John’s Wearside War connection

Former Sunderland footballer Johnny Dillon who believes that material and a message of thanks from the Russian People during World Wat Two should have gone to Wearside and not to Scotland. Johnny is pictured at Sunderland War Memorial.

Former Sunderland footballer Johnny Dillon who believes that material and a message of thanks from the Russian People during World Wat Two should have gone to Wearside and not to Scotland. Johnny is pictured at Sunderland War Memorial.

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A FORMER Sunderland footballer says he may have unearthed evidence of help given to Russia from Wearsiders during the Second World War.

John Dillon, who played at Roker Park during the 1960s, has – with the assistance of his nephew author Des Dillon – found out that an artwork called the Leningrad Album, sent during the Siege of Leningrad as a show of support for those under attack from the Nazis, could contain references to supportive messages from people in Sunderland.

The 900-day battle was a prolonged military operation by the German Army Group North and the Finnish Defence Forces to capture Leningrad in the Eastern Front.

More than a million people were killed, captured or went missing during the siege.

John, 68, now lives in Coatbridge, the town he was born in.

He said: “My nephew went to Russia while he was researching the Leningrad Album.

“The album was sent by women working in the factories as a show of support for the people who were under attack from the Germans.

“They sent back their own messages, in Russian, saying thank you to the people of Coatbridge, Airdrie and what everybody, up to now, thought was ‘Woodside’.

“But when Des was there he recognised that the message looks more like Wearside – and it’s likely they have been involved.

“Now we are trying to find out if there were any people involved.”

John is appealing to Wearsiders to find out more and is carrying out research to try and determine if it was Wearsiders who passed on their good wishes.

The album is in Glasgow’s Mitchell Library.

He said: “Hopefully, this can get somebody coming forward who knows something. That would be great.

“If they get in touch with the Echo or (Glasgow) library that’d be terrific.”

Des, a radio broadcaster and writer who lives in Dumfries, said: “I was in what is now St Petersburg making a documentary about the connection between Scotland and the Russians.

“They thought it was Woodside, but it looks like Wearside.

“The Russian woman who was helping me didn’t know where that was, but I knew it was the North East, Sunderland.”

If you can help, contact David Allison on 501 7137.