City of Norwich next on Baedeker list

An Anderson shelter standing intact amid a scene of debris in Norwich. A demonstration of the effectiveness of the Anderson shelter which people built in their gardens, a dug-out covered with a sheet of corrugated metal which was covered in earth. People were able to survive almost anything in them except a direct hit, if they were built properly. Being cold and damp they were not used unless a warning was on - and the raid on Norwich had no early warning.

The Baedeker raids continued with a big raid on the old city of Norwich on the night of the 27th/28th April.

John Alpe was a young boy at the time, one of those affected by the raid on the residential area of the town:

For me it started at around 11.30pm when I was awakened by the voice of my father, a WW1 veteran, loudly shouting, “Bombs, bombs!” The family was at that instant, in their beds, presumably sleeping. That is, mum and dad, two elder sisters and me.

I was youngest and my dear mum must have grabbed me from bed and rapidly descended the stairs, entered the living room then took a restricted flying dive with me under our dining table. We were all just in time. The first wave of Luftwaffe aircraft were dropping their high explosive bombs, softening up the city for the later incendiary attack to take over with their devastating fiercly burning fires. Mum told me later that as she dived with me under the table, my head struck the table top, just above my right eye.

In spite of this I recall the holocaust in our living room – I can see it now in slow motion just as I did then. Due to bomb blast red-hot ashes were sucked from the dying embers in the grate of the living room fire. I recall the singeing feeling on my bare legs. The glass in the French windows rapidly cracked before my eyes, starting with small circles in the centre and working outwards. Yet the still intact panes bowed towards us in the room but, amazingly to me, suddenly reversed their direction.

Then amidst a turmoil of noise, doors and everything else reasonably moveable became wrenched by an invisible force to go flying out into the garden. Pieces of ceiling rained down and by now, more than likely, the blow on my head was taking effect. I may have run instinctively beside my mother to the underground shelter in our garden, but the next thing I knew was the family huddled together in our small, damp, underground dungeon. All were safe and alive – my mother openly gave thanks to God for our protection.

Read more of this story on BBC People’s War, where John Alpe has much more background on the raid and the Luftwaffe navigation techniques.

27th April, 1942

Considerable and widespread damage was done in various districts, mainly in working-class and residential areas, during a raid which lasted for well over an hour and which commenced with the release of many flares over the town. Anti- aircraft fire was not particularly heavy but this was apparently due to the pressure of R.A.F. night fighters whose machine-guns were heard.

Tracer bullets were also seen. Several hundreds of small houses, new and old, were more or less heavily damaged, but as the raiders concentrated more upon the residential areas rather than the city proper, the majority of the famous old buildings of Norwich escaped serious damage.

Unfortunately, for the same reason (and also no doubt because of the long preceding period of quiescence) casualties were heavy, 162 being killed (including firewatchers, ambulance men and a Home Guard) with over 400 people being injured.

From George Plunkett’s review of the all the World War II raids on Norwich, which has many pictures of the old town.

Norwich Arts Centre currently has an online exhibition featuring many more contemporary images. Nick Stone has completed a series of Blitz Ghost images, combining modern images with the same location during the blitz – the following image is also a link to the Flickr collection:

Blitz Ghost - Caernarvon Road

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