100th birthday celebration for Sunderland hero of the Blitz

A former missionary who saved lives in the London blitz and cared for elderly people in Sunderland for years has turned 100.

Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 3:23 pm
George in his bomb disposal uniform
George in his bomb disposal uniform

George Towers was born in Lancaster but moved to Sunderland with wife Ethel in the 1960s.

He still lives in the family home with youngest son John.

Daughter Joyce Nicholson said George had started work in his local hospital as a cabinet maker before the outbreak of war.

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George with a group of students in Nigeria in 1949

“He registered as a non-combatant because he did not want to kill anybody, and he did not want to hold a gun,” she said.

“He wanted to save lives so he volunteered for bomb disposal.”

George went to Kent to train in how to deal with unexploded ordnance, learning how to use wooden planks to stabilise bombs in position.

He also helped with bomb site clearance work.

George celebrates his 100th birthday with youngest son John and daughter Joyce

“Wherever the bombs were falling, they were sent to, so they went to a lot of different places,” said Joyce.

“One of the places he was sent to was London during the Blitz.”

After the war, George went to bible college because he wanted to become a missionary.

He was sent out to to Nigeria, where he met wife Ethel.

George Towers celebrates his 100th birthday

The couple had five children – Brian, Gordon, Joyce and John, as well as David, who died aged just nine months, apparently of malaria.

George had to be a jack-of-all-trades during the family’s time in Africa. even serving as the village dentist.

The family returned to the UK in 1966 because there was no longer any local school place available for Brian, the eldest.

“They gave up the missionary work and came back to Sunderland, which is where my mum is from,” said Joyce.

Ethel with John, Gordon and Joyce

George and Ethel had married iin 1955 and were together for more than 40 years until Ethel died in 1998.

George’s love of helping people manifested itself in his new career back in the UK.

“Dad worked for social services,” said Joyce.

“He did the nursing course and went to work in old people’s homes working for the council and worked his way up to be an assistant matron.”

George in his bomb disposal days