstrong. He died on August 8, 1942, in the John Street Methodist Church, Cullercoats, the result of a lone German bomber, which dropped the first of three bombs that fell directly on top of the organ.

Denis was practising on the organ while his father and another man were in the hall, behind the church. As his father and companion were returning through the main door, the bomb fell. They were saved by the fact that they were in the doorway, which protected them to some degree as the building collapsed. They suffered shock and bruising.

Unusually, the incident was recorded by The Evening News. Normally incidents such as this were quite vague as to news and time of the occurrences, for ‘morale reasons’.

In 1997, I spoke to a gentleman in North Shields Library whilst researching this event and he told me that he was there, playing in the back lane when the bomb fell.

There seems to be some difference as to the time. My cousin Arthur Armstrong said that it was in the morning, but other reports say 8pm.

Denis was buried in Preston Cemetery in a War Emergency Grave.

My research started at the end of the altar in the Methodist Church in Broadway. From there, I went to North Shields Library, where Ian Hollerton, the archivist at the time, was of invaluable help in progressing the family history in other directions.

There are a lot of other notes about Denis most from newspaper reports of the day.

My uncle survived the war and died of a heart attack in April 1972 whilst shopping in Station Road. He is buried with Denis and Ivy.

Should any further information be required, I shall be pleased to give it.

Keith Armstrong

Whitley Bay