Baedeker Guide Bombers IV

HU 36196 (Norwich)

An Anderson shelter standing intact after a bombing raid on Norwich.

Lowestoft also felt the brunt of the attack that night. Six or so German aircraft dropped high explosives and incendiaries along Oulton Road, Mill Road, North Quay, Princes Road, Water Lane and Rotterdam Road.

Aiming for Norwich once again, twenty Do 217s came in to attack on the night of 29/30 March. A combination of decoy fires, anti-aircraft guns and night-fighters meant that the Germans dropped bombs around Great Plumstead and Braberton. However, they also dropped phosphorus bombs and incendiaries on Hulver Street.

The oil refinery at Thameshaven was targeted by thirty enemy aircraft on 4 April. Four workers were killed. Other German aircraft mined the Thames Estuary, and this would later lead to the loss of SS Josefina Thorden and Dynamo. The anti-aircraft guns at Sunkhead Fort shot down two of the raiders and another anti-aircraft battery claimed a third.

Chelmsford was the target on the night of 14/15 April. The sirens went off at 0007, and at 0029 marker flares were dropped. But minutes later incendiaries started to fall, followed by phosphorus bombs and firepots. Most of the ordnance fell wide of the target, but two parachute mines landed near Victoria Road, some incendiaries fell on the prison, and other buildings around the town were also hit, including a department store, a suet factory and other premises. An explosive and chemical plant on Bramwell Island and a mine depot at Wrabness were also targeted, and bombs fell on Kelsale. The main target in Chelmsford had been the Hoffmann ball bearing factory: it was hit but not badly damaged. One of the Dorniers was shot down by 157 Squadron; three were claimed by Mosquitoes and two by anti-aircraft guns.

However, this was not the end of the Germans’ ordeal; they still had to run the gauntlet of British aircraft that had been sent up to interdict them. Wing Commander Little of 418 Squadron shot down one of the Ju 88s at Beauvais in northern France. Squadron Leader Tomalin of 605 Squadron pounced on two Dorniers as they came in to land, but anti-aircraft fire saved them. Also over the night a number of Ju 88s laid more mines off Lowestoft and Harwich.

Another operation was planned against Norwich in the early hours of 5 May. The targets included Thorpe railway station, Boulton & Paul, the power station and other strategic targets. Bombs and high explosives began dropping between 0300 and 0400. As far as the city was concerned many of the bombs dropped around St Andrew’s. Part of St Andrew’s parish church tower was damaged, a shop in Bridewell Alley was destroyed and two premises in Queen Street were gutted. Other bombs fell around Larkman Lane, and Hellesdon, with a number of parachute mines dropping across East Anglia. The Germans lost a Do 217 shortly after it had taken off from Eindhoven, and another crash-landed on its way home.

On 7 May there was another attack on Great Yarmouth, and this time seven Fw 190s attacked the port for the first time. They dropped a number of 500 kg bombs around Southtown railway station and Vauxhall station. One of the bombs was immediately defused by a naval bomb disposal officer who was waiting for a train. The German aircraft then machine-gunned the town, and thirteen people were killed, with fifty-one being injured in the attack. Virtually at the same time more Fw 190s dropped bombs and machine-gunned Caister, Hemsby and Winterton.

Four days later, on 11 May, at 0845, between eighteen and twenty Fw 190s dropped fourteen high-explosive bombs on the northern outskirts of Great Yarmouth. Three of the bombs fell into the marshland, but one hit an ATS billet, killing twenty-six girls. Charles Box, the Chief Constable and ARP Controller, later wrote:

This and the previous raid on the 7th May, 1943, were part of the new technique adopted by the enemy, i.e. sweeping in very low at wave-top, and it seemed apparent that a balloon barrage would act as a deterrent. I made urgent representation to the Regional Commissioner, who visited this borough the same day, and within a few hours of his visit barrage balloons were flying. Whether or not it was due to this balloon barrage, no further attacks of this type were experienced; however, for a period the Civil Defence Service’s duties were so arranged that these attacks were anticipated. These types of raids by their widespread and indiscriminate nature caused new problems but they were soon overcome. The housewives’ service again rendered valuable assistance to the unfortunate householders. The casualties were 49 killed and 41 injured.

