Bomb site: When raids resumed in the autumn the town was prepared and children were safe in a shelter just yards from where a bomb hit the Jenny Lind Playground in Pottergate.
The biggest problem for Britain was to take positive steps to prevent the kind of devastation caused in Norwich from ever happening again. Fighter Command requested that barrage balloons be put in place around the city. By the beginning of May thirty-five of them were in place. On the night of 30 April/1 May, 68 Squadron claimed a Do 217 and two He 111s in the Wash area. At 0210 on 1 May bombs fell on Lowestoft. Meanwhile Norwich was bracing itself for yet another assault.
The raid started at 2345 on 8 May 1942 and continued to 0015 on 9 May. Seventy-six German aircraft had been dispatched. Of the hundred or more tons of bombs and incendiaries being carried, 1.5 tons fell on Norwich. The rest of the bombs fell in over twenty other locations across Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent, Hampshire and Sussex. The RAF launched thirty-seven sorties against the raiders. Compared to the two earlier raids there were very few casualties and far less damage.
It was not just Norwich that had suffered in the spring of 1942. On the night of 19/20 May Hull was attacked by at least twenty aircraft, while another seventy bombed targets in the Hull area. Incredibly just ten people were killed. On 30 May Hull was again the target, but little damage was done this time. But Great Yarmouth had not been so lucky, and four bombs had been dropped on Jewson’s timber mill and on Albany Road, killing three and injuring three more.
Ipswich suffered a Baedeker-style raid all of its own on the night of 1/2 June, when thirty German aircraft were involved. It would have been another Norwich had the German aircraft not been decoyed by so-called Starfish Decoy Fires, lit by the British, which persuaded them to drop their bombs onto open heathland.
German losses actually began to mount over this period. On the night of 29/30 May a German aircraft had been shot down by anti-aircraft guns at Great Yarmouth. On the same night aircraft of 12 Group had shot down three Do 217s and a Ju 88, and in the early hours Great Yarmouth anti-aircraft gunners claimed a second kill.
A month later, 610 Squadron, flying Spitfires out of Ludham, shot down a Ju 88 that crashed into the sea at dawn off Yarmouth. This was the latest in a successful period for the squadron, which had claimed two Do 217s on 15 May.
King’s Lynn was targeted on 12 June, when bombs fell around the Eagle Hotel and other buildings in the town centre and forty-two people were killed. Peterborough received a number of bombs and incendiaries in the early hours of 13 June. There was a great deal of damage caused by fire as the George Hotel, a nearby garage, a public house, a potato store and a clothing factory were all set ablaze. The same night saw Bedford bombed. Two 500 kg bombs dropped on Broad Avenue and Willow Road, and a thousand incendiary bombs were dropped from the four Dorniers across Cardington Road, Russell Avenue, Castle Road, Pembroke Road, South York Street, South Denmark Street, South Dudley Street, George Street and Greenshields Road.
The night of 24/25 June saw Great Yarmouth once again devastated, as high explosives and over 1,500 incendiaries were dropped on the town between 0130 and 0250. Bombs dropped across the whole of the centre of the town and gutted St Nicholas’s parish church, Lacon’s barrel stores and workshop and Brett’s furniture store; and more bombs were dropped into the Rows area, between Row 107 and Row 128. Greyfriars Cloisters received additional damage, as did the library and the Toll House. Although the damage was widespread the casualties were remarkably low, with only three killed and nineteen injured.
Young Keith Farman watched the scene unfold from the roof of Hobland Hall that night:
We could see in the distance that Yarmouth was alight, as this was the night that St Nicholas’s church was hit. Many searchlights lit up the sky as they moved across, looking for German bombers. If they picked up one of the English fighter planes they would quickly move the lights. When they got one of the slower German bombers they would keep the lights on. As we watched I can remember the excitement when this happened and one of the RAF fighter pilots then chased a German plane that had two searchlights on it. We could see a yellow streak from our plane as the bullets left the guns on either wing, going straight into the German bomber. Our boy did his job well as he set alight the enemy bomber. As the plane burned it started to crash and we could see that some of the Germans had baled out and were coming down in their parachutes. ‘That’s one we got!’ exclaimed Dad before he took me back to the safety of the cellar and my Mum.
On 4 July the Germans hit a target in the Newtown area of Great Yarmouth, which actually pleased many of the residents. A bomb scored a direct hit on the Corporation Refuse Destructor, which had an extremely tall chimney. Many of the locals were delighted when it was pulled down after being declared unsafe, as everyone thought that the German pilots used this as a landmark.
