Hitler: his part in our town fall

Wearside Echoes with Carol Roberton Photographic exhibition shows how Luftwaffe bombs changed Sunderland for ever

THE way in which Hitler cleared the way for postwar redevelopment in Sunderland is brought sharply into focus in an exhibition to mark the end of the Second World War.

The face of the old town was changed for ever by the devastation wrought in a series of bombing raids over four years.

At the end of it, Sunderland was listed as one of the seven most heavily bombed towns and cities in Britain.

The Luftwaffe's targets were the shipyards, engineworks, the pit and other heavy industry along the river banks, and the docks and port. Although some damage was done, production was scarcely affected – the bombs having fallen instead on homes and shops, churches, cinemas and other public buildings.

The exhibition, at Monkwearmouth Station Museum until the end of August, has been compiled in conjunction with Sunderland Photographic Association and the Echo.

It includes official photographic records, contemporary news pictures of people clearing up after the damage, and atmospheric shots showing shells of buildings and bomb sites.

And alongside all of these are pictures taken this year of the same sites today, so that even Wearsiders too young to remember the Victoria Hall, St Thomas's Church, Bright Street Chapel, or the original Binns stores on each side of Fawcett Street, can clearly pinpoint them and relate to the present scene.

Martin Routledge, social history specialist for Sunderland Museums, said: "People's lives were affected in many ways during the war.

"Mostly it was having to deal with loved ones being way from home or dealing with shortages. It changed people's lives and the face of Wearside for ever."

The display is one of the ways in which the museums service is marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

The current exhibition on the great graphic artist Abram Games includes wartime recruitment posters and exhortations to be vigilant and ever on the watch for traitors, with posters like Your Talk May Kill Your Comrades.

And next month a major touring exhibition from the Imperial War Museum – Their Past Your Future – comes to Sunderland Museum. Running from June 15 to July 24, it explores issues such as conflict and citizenship, while finding out about specific events. It includes a wide range of activities for all ages, personal stories and remembrances.

The exhibition has been developed from personal stories that reveal how wartime experiences changed people's lives and how they remember those they lost. It includes diaries, letters and poems – some of which are previously unpublished.

The Imperial War Museum's archives have also been explored to find unseen

footage and photographs for an audio-visual display. It will also be relevant

to the region as it includes Luftwaffe bomb maps of the area.

Visitors will be encouraged to learn about the Second World War from their

local landscape, veterans, family and friends. It also highlights the War's

continuing significance 60 years on.

The exhibition will be supported by a number of events and activities at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Monkwearmouth Station Museum and Sunderland City Libraries.

It includes a learning programme for schools, families and veterans. Highlights include the chance to meet a veteran, a 1940's street party and performances by Delphinium Theatre Company about family life during World War Two.

Marie Harrison, assistant learning officer at Sunderland Museum and Winter

Gardens, said: "We are delighted to be hosting this exhibition to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Second World War. Their Past Your Future is interactive and family-friendly, helping to increase everyone's understanding of this significant event.

"The activities that we have planned for the duration of the exhibition will

reach a wide age group and giving young people the opportunity to meet veterans.

"The exhibition has been adapted to highlight events in the region and local people have contributed items to the display and shared their stories."

With an estimated reach of three million people, Their Past Your Future is the

largest programme of its kind, with nine different versions touring the UK.

Around 50 venues across England have been awarded grants by the Museums,

Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) to host the exhibition, with further

grants awarded by partner organisations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.