South Shields Local History Group

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Eltringham, Alfred (RAF)

John Eltringham was watching the film “Memphis Belle” with his father Alfred in the 1990s when Alfred said: “I was there, on their first mission!”  Imagine the surprise!

Alfred Eltringham was born at the Lawe Top, South Shields in 1922 and went to South Shields High School for Boys.  He joined the RAF in 1940 as a pilot.

The film Memphis Belle is the fictional story of a US Air Force Flying Fortress Bomber plane of the Eighth Air Force loosely based on actual events.

John described it as ‘quite a heart in mouth movie for its time and I did enjoy it, but for the most my dad sat quietly. At the end he spoke softly. “I was there, on their first mission.”

I said: “What! What do you mean?” From memory I was a bit shocked and didn’t really know what to say but then dad just continued.

“They lost so many and were only boys. Admittedly we were tired, but they were young and fearless, they were indestructible.”

Dad looked deep in thought then gave a smile, “What a party we had that night, there was beer and food we hadn’t seen for years.”

Flying Officer Alf Eltringham was part of six RAF aircrews which accompanied six US crews on a daylight attack against four German Fighter airfields in Holland.

It was the ‘first official American combat mission’ alongside the British, said John. 12 planes were involved. Six of them were manned by newly trained American crews and six by seasoned British crews from 226 Squadron based at Swanton Morley.

As if that wasn’t historic enough, Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower were there to see them off.

The mission was to attack four German fighter bases in occupied Holland but the element of surprise was lost when the raiders were spotted by German boats.

Pilot Officer Eltringham was heavily involved in the attack on the group’s second target of Fliegerhorst Haamstede just before 8am on July 4, 1942.

He dropped bombs on a maintenance hangar and camouflaged buildings. He also fired his four nose guns at a pair of HE-111 bombers parked on the ground.

Then it was time for home where the returning crews were greeted by General Eisenhower.

Egypt 1945

After the war Alfred married Aileen. He joined the family run accountancy firm at the bottom of Fowler Street sharing an office with his father Alfred Eltringham and his grandfather also Alfred Eltringham.

Alfred suffered a major stroke in 1997, a month after the death of his wife, but lived another 10 years.

Alfred Eltringham died in 2007.

Alfred was related to Joseph T. Eltringham the shipbuilder who was based at Holborn in South Shields.  J T Eltringham & Co built nearly 300 ships between 1864 and 1913

Shields Gazette

Eltringham family

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