Incendiary bombs had been dropped near Peterborough, and high explosives near March, West Dereham and Bedford, on 3 July. A single Do 217 made an attempt to destroy the Lockheed hydraulics factory at Leamington Spa on 16 July. A similar attempt had been made on 13 June, but in this second attack four 500 kg bombs were dropped right on top of the factory. Luckily the damage was relatively slight. There had been another raid of a similar nature on 3 July, which had inflicted heavy casualties when a daylight attack by a Do 217 against the Rolls Royce factory in Derby had taken place. These specialised attacks also included one on 19 July, when buildings housing Marconi Radio and Hoffmann Ball Bearings were targeted in Chelmsford.
Great Yarmouth came under attack yet again on 12 July. The attack came in at 0145, and bombs fell on Wellington Road, where the Eastern Counties Omnibus Depot took a direct hit. There were four bombs dropped that night, killing two and injuring seven. Lowestoft was also bombed the same night; a high-explosive bomb hit the naval commander’s office in Hamilton Dock and several workshops were damaged. One person was killed and five injured. In this attack the base commander’s launch was sunk and two motor gunboats were wrecked.
There were a number of raids by Do 217s on the night of 21/22 July. A number of 500 kg bombs were dropped on Cromer at around 2337. Buildings were destroyed in Garden Street and Church Square, and eleven people were killed and fifteen injured. King’s Lynn dock was also attacked, with incendiaries being dropped on St Anne’s Street and North Street. More incendiaries fell on the Felixstowe dock area.
Eight different targets were struck late on 23 July, with nearly 500 incendiaries being dropped on King’s Lynn dock by a pair of Do 217s. They came back an hour later and dropped high explosives. There was a dispute as to how many German aircraft were shot down that night; it was probably three, although at the time the British claimed seven.
There was one certainty however: a Ju 88 was shot down close to Smith Knoll light vessel on 25 July. Sheringham was attacked on the 27th, with nine people killed and two injured; and bombs also fell at Pulham, Aldeburgh and RAF Docking. Also on 27 July German aircraft penetrated as far as Cambridge the raid killing three and injuring eighteen people. Cambridge had been extremely lucky; a 1,000 kg bomb had dropped on an orchard, and although it had damaged a number of buildings no one was hurt.
The Germans tried their luck against Norwich again in the early hours of 28 July, attempting to drop incendiary bombs over the St Benedict’s area of the city. A single Do 217 raided Great Yarmouth at 0856 on 29 July. At least four 500 kg bombs dropped from Royal Avenue to Palgrave Road and Alderson Road. Over forty houses were badly damaged, two shops were levelled, two people were killed and fifteen were injured. It is believed that the target was intended to be Vauxhall station.
On the night of 29/30 July, a number of German bombers, perhaps as many as a hundred, struck targets along the east coast, although many more flew further inland, aiming for Birmingham or even London. At 0142 five 250 kg bombs and some incendiaries fell on Bedford, killing four people. Between 0230 and 0330 there was enemy activity around RAF Feltwell, Honington and Newmarket. Cambridge also came under attack, but the Germans were not lucky enough to escape unscathed. A Ju 88 of KG26 was shot by anti-aircraft guns near Cambridge and came down close to Peterborough. A second Ju 88 hit telephone wires in Norwich and was then hit by coastal anti-aircraft fire, and it came down into the sea. A Bofors gun, operating near Southwold, claimed an He 111 of KG100, a Do 217 of KG2 was shot down by gunners in Lowestoft, and in fact in all six German aircraft were claimed that night, which was an unprecedented number.
A small number of raiders attacked Norwich again on the night of 1/2 August. Several fires were started in Exchange Street, St George Street, St Mary’s Plain and Magdalen Street. During the course of the raid the rocket battery fired nearly 500 rounds, and the 3.7 in. guns 120 shells. None of the raiding aircraft were hit, but one Do 217 crashed into the sea off Norfolk when twelve of the aircraft attacked vessels.
In the late afternoon of 2 August eight Do 217s made a machine-gun attack on Watt’s Naval School near the village of North Elmham, five miles north of East Dereham in Norfolk. Bombs were also dropped at Melton Constable, to the east of Fakenham.
At 0050 on 7 August flares were dropped on Cambridge. At around 0105, 360 incendiaries fell around Leys Road, Orchard Avenue and Arbury Road. High explosives then fell on a sewage farm and more incendiaries on Chesterton Road. Shortly afterwards more incendiaries fell on Newmarket Road and Ditton Walk. In all probability the primary target had been the Unicam works in Arbury Road, which made optical equipment for the military. By the time the raid ended at 0155 over a hundred homes had been badly damaged.
