Germany calling

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CONGRATULATIONS to Lord Mayor Sylvia Dunkley for maintaining the Sheffield-Bochum link, established in 1950.

Perhaps in view of two world wars, when the Don Valley’s steel and armaments were pitted against those of the Ruhr Valley, there was a general feeling that the two areas should be reconciled.

Exchanges between civic leaders, scholars, sports people, politicians, industrialists etc seemed to peter out when Labour councillors were seduced by extreme socialism and exchanges were set up with cities in the USSR, China, Nicaragua instead.

In the ’60s and ’70s I went on exchanges arranged by our steel industry. We were mainly Sheffield and Rotherham lads lodging with families in Dusseldorf.

In the Peace Gardens, the Bochum bell was refurbished by apprentices at the Krupp works in Bochum.

Another Sheffield/Ruhr connexion: when Huntsman invented crucible steel and Napoleon offered a prize to anyone on the continent who could match this ‘English cast steel’, Fredrich Krupp visited here to find the secret. Two of the biggest steel firms Krupp of Essen and Vickers of Sheffield were drawn by their government into the deadly conflict of the First and Second World Wars. In WWI Krupp made a massive cannon, ‘Big Bertha’, that could fire a one-ton shell across the Channel! Vickers River Don works (now Forgemasters) made the bouncing bomb!

When I lodged in Dusseldorf the lady of the house, told me her sister had drowned when (Sheffield-made) bombs breached a Ruhr Dam. She was surprised that Sheffield was blitzed by 300-plus German planes carrying (Ruhr-made) German bombs, killing 600-plus Sheffielders and robbing me of a home. Not that I minded – I was three at the time! Little wonder that Ruhr and Don Valley needed reconciliation!

Even our language shows we have ties. Someone from Bochum might greet you with ‘na denn’, a dee-dah Sheffielder would reply ‘nah denn’!

Don Alexander, Knab Rd, S7