German official pays tribute to 'deeply caring and loving' Sunderland grandmother Mary Reid, who tended German war graves

Mary Reid with Col Jrg Rtten and Mayor of Sunderland Coun Doris Macknight
Mary Reid with Col Jrg Rtten and Mayor of Sunderland Coun Doris Macknight
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A senior German official has paid tribute to the Sunderland grandmother who tended his country’s war graves.

Mary Reid, who cared for the plots in Castletown cemetery for more than 60 years, passed away this month.

Mary, who was chairwoman of the Castletown section of the Royal British Legion, regularly visited the ten German graves.

In November she received the German War Graves commission’s highest honour - the Gold Cross of Honour - from Military Attache of the German Embassy in London, Col Jörg Rütten, and Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mrs Manuela Wendler.

Among the Allied and Commonwealth war graves there are ten German war graves, containing the remains of ten aircrew and a serviceman from the German navy.

The aircrews were from German bombers which came down in or near Sunderland during Luftwaffe raids and patrols in the Second World War.

Four of them - Hans Werner Schröder, Franz Reitz, Rudolf Marten and Josef Wich - died in the destruction of the only enemy plane confirmed to have been shot down by Sunderland’s anti-aircraft batteries on September 5, 1940.

The Heinkel Bomber crashed in Suffolk Street, Hendon, close to the present day Deerness Park Medical Centre and the crew were buried with full military honours.

A bomb from the plane sparked the evacuation of dozens of homes when it was uncovered during excavation work for an extension to the medical practice in 2002.

Sunderland’s shipyards were regularly targeted as a vital part of the Allied Forces war effort with hundreds of bombs dropped on the city.

The families of two fallen airmen, Dieter Andersen who died on November 15, 1942, and Josef Wich, sent parcels to Mary for decades containing wreaths and flowers which she put on the graves every year.

Col Rütten said: “I am very saddened to hear of Mrs Reid’s passing.

"Having met her personally only a few months ago I came to know her as a deeply caring and loving person.

"In an act of reconciliation that stands out as exemplary, she tended for graves of German servicemen she did not know personally.

"As I said at the time, Mrs Reid illustrated to us all the need for reconciliation, peace and, above all, ‘not forgetting’ and remembrance.

"My thoughts are with her family and loved ones."

A funeral service will be held at Sacred Heart Church at 10.30am on Friday, February 9, followed by cremation.