From pasta making to confronting the German army - the remarkable story of a Sunderland man

German tanks out of action in North Africa in 1943.
German tanks out of action in North Africa in 1943.
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Sunderland man George Waller took a camera with him when he went to war. The result was some striking photographs.

The 94-year-old still lives in the Newcastle Road area of the city.

George Waller in his younger days.

George Waller in his younger days.

He has shared his remarkable story with Trevor Thorne from the Sunderland Antiquarian Society.

Life started in 1921 for George Waller - a child of Bexley Street, Pallion who went to Hylton Road School until 1935.

When he left at 14, he headed for London because there was no work in Sunderland. He found jobs at a clay pipe manufacturer and a pasta maker, which supplied the many Italian restaurants in Soho.

He lodged at a Church Army hostel where he remembers tying his laces together and hanging his boots around his neck in bed to stop them from being stolen.

When he left at 14, he headed for London because there was no work in Sunderland. He found jobs at a clay pipe manufacturer and a pasta maker. He lodged at a Church Army hostel where he remembers tying his laces together and hanging his boots around his neck in bed

Trevor Thorne

Surviving in the big city despite his tender years, he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve shortly after World War Two started, not waiting to be called-up. He was soon sent to a training base at Cardington and then on to Great Yarmouth where basic drill was carried out with broom handles.

George was allocated to 241 Squadron located in Scotland which flew Hurricanes and later Spitfires.

He became a Leading Aircraftsman and thoroughly enjoyed his time in the RAF, despite the danger of war. His main job was to supply planes with fuel from petrol bowsers.

George’s first overseas posting was to North Africa where his squadron was attached to the 1st Army, arriving at Algiers in 1942.

A scene of war in 1944 Italy.

A scene of war in 1944 Italy.

Wearing service khaki rather than air force blue he was a “desert rat”.

His squadron supported the army as they moved east with the 1st Army eventually meeting up with 8th Army at Tunis in November 1942, jointly encircling the Germans.

We resume George’s story on Tuesday.

El Alamein cemetery.

El Alamein cemetery.