Peterborough’s power station was targeted on 10 August. The first attack came in at 2351, quickly followed by another in which 250 incendiaries and three 500 kg bombs were dropped. None of them hit the power station but instead they fell on Oundle Road and around the Fengate pumping station. In the early hours of 11 August more incendiaries were dropped on Peterborough, in the Derwent Road, causing a number of fires. High explosives were also dropped on Raeburn Road and Landseer Road.
So far, Colchester had not suffered a great deal from the raids, but this changed on 11 August, and it seems that the target was the Paxman factory. The works made engines for submarines and landing craft. A stray bomb hit a hospital for the mentally ill, killing thirty-eight of the patients.
At 2243 on 13 August sixteen or so German bombers approached Norwich. Now that the city was better defended, with anti-aircraft guns and the attention of RAF fighters, only five of the aircraft managed to unload their bombs onto the city. Around eighty incendiaries and three high explosives landed, shortly before 2300. A 250 kg bomb caused damage to Mousehold Avenue Infants School and fifty or so homes close by. The RAF would later claim that two Ju 88s were shot down that night.
There was an ineffective attack on Ipswich over the night of 14/15 August, and on the following night the Germans attempted to attack airfields, but were unsuccessful. Colchester was again raided on 16/17 August, when at least fifteen Dornier bombers were involved. The Germans failed in another attack on Norwich on the night of 18/19 August because they could not penetrate the defensive ring around the city. Instead they had to drop their bombs into the countryside.
Great Yarmouth’s only attack in August 1942 took place on the night of the 22nd/23rd, when a single Dornier bomber dropped four 500 kg bombs. One of them hit a house in Baliol Road, but the others caused little or no damage, and only six people were injured. Also that night the Germans tried to hit the Unicam works once again. Four aircraft had been tasked to carry out the attack, but it was a disaster. One of the German bombers was shot down over Orford Ness by a Mosquito of 157 Squadron, and the others failed to find their targets.
A 500 kg bomb dropped straight onto an Anderson shelter in Moulton Road, Ipswich on the night of 25/26 August. It killed a mother and eight children sheltering inside. Luckier were the residents of a house in Harmony Square: a 500 kg bomb came straight through the roof but did not explode. Colchester was the target for twelve Ju 88s on 26 August, but they were decoyed and bombed nineteen miles to the west of their target. Anti-aircraft fire was able to claim one of the raiders.
A single Do 217 attacked Lowestoft on the evening of 28 August, and it dropped a number of incendiaries on Avondale Road. At least two Do 217s and a Ju 88 were shot down that night, mainly out to sea.
August 1942 had seen the introduction of the Me 210, and in fact one had been shot down off Great Yarmouth by Typhoons on 13 August. Another had actually been lost three days before that. This was a relatively new fighter reconnaissance bomber, and it had been moved for operations over Britain to begin at the start of August. The first sortie flown by KG6 had taken place on 2 August against a convoy off the Yorkshire coast. Usually the Me 210s operated in pairs and it was one of these pairs that had been encountered on 13 August. A pair of them were tasked to bomb Norwich on 5 September. The air raid warning sirens went off at 1035; these aircraft were flying at 25,000 ft and they dropped four 250 kg bombs. Among the buildings that were hit were Frazer’s Joinery Works at St Martin’s Palace Plain and factories in Fishergate. In all, six people were killed and a number injured. Another two Me 210s were encountered by Spitfires of 610 Squadron to the south-east of Southwold that same day. Pilot Officer Creagh and Sergeant Gregory shot one of them up, and they saw it crash into the sea thirty miles to the east of Southend. The other Me 210 dropped bombs on Leigh-on-Sea and then headed home.
Baedeker Guide Bombers III
On 6 September another two Me 210s were spotted in the Middlesbrough area, and they were chased by Typhoons of 1 Squadron. Both of the raiders were shot down. Undeterred, these sorties continued, and six more were flown on 7 September. More of the sorties would be flown throughout the remainder of the month.
