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Bomb mystery is explained

PUBLISHED: 09:54 31 October 2008 | UPDATED: 19:47 02 March 2011

The BDS with the 1,000kg UXB they removed from Tonning Street in June 1941

The BDS with the 1,000kg UXB they removed from Tonning Street in June 1941

OVER the last few months, Turning Back the Clock has featured a number of pictures documenting the damage done to Lowestoft during the second world war.

OVER the last few months, Turning Back the Clock has featured a number of pictures documenting the damage done to Lowestoft during the second world war.

But this week we take look at the unusual sight of a bomb that failed to do its job.

As the war encroached on to the shores of the UK, the people of Lowestoft increasingly found themselves as a target for German bombers.

The importance of keeping confidential military information away from the enemy meant that, at the time, there was very heavy censorship of the press. This meant a raid would be described in the minimum possible details.

A lack of supporting evidence to reaffirm what eyewitnesses had seen would lead to doubts over the years and soon memories would become stories as many wondered what to believe.

Earlier this month, Lillian Thurston, of Washington, USA, contacted The Journal to ask for help concerning such a tale.

“There is a story my father used to tell about his 80-year-old grandmother being at home at 6 Flensburgh Street when a bomb fell close by but didn't explode. No one knew she was there and the authorities cordoned off the street unaware the old lady was there.”

Bob Collis, of the Lowestoft War Memorial Museum, consulted with his archives and was able to confirm that at 12.40am on Wednesday, June 4, 1941, a solitary German bomber, possibly a Heinkel He 111, approached the town to drop bombs on Lowestoft.

“One HE bomb fell near East's Garage, in Whapload Road, an oil incendiary bomb fell at the bottom of Frost's Alley Score, and a further HE bomb exploded in the upper part of houses in Old Nelson Street,” said Mr Collis.

“The final bomb, a huge 1,000kg (2,220lb) HE bomb, which the Germans referred to as “Hermann” after their commander-in-chief Hermann Goering, fell in the roadway outside 70 Tonning Street.”

This bomb made a 7ft by 2ft crater, but failed to explode, causing only a few broken windows in nearby houses.

Houses more than 100 yards from the bomb were evacuated while a squad from the Royal Engineers dealt with it. It was finally rendered safe and removed, when Lowestoft Police received UXB Clearance Certificate No 1119 on June 9, 1941.

While confirming Mrs Thurston's family story, Mr Collis was also able to report another local legend concerning the incident.

“It is reliably reported that a cache of explosives was being stored in outbuildings at the rear of the Eagle Tavern, in Tonning Street, for use either by Home Guard or auxiliary units, supposedly to destroy the town's bascule bridge in the event of an invasion.

“It is almost certain that had the 1,000kg bomb detonated, the area of destruction caused would have been considerably greater,” he said.

Mr Collis is leading a slideshow and talk, Lowestoft At War, at the Studio Theatre, Sparrow's Nest, on November 12. Details: 01502 517950.

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