Daylight raid on Lowestoft kills 63

Clearing up the remains of Wallers department store in Lowestoft on the morning after a lone bomber had attacked the east coast town. Courtesy Lowestoft Wiki.

The severity of the ‘Blitz’ had now diminished considerably, the major cities of Great Britain were no longer being hit regularly and repeatedly by waves of bombers. Some histories even suggest that the ‘Blitz’ was over by this time. Yet ‘nuisance raids’ by ‘hit and run’ bombers continued to bring death and destruction all around the country. The term ‘nuisance raid’ seems designed to minimise the lethality of these attacks, and the authorities were certainly doing everything they could to play down their danger.

The east coast towns were particularly badly affected. The raid on Lowestoft on the 13th was typical, a lone bomber arrived from over the North Sea, dropped its bombs and returned:

I spent every school holiday between 1941 and 1944 near Lowestoft or staying with friends and relations in the town.

On one occasion my cousin and I were walking through the brick yard in Somerleyton when we saw a fighter plane bearing down towards us and it started firing. We dived into the doorway of the brick kiln and were absolutely terrified when we saw the swastika on the tail. I think the pilot had veered away from the others on the homeward journey and was firing at random.

One of the worst raids on Lowestoft took place on the afternoon of 13 January 1942 the day before we were to return to school after the Christmas holiday. Some of our pupils were having tea in a café when four explosive bombs were dropped on the main shopping centre. Three of our pupils were killed including a friend from my class. It was a sad beginning to the term.

Read more of this story on BBC People’s War

Even the local newspaper, the ‘Lowestoft Journal and Mercury’, was not allowed to report which town had been hit:

PEOPLE KILLED IN SHOPS AND STREET

By the light of flares rescue parties were on Tuesday night searching the ruins of demolished shops to release people trapped when bombs from a raider demolished a range of shops in an east Anglian coast town in the late afternoon. Their exertions resulted in several lives being saved, the task of locating the victims being aided in some cases by the sound of their voices through the wreckage.

There were a number of casualties, many of which were fatal, among people in the street as well as in the wrecked buildings. Rescue work continued throughout Wednesday and Thursday, but despite untiring efforts it is feared that all the victims have not yet been recovered.

See Lowestoft Wiki, for more and a list of casualties. Also Eastern Daily Press on the anniversary.

HOME SECURITY SITUATION.
General.

By Day.
On the 13th bombs were dropped on Redcar, where slight damage was done to the Iron Works of Messrs. Dorman Long & Co., and at Lowestoft, where several shops were destroyed and many damaged. On other days there was some minor bombing in Aberdeenshire and the Shetlands.

By Night,
On the night of 10th/11th scattered and ineffective bombing occurred in the North-West, North-East and Eastern Counties and over the Midlands. Slight damage was caused to pipe lines of Shell Mex and B.P. Ltd., at Ellesmere Port and at Liverpool utility services were affected.

Dover was shelled on the night of the 11th/12th resulting in damage to houses.

Casualties.

Estimated civilian casualties for the week ending 0600 hours Wednesday 14th January, are 85 killed and 59 seriously injured. These include 63 killed at Lowestoft, 12 at Liverpool and 10 at Redcar.

From the Home Security Situation Report for the week as reported to the Cabinet.

The government carefully restricted the information available to the public, although on occasion this led to rumours spreading. Ruby Thompson writing in her diary on the 24th January, records what she had heard in London:

I heard today of a very bad daylight raid on Lowestoft on January 13. The bombers came over soon after four o’clock and dropped bombs in the main street. They completely destroyed Boot’s drugstore there, and a café next door to Boot’s. The shops were crowded at the time and one hundred and three civilians were killed instantly, and ninety odd others were injured and taken to the hospital.

This news has not been given out publicly. The B.B.C simply reported “a raid on a town in East Anglia, some casualties reported.” The real news comes privately, through correspondents, people on the spot who know what happens. Yet we are supposed to have a free press, free news!

As a matter of fact, the censors treat the public like big babies, and it is likely we are nearly as much diddled by the news reporters as the Germans themselves are. It is my opinion that the English public would not be panicked by the giving out of such pieces of news, as presumably that’s why the information is withheld, but would begin in earnest to work to finish the war.

See London Blitz Diaries 1939-1945

See Liverpool remembered for details of the raid on the 10th, which proved to be the last time the city was bombed in the war.

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john mc partlan December 27, 2013 at 8:22 pm

My father worked in lowestoft durting ww2 as a carpenter fitting rolls royce engines to the decks of fishing boats to be used to attack the german fleet in holland. He witnessed an attack on a sunday morning by a fighter bomber which blew up the pub. They were sprayed with bullets as they tried to rescue survivors.

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