Deadly Lowestoft bombing raid remembered

It was a day Lowestoft will surely never forget.

Seventy years ago yesterday a lone German bomber wrecked havoc in the town by claiming the lives of 71 people in the heart of the resort.

On the afternoon of January 13, 1942 a Dornier Do 217 flying from Holland dropped four large bombs in the town's main shopping area - reducing a whole row of shops and other premises.

Known as the Waller's raid, because most of the casualties were in the Waller's Restaurant, the surprise attack was the deadliest Lowestoft suffered in the war.

And yesterday at exactly the time the Waller's raid took place, 4.27pm, a moment's silence was held in the town's Marina Theatre at a commemorative event to mark the devastating bombing run.

About 400 people packed into the Marina Theatre to attend a Waller's Raid memorial slideshow presented by members of the Jack Rose Old Lowestoft Society.

The Marina Theatre had been damaged in the raid and after the attack the building and the Odeon Cinema were turned into temporary morgues because of the high numbers of people killed.

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Speaking at yesterday's commemorative event was Geoffrey Goddard who had been in the theatre as a 12-year-old boy with his parents when the raid happened.

Recalling the raid Mr Goddard, 81 and who still lives in Lowestoft, said: 'There was a sudden sharp explosive sound. Suddenly everything went dark. There was a deathly silence for a few seconds.

'Then I could hear crying and shrieking.

'When I emerged(from the theatre) I will never forget the scene things I could see. There were mounds of rubble. I saw a lot of unfortunate people in various states of injury.'

Also speaking at yesterday's slideshow was 87-year-old Peter Hawkes who had been working in the television, radio and music shop Morling's when it was blasted during the bombing raid.

An apprentice in the shop was killed and Mr Hawkes was covered in rubble after a floor he was on fell through the shop.

Although he can not remember much of the immediate aftermath he said a fellow worker had told him a biscuit tin had ended up covering his head.

Mr Hawkes also walked on his own to hospital where disinfectant was rubbed on to his face.

Of the 71 people killed in the raid, 52 were civilians and 19 were service personnel. More than 150 people were injured, 41 of them seriously.

Rescue teams spent four days toiling through the rubble and ruins to find survivors and despite the scale of the devastation 12 people were miraculously pulled alive from the debris.

One of the rescuers William Eade was given a British Empire Medal by King George VI for his heroic efforts.

Yesterday his daughter Ruth Ford, 84, told the theatre audience he had worked 36 hours non-stop at the bombing site after being called in from holiday to help find survivors.

After the Marina Theatre slideshow a minutes silence was held and then a wreath laying ceremony took place at the Waller's Raid memorial plaque by the theatre.

During the war Lowestoft was targeted in lighting raids because of its Royal Navy presence - although one raid accidentally targeted the town as the Germans mistakenly thought it was RAF Mildenhall.

John Holmes, president of the Jack Rose Old Lowestoft Society, said it was excellent to see so many people had attended the slideshow and then paid their respects to those who lost their lives in the war as Britain fought for freedom.

• The Jack Rose Old Lowestoft Society is looking for anyone who witnessed or lived through the Waller's Raid to give their accounts.

Write to society chairman Chris Brooks at 356 London Road South, Lowestoft or call him on 01502 563208 or call society secretary Ian Robb on 01502 564601.

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