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On This Day (16th May 1943): Roker Park bombed and damaged during WWII

Roker Park came under attack from German bombers on this day eighty years ago, with the ground taking a huge hit from the Luftwaffe’s falling bombs.

The 1942-43 season was an entertaining one for fans who found the opportunity to attend games in what was surely a truly awful time for so many.

Sunderland scored 111 goals, but conceded 93 during the forty games that they managed to play mid-war. The ongoing war at this time made normal life almost impossible - and due to the rubber and leather shortages, Sunderland would have to use the same football for many of the games they played at Roker Park.

The team took part in the West Riding Counties cup after defeat in the League North Cup. The competition consisted of teams mainly from Yorkshire and the three major northern teams.

The club reached the final where they beat Huddersfield Town. Over two legs, Sunderland won 7-6 with the first leg 6-2 win going down as the most famous game from this particular season.

Just over two weeks later, the city of Sunderland came under attack from German bombers. This was said to be the worst bombing raid the city faced of the war where 75 people lost their lives from these attacks.

Residential areas, industrial sites along with the town centre were hit. Moreover, the German bombers’ plan of hitting sites that would be a blow to morale led them to bombing Roker Park.

This led to significant damage to the ground. Two bombs put a crater in Roker Park playing surface as well as damaging the car park and clubhouse. Weighing 500kg, the bomb hit the North Stand. Sadly, a policeman who was doing his job of guarding the grounds was killed in this attack.

Soccer - Roker Park Stadium - Sunderland Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images

Speaking in the Sunderland Echo just a few months ago, a Sunderland fan named Fred Hicks (who grew up beside Roker Park) spoke about his memories from that horrendous evening.

The planes were so low, I thought they were going to hit the chimneys.

There was a concussion which was caused by the bombs exploding. It pressed down on your chest and you couldn’t breathe. It was terrifying.

There were people injured and people who lost their lives. We were in the air raid shelter which was just a few yards away.

There was one family which refused to go in the shelter. The whole family was killed.

Living just yards away from Roker Park in Brandlings Street, Fred stated that upon his return to his family home, the house was in rublle with nothing left.

The community of Sunderland worked together in the aftermath of this to rebuild their Stadium in time for Bill Murray and his team to commence their season at home with a 7-1 over Leeds United in the Football League North.

Soccer - Football League Division One - Sunderland Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images

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