Local historian solves First World War mystery of Lowestoft bombing victim

Local historian Ivan Bunn. Local historian Ivan Bunn.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
3:49 PM

The mystery surrounding the only victim of a German bombing raid over East Anglia during the First World War has been solved – thanks to some detective work by a local historian.

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The L-11 Zepelling which launched a raid on Lowestoft on August 9, 1915, was based at Nordholz, near Cuxhaven, in northern Germany.The L-11 Zepelling which launched a raid on Lowestoft on August 9, 1915, was based at Nordholz, near Cuxhaven, in northern Germany.

It was thought the victim of the raid on August 9 1915 was a Helen Cook, of 86 High Street, in Lowestoft, who was said to have perished when a bomb fell in Lovewell Road. However, local historian and author Ivan Bunn has unearthed evidence that shows this was not the case. The only victim to die in that bombing raid was, in fact, 19-year-old Katie Marie Crawford, whose family lived at Oaklands Terrace, Kessingland.

There is no memorial or headstone to mark Miss Crawford’s last resting place, and no record of her death or burial was reported the local press.

But, after researching documents held at Lowestoft Record Office, where he works, Mr Bunn has found a copy of her death certificate which shows she died “from being crushed and suffocated as the result of a collapse of a house caused by the explosion of shell or bomb discharged from a hostile aircraft”.

The house in question was the corner shop run by pork butcher and general dealer, Arthur Stebbings, where Miss Crawford worked as a live-in kitchen maid.

The aftermath of the Zeppelin raid on Lovewell Road, Lowestoft, on August 9, 1915.The aftermath of the Zeppelin raid on Lovewell Road, Lowestoft, on August 9, 1915.

She was buried in the graveyard at St Edmund’s Church, Kessingland, on August 16, 1915.

Against the entry in the burial register, the rector of Kessingland, the Rev Ralph B. Forster, added the following detail: “Killed by a bomb from a German Zeppelin in Lowestoft on Monday August 9th at 10.30pm. The girl was in service in Lowestoft and was to have been married in October. The Bishop of Norwich sent a letter to the parents in sympathy. The Zeppelin was seen in Kessingland and the explosions at Lowestoft were both seen and heard here.”

Exactly three years after their daughter’s death, Miss Crawford’s parents placed an ‘in memoriam’ notice in The Journal.

It said: “In ever loving memory of Katie M. Crawford, the beloved second daughter of Mr. and Mrs F. S. Crawford, 18 Oaklands Terrace, Kessingland, who was killed by an air raid on Lowestoft, August 9th, 1915, aged 19 years.

“I miss her when the morning dawns,

“I miss her when the night returns:

“I miss her here, I miss her there O, God! I miss her everywhere.

“From her sorrowing Mother, Father, Sisters and Brothers”.

Miss Crawford’s parents were Fredrick Sidney Crawford (aka Crowfoot) born in Kirkley in 1868 and Jane Elizabeth Crawford, (nee Bullard), born in Wrentham in 1876.

She was the second of their seven children. She was born in Pakefield on April 24, 1898 and was baptised there three months later, on July 10, 1898. After their marriage, the Crawfords lived in Lowestoft, Kirkley, Pakefield, Earsham and Beccles before finally settling in Kessingland circa 1914. Both of Miss Crawford’s paternal grandparents, Charles and Lucy Crawford (aka Crowfoot) died before she was born, but her maternal grandparents, George Bullard and Lydia Ann (nee Thacker), had moved to Lowestoft from Wrentham and were living in Kirkley by the early 1890s.

They eventually took up residence in Lorne Road and were living there at the time of the Zeppelin raid.

Also living close by with her family, at St Leonard’s Road, Kirkley, was Katie’s aunt, Edith Mary Gilbert (nee Bullard), the wife of William Gilbert. Edith was one of the younger sisters of Miss Crawford’s mother.

• For more in depth stories from the First World War, click here.

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