Anniversary is marked of The Bombardment of Lowestoft – 100 years on
- Credit: Archant
It was the moment the war came to our region, with devastating force.
With the town still asleep, a squadron of German warships arrived off Lowestoft in the early hours of April 25, 1916.
Shortly after 4am, they opened fire. By the time the guns fell silent, 20 minutes later, 40 homes had been destroyed and 200 damaged.
In terms of fatalities, however, the town had escaped relatively lightly. Four residents had been killed in the attack.
The ships then moved off to Great Yarmouth but fog made it difficult to see the target. After only a few ineffectual shells, they moved off.
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The raid was the fourth and final one that the resort suffered during the First World War and became known as the Bombardment of Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
As the centenary approaches, a special commemorative event is being organised by aviation historians Bob Collis and Simon Baker at the Lord Kitchener's Holiday Centre in Lowestoft.
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The town's coastal location made it vulnerable throughout the war, and led to a nightly exodus of residents into the surrounding countryside.
The German raiders set off on their final assault on the town on April 24, in a squadron of German warships, including Seydlitz, Derfflinger, Lutzow, Moltke and Von Der Tan.
The Seydlitz struck a mine and was forced to turn for home, but the remaining German warships continued.
British intelligence knew from intercepted radio traffic that the Imperial German Navy were at sea, but did not know their plans.
Four battle cruisers, under the command of Admiral Scheer, opened fire on the town at 4.10am – aiming for the harbour works and swing bridges.
Mr Collis explained: 'At 4.10am two of the German ships, Lutzow and Derfflinger, had closed to a point 7,000 yards offshore, and sighted the red-coloured buoys of the British War Channel as they turned north and opened fire.
'German accounts state the gunnery officers were able to make out a few of the larger buildings in Lowestoft, including St John's church and the Empire Hotel, and use them as markers to shift their aim towards their intended targets – the swing bridge, ships in the harbour, the gasworks and the railway station.
'After 63 shells from Lutzow and 48 from Derfflinger, the Germans continued up the coast to Yarmouth.'
In Lowestoft, an 11-inch shell smashed through 13 houses in Kent Road, coming to a halt in a cupboard. Miraculously, no- one was injured. It is believed that this shell now stands outside the Maritime Museum in Lowestoft.
'Blenheim House, one of the largest seafront properties on The Esplanade, was almost blown in half by a direct hit,' Mr Collis added.
'Three of the four fatalities were in the bedroom of a house in Sandringham Road, where a shell smashed through the building.'
Annie Davey, 21, her brother Sydney Herbert Davey, 16, and Robert Vernon Mumford, eight months, lost their lives as they slept.
After the 1916 raid, East Anglia's defences were further strengthened, with pill boxes built along the coast and batteries of field guns positioned at Caister, Corton and Pakefield. But, at least for Lowestoft, the Germans did not return during this conflict.
? For a special anniversary feature with more pictures, pick up last Friday's Journal.