Memories of a miracle on the anniversary of Second World War bombing raid in Lowestoft
- Credit: Bert Collyer
Having felt the full force of repeated bombing raids during the Second World War, Lowestoft can hardly be said to have escaped lightly.
But 75 years on, the town was able to reflect on a near miss as it avoided even worse devastation – despite four bombs being dropped.
And on the anniversary of the bombing raid this week, local aviation historian Bob Collis recalled how there was 'a miraculous escape'.
Mr Collis, Lowestoft Aviation Society's historical research officer, said: 'By the autumn of 1941 the war situation, as far as the people of Lowestoft were concerned, appeared to be optimistic. Shipping losses to U-Boats were serious, but the Battle of the Atlantic appeared to be turning.
'The German onslaught in Russia – which had indirectly resulted in a lull in large-scale air attacks on Britain – was slowing and now facing its first Eastern Front winter. Despite having only three bomber units available for raids over the UK, the Luftwaffe still managed to make things awkward for the town.'
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At 7.59pm on October 22, 1941 the 'alert' sounded.
Mr Collis said: 'It was commonplace. There would be 53 such alerts that month, but no bombs had fallen so far. That night they did.
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'At 8.40pm a lone Heinkel He 111 released its four externally-carried bombs. Once again, fate had decreed that Lowestoft would escape the full ferocity of large HE bombs – two of three 500kg missiles failed to explode.'
The first bomb exploded in a stubble field at Guymer's Farm, south of Beccles Road, Oulton Broad, leaving a 38ft by 15ft crater.
The only damage was to barbed wire entanglements.
A second bomb smashed through a brick wall and disappeared beneath the footpath outside 50 Acton Road. A few yards away another unexploded bomb hit telephone lines before entering number 42.
But the fourth bomb – a 1,000kg device – crashed through the roof of 488 London Road South and exploded with a blast 'which shook the town,' according to Mr Collis.
'Three houses in the vicinity of the gaping 36ft by 18ft crater were totally destroyed, two were damaged beyond repair and another extensively damaged,' he said.
'Water and gas mains were broken, more telephone lines were brought down and the wreckage from the shattered houses meant that the A12 road was closed to traffic until 8am the next day.
'Yet again there was a miraculous escape that night.
'From beneath the rubble only 15ft from the crater, three occupants of an Anderson shelter emerged.
'Two men, engineer Ron Downes and chemist John Lang were slightly injured, the third person was unharmed!'
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