What life was like on D-Day back in Sunderland

Paper boys struggle to cope with the demand for June 6, 1944 editions of the Echo, reporting news of D-Day.
Paper boys struggle to cope with the demand for June 6, 1944 editions of the Echo, reporting news of D-Day.
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Seventy five years ago, the men of Wearside and County Durham poured onto the beaches of Normandy as part of the D-Day landings.

But how did the Sunderland Echo report the historic events which changed the world?

The front page headlines in the Sunderland Echo on June 6,1944.

The front page headlines in the Sunderland Echo on June 6,1944.

Chris Cordner looks back.

‘Invasion Is Going Well’ said the front page headline.

The six o’clock edition of the Sunderland Echo and Shipping Gazette was packed with news from France.

It told of the 4,000 ships and 11,000 planes which had joined the massive battle to establish beach heads.

Allied photo reconnasissance pilots back from landings report invasion troops are ‘slahing inland’

Sunderland Echo reporter, 1944

It described Winston Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons where he told members: “The fire of the shore batteries has been largely quelled.”

There were reports of Allied tanks at Arromanches, invasion troops ‘slashing inland’ and, said Mr Churchill, ‘So far the Commanders who are engaged report that everything is proceeding according to plan - and what a plan!”

The Sunderland Echo leader column that day said: “Europe has groaned under the brutal heel of the Nazi conqueror, but her people have never doubted Britain’s promise to come back and free them.”

Closer to home, Echo newspaper deliverers were besieged as they brought the latest editions of the paper to the streets.

One of the shows in Sunderland in 1944.

One of the shows in Sunderland in 1944.

Soldiers, civilians and anyone on the streets, in fact, rushed forward to buy copies of the paper as soon as they were published.

An Echo reporter said at the time: “It looked very much like an ordinary day until the Echo appeared on the streets during the dinner hour. Then it appeared to dawn on people that the beginning of the invasion was something to get really excited about.

“The newsboys were besieged and there was great animation even among those who did not enter the rugby pack in an effort to get a copy of the paper.”

There was page upon page of news from the battlefield to report.

One war correspondent told how he had watched from the cockpit of a bomber as ‘great naval and shore engagements got under way’.

Just miles away, he saw fields strewn with parachutes where Allied airborne troops had landed.

And in even more fields, he saw gliders bearing the distinctive black and white zebra stripes of the D-Day invasion force.

The paper had reports on General Eisenhower’s final words to the troops, telling them: “The tide has turned. The free men of the world are marching together to victory.”

It was an edition jam-packed with historic news but there were touches of life back on Wearside as well.

Next to news of the Allies gaining two beachheads in northern France, was an advert about the latest offers at Binns. You could get printed artificial silks for 7 shillings and 9 pence, check tweeds for 7 and 6, and blazer flannels for 5 and 5.

Nearby was an advert for Liverpool House in High Street West. The department store where shopping bags were selling for 4 shillings and fourpence, and rug yarn was nine shillings and ten pence.

Food on ration clearly was not agreeing with everyone’s constitution.

The Echo had lots of adverts for indigestion treatments in June 1944.

One promised victory against debility, indigestion and brain fog, while another pledged to win the fight against ‘mealtime misery’ by settling your stomach back down after the latest meal.

And if it wasn’t digestion issues in the Echo, it was suggestions on how to deal with rheumatic pains, or event heals, blisters and cuts.

Other adverts were educational and instructive and they were designed to help Britain win the war against hardship.

If you saved money, life would be that bit easier.

One of them promised a 2 pence refund on every empty bleach cleaner bottle which was returned because they were in short supply.

And another gave instructions to mums on how to get clothes clean the simple way on washday without having to resort to boiling.

We will have more on Sunderland in June 1944 in tomorrow’s Wearside Echoes.

In the meantime, we would love to hear from readers. To share any of your own nostalgia, email chris.cordner@jpimedia.co.uk.