Eight Fw 190s screamed over Lowestoft at rooftop level the following morning. They killed six and wounded twelve. The primary target seemed to be the training trawlers Strathgarry and Shova. Seaman James Swann won the Distinguished Service Medal as he machine-gunned the raiders, despite the fact that four of his shipmates were lying wounded around him. Twenty Fw 190s came again at dusk. They dropped 500 kg bombs on the outer harbour, the High Street and the gas works. One of the bombs was dropped on Corton Road and it bounced 150 yards. Another thirty-three people were killed and fifty-five people wounded. One incredibly brave member of the Royal Naval Patrol Service, a stoker, sacrificed himself when he threw himself on top of a Wren in the High Street just as a pub collapsed on top of them.

Chelmsford was attacked by at least twenty-seven German aircraft at 0206 on 14 May. Bombs fell around the Hoffmann factory and the Marconi factory. One of the raiders dropped two mines; one hit the Marconi factory, flattening a testing shop and damaging an assembly shop. This was to halt production for almost a month. A 250 kg bomb hit the bus station in Duke Street and it also wrecked a number of buses and buildings. So intense was the fire that 250 tyres caught light.

At around dusk on 15 May Southwold and Felixstowe were attacked after the raiders had been frightened away from Harwich by the anti-aircraft guns and barrage balloons. Ten people were killed at Southwold and six were wounded at Felixstowe Ferry.

Frinton and Walton-on-the-Naze were attacked by Fw 190s on 30 May. At Frinton a bomb landed at the end of Connaught Avenue and another wedged itself in the girders of the water tower. The police station and Catholic church were destroyed at Walton-on-the-Naze, killing four people.

Margate was struck on 1 June, and ten people were killed when a church was destroyed at Manston. At dawn the following morning, again avoiding Harwich, bombers struck the dock area at Ipswich. They also bombed Felixstowe and Bawdsey. Incredibly, at Felixstowe, a gun emplacement was missed by literally yards, and at Brackenbury Beach a bomb bounced over a 60 ft cliff and landed on a road but did not explode. Although the raiders killed eleven people and wounded fifteen others at Ipswich, one of them came to grief when it hit a dock crane.

Although most of the activity seemed to be concentrated on the southern parts of the east coast, Grimsby had so far avoided much of the attention that Hull had received over the years. This changed on the night of 13/14 June, when incendiaries, anti-personnel mines and high explosives were dropped across Grimsby. In all, 332 fires were set and a huge number of unexploded anti-personnel bombs had to be dealt with. They had to be retrieved from gutters, tops of buses and trees. A number of people would be killed or injured over the coming days as a result. On the night of 22 June an Fw 190 crashed into the River Medway, near Rochester Bridge. Hull was attacked on the night of 23/24 June, but luckily there were few casualties. They were not so lucky on the night of 13/14 July, when twenty aircraft were involved. They caused sixty-nine fires around the town centre and station. Areas of Grimsby were also attacked, as was Cleethorpes. Some twenty-six people were killed in Hull alone.

The last major raids on East Anglian towns took place on the night of 23/24 October. Up to thirty Do 217s and Ju 88s launched a concentrated raid between 2258 and 2355. Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft were the principal targets. It has been estimated that 12,000 incendiary bombs and fifty high explosives were targeted at the towns. Most of the incendiary bombs fell in the south-west area of Gorleston at around 2330. Many also fell on Oulton Broad and others fell on Blundeston.

All in all, however, the raid was a complete failure, and this final raid of 1943 would be the last that Great Yarmouth would have to endure until 1 June 1944, when four high-explosive bombs would fall harmlessly onto the South Denes.

There was a dramatic drop-off in activity throughout November and December 1943. On 3 December there was a major attack on Ipswich, which developed around 1900. Bombs dropped at Rushmere St Andrew, Yoxford and Bramford, and Fison’s chemical factory was set alight. The main force of bombers came in shortly afterwards, dropping bombs around Westerfield Road and Henley Road. More bombs dropped on Norwich Road, Leopold Road, Colchester Road, as well as Yarmouth Road and other targets. Around nineteen 500 kg bombs had been dropped, and over 1,000 incendiaries.

One of the last major attacks of 1943 was against Norwich. Two aircraft were involved, and they dropped incendiaries on Unthank Road and then high explosives around Bluebell Road.

The last recorded incident of 1943 took place on 10 December. Nine bombs were dropped at Wrabness and others across Essex, and four bombs fell on Colchester. On that night Flying Officer Schultz of 410 Canadian Squadron shot down three Do 217s off Clacton. They had been intending to attack Chelmsford.

When the raiders returned in 1944 new tactics would be needed and new types of aircraft would be deployed against the east coast. But never again would they be able to mount the kind of raids that they had launched in the previous years. The tide had certainly turned, and it would be Allied forces operating from the east coast that would bring death and destruction to German cities and the Luftwaffe.

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