The Germans also deployed Ju 86 aircraft in 1942. It was a bomber and it had also been used as a civilian airliner. The Germans had converted these into high-altitude bombers. They began their operations in the middle of August. A pair of these bombers dropped 250 kg bombs on Cambridge on 25 August. At 0805 on 29 August a pair of Spitfires of 401 Squadron attempted to attack a Ju 86 that had been spotted over Horsham in Surrey. The problem was that it was flying so high, at around 40,000 ft, that they simply could not catch it. On the following day another Ju 86 targeted Chelmsford; this one was flying at 39,000 ft to the east of Ramsgate when it was spotted by Spitfires of 611 Squadron. Once again it was too high for the fighters, and the German bomber dropped its single 250 kg bomb on a warehouse in Baldon Road in Chelmsford.
The British realised that they had to respond to this new threat, and began to develop a Mosquito that was capable of catching the raiders. Spitfires had tried again on 5 September, when they had tried to engage one Ju 86 that had just bombed houses in Luton. The Spitfires got close but the bomber had managed to escape.
KG2 was now down to fifteen Do 217s instead of nearly thirty. It had lost the best part of half of its complement since mid-July 1942. None the less, four KG2 aircraft and five others were launched against King’s Lynn on the night of 17/18 September. They caused significant damage to the quay and the docks, and the railway line was also damaged. One of the Dorniers was lost to a Mosquito of 151 Squadron and the crew baled out near Docking. Eight civilians in Chapel Road, Colchester, were killed on 28 September when a low-flying Do 217 of KG2 dropped four 500 kg bombs.
Certainly the intensity of German attacks was dropping off, as autumn gave way to winter in 1942. There were still some inland raids and activity against shipping along the east coast. But the British defensive systems had stiffened markedly; there were more aircraft in the skies by day and by night, and almost every target along the east coast bristled with anti-aircraft guns. Undeterred, sporadic attacks were still being launched. A prime example of the spread of attacks was on 19 October when German aircraft attacked Southend, Colchester, Little Oakley, Ipswich, Snape, Needham Market, Kessingland, Great Yarmouth, Cromer and Wainfleet. Most of these attacks were carried out by single Do 217s. Bombs were dropped at 0715 on the outskirts of Norwich, and just under two hours later more bombs fell on Pottergate and Westwick Street in the city centre. Incredibly one of the raiders, actually a Ju 88, was brought down by a Czech serviceman with a bren-gun at Oulton near Lowestoft. It was an expensive day as far as the Germans were concerned: near Cromer Knoll Flight Lieutenant Winward of 68 Squadron shot down a Ju 88, a Do 217 was lost without trace after it had bombed Norwich, and several other aircraft were badly damaged. It is believed that up to thirty-six German aircraft were involved in the attacks throughout the course of the day. Early-morning attacks were launched on 21, 22, 26 and 31 October; targets ranged from Walsingham to Orford and from North Walsham to Parham.
A solitary Do 217 set off just before dawn on 3 November to make a pin-point attack on a factory to the south of Thorpe station in Norwich. Poor weather and faulty navigation meant that the aircraft crossed just to the north of Great Yarmouth, rather than over Cromer as had been planned. As the aircraft approached Norwich there was a heavy rainstorm. At 0750 the air raid sirens began to wail. The aircraft came in, believing it was making straight for the factory. The first of the four 500 kg bombs fell on Surrey Street Bus Station, but it did not explode; it went straight through a single-decker bus. The three other bombs were then dropped onto the Cattle Market and All Saint’s Green. None of them exploded. The Do 217 then headed for home, chased by a Beaufighter. It escaped, but the crew, although all were awarded the Iron Cross for their exploits, were to be shot down and killed on 2 January 1943.
There was more activity, this time by Me 109s and then by Do 217s, off Great Yarmouth and Happisburgh during the morning of 3 November. The Do 217 skirted around Norwich and then machine-gunned Southwold before it disappeared. On 6 November a solitary Do 217 bombed two shipyards and a malt house at Oulton Broad; one person was killed and a wrecked motor gunboat was destroyed. A month now passed before any other significant activity.
On 15 December 1942 a Do 217 used its machine-guns and then dropped four 500 kg bombs on the High Street at Aldeburgh. Eleven people were killed, including five members of the 5th Royal Berkshire Regiment, and twenty-nine other people were injured. One of the casualties was a 90-year-old man who had refused to leave his armchair.
Great Yarmouth was once again hit on 22 December. This time an enemy aircraft dropped a pair of bombs between Heigham Place and Albion Road. Also dropped were a number of phosphorus incendiary bombs. These new 50 kg incendiaries were being used for the first time on the east coast. The bombs caused significant damage to St Mary’s Catholic School and started a number of fires. Eight people were killed and twenty-seven were injured in the attack. Anti-aircraft gunners around Great Yarmouth shot down the raider and it crashed into the sea.
By 1943 the frequency and severity of attacks along the east coast of England had seen a marked decline. There were still isolated anti-shipping and mine operations, and on a number of occasions when the German aircraft were unable to find suitable shipping targets they strayed inland to bomb ports and other targets.
Norwich received an unwanted New Year’s Day gift when a Do 217 dropped nine 50 kg bombs around Russell Street. The bombs damaged St Barnabas’s church and the Mission Hall. The raider then sped off and machine-gunned indiscriminately around Hellesdon, Salthouse and Neatishead.
Harwich was hit on 6 January by a Do 217, which shot-up Beacon Hill Fort, the Regal cinema and a saw mill. It then dropped four 500 kg bombs that landed on a farm at Ramsey Wash. Five days later, on 11 January, seven bombers were operating off Lowestoft. Two came in and dropped sticks of bombs on Lowestoft silk works. The second attacker dropped bombs across Kessingland and Oulton Broad. The following day four people were killed at Heybridge, close to Maldon in Essex.
Do 217s and Ju 88s attacked London on the night of 17 January. At least three were shot down by 85 Squadron and one was shot down into the sea off Bradwell, Essex. The Orford Ness Research Station was targeted at 1947 on 25 January. A parachute mine created an enormous crater at Gedgrave, and another bomb fell near Orford Quay.
On the morning of 9 February seven firepots were dropped on Southwold by a Do 217, and it also dropped a 500 kg bomb, which created a massive crater in Pier Avenue. Other Do 217s were active that day, with attacks being made at Huntingfield, Melton, Spexhall, Darsham and Metfield in Suffolk. On 17 February Fw 190s attacked Clacton. Each could carry a single 500 kg bomb. Their target was the Light Anti-Aircraft School at the Butlin’s Camp. They killed one child in the attack.
Mines were dropped off Orford Ness at the beginning of March; these were new devices that were designed to anchor to the seabed and then rise at a predetermined time. There was a major German raid on the night of 3/4 March when upwards of a hundred Ju 88s and Do 217s crossed the Essex coast and bombed London, Chelmsford and a number of other targets. One attack killed two people when the Liverpool Street – Colchester train was derailed near Chelmsford. A number of bombs fell on Southend and Gravesend, and five were killed at Chatham Dock. This was the night when there was panic at Bethnal Green underground station and 178 people were trampled to death.
The Germans, however, did not escape without casualties; the Shoeburyness heavy anti-aircraft guns shot down a Ju 88 at Burnham-on-Crouch, and the Clacton guns claimed another. It is also possible that another Do 217, badly damaged, crashed near Antwerp.
At 0635 a Do 217 dropped seven high-explosive bombs along Queen’s Road and Nelson Road South in Great Yarmouth on 18 March. One of the bombs fractured the gas and water mains, another hit Mason’s Laundry, but one struck a large house at the junction of Queen’s Road and Nelson Road South. It was occupied by WRNS girls as their quarters. Six of the women were killed and seven were listed as missing. Not content with this, later on in the day, at 2316, a pair of parachute mines were dropped towards the south end of Fish Wharf, and two more to the west of Caister Road. One of these mines damaged the Smith’s potato crisp factory. There was also an incendiary raid on Gorleston High Street, and a parachute mine completely destroyed a malting in Southtown. Although a Mosquito of 410 Squadron shot down a Do 217 over the Wash and another Mosquito of 157 Squadron shot down a Ju 88, the Germans ranged far and wide that night, and Norwich was hit once again.
The attack came in at around 2230, with the first bombs dropping about twenty minutes later. Old Catton was hit first, then two parachute mines fell on Stoke Holy Cross. Bombs and incendiaries fell on Mulbarton and more on Raveningham. A pair of parachute mines fell at Oulton and incendiaries on Cringleford, Toft Monks and Halesworth. Bombs, mines and incendiaries damaged or destroyed buildings at Sutton, Swainsthorpe, Hemsby, Hainford, Bilney, Cawston, Beddingham, Colkirk, Runham, Heckingham, Colney, Kettlestone, East Raynham, Hempnall and Stratton Strawless.
The bombs landing directly on Norwich included high explosives and incendiaries, along with firepots. A large fire was started in St Andrew’s Street; there were more fires in Pottergate. Bombs exploded in Cardigan Street, Devonshire Street, Russell Street, Old Palace Road and other locations. The telephone exchange was hit and in all there were thirty-nine incidents across the city.