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Anniversary of bombing raid marked by town commemoration

PUBLISHED: 09:08 01 October 2020 | UPDATED: 09:08 01 October 2020

Offices at Herring Market in Lowestoft destroyed by a bomb on September 29, 1940. Picture: Bert Collyer

Offices at Herring Market in Lowestoft destroyed by a bomb on September 29, 1940. Picture: Bert Collyer

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A wartime bombing raid that caused death and destruction in Lowestoft during the Battle of Britain in 1940 has been marked by a short commemorative event.

The Bethel in Battery Green Road, now the base of Lowestoft Players Theatre Group, after the September, 29 1940 raid  Pic: Ian G RobbThe Bethel in Battery Green Road, now the base of Lowestoft Players Theatre Group, after the September, 29 1940 raid Pic: Ian G Robb

The event was organised by aviation historian Bob Collis, but with coronavirus constraints it meant that only a handful of people attended on Tuesday, September 29.

On September 29, 1940, four soldiers, four sailors and four civilian Navy employees were killed during the raid by a high-flying Dornier Do 17 bomber, which dropped six high explosive bombs.

Bert Thacker, one of the victims of the air raid of September, 29 1940. Picture: Andy PearceBert Thacker, one of the victims of the air raid of September, 29 1940. Picture: Andy Pearce

Twelve knitted poppies provided by Poppies by the Sea – one to represent each life lost in the raid – were used at Tuesday’s event.

Mr Collis, who has made a special study of the air attacks on Lowestoft and has co-authored a book detailing many of them - ‘The Air War Over Lowestoft 1939-45’ – said: “Lowestoft Town Council had been working with local history groups and museums and had planned a whole raft of 75th and 80th anniversary events, including a Battle of Britain Commemorative plaque.

L to R: Bernie Rappensberger, Bob Collis and Andy Pearce close to the spot in Lowestoft where a wartime bombing raid killed 12 people. Picture: Phil MummeryL to R: Bernie Rappensberger, Bob Collis and Andy Pearce close to the spot in Lowestoft where a wartime bombing raid killed 12 people. Picture: Phil Mummery

“Sadly, coronavirus has meant that almost every one has had to be cancelled or deferred until next year.

“I felt it was important not to let such events pass unnoticed, and that something is better than nothing, so we have paid our respects to the 12 people who died that day in 1940 in our own small way”.

L to R: Bernie Rappensberger, Bob Collis and Andy Pearce close to the spot in Lowestoft where a wartime bombing raid killed 12 people. Picture: Phil MummeryL to R: Bernie Rappensberger, Bob Collis and Andy Pearce close to the spot in Lowestoft where a wartime bombing raid killed 12 people. Picture: Phil Mummery

The raid on Sunday, September 29 1940 was made by the Dornier Do 17 bomber which dropped six bombs aimed at the harbour and dock facilities where Royal Navy minesweepers were based.

One landed unexploded on the North Pier Extension, three in the water of the docks, and the worst loss of life occurred when an office on the Herring Market took a direct hit and was destroyed – with four sailors and four civilian Navy employees killed.

The last bomb exploded in the roadway near The Bethel in Battery Green Road, leaving damage to the brickwork of nearby buildings which can be viewed to this day.

A further tragedy came an hour later when the unexploded bomb – in reality a delayed action time bomb – detonated while a group of soldiers were standing over it, killing four of them.

Commemoration

One Lowestoft man had a very good reason to be at Tuesday’s commemorative event.

Andy Pearce’s great grandfather Bert Thacker had been one of the civilians killed at the Herring Market on September 29, 1940.

His religious beliefs would normally have precluded him working on a Sunday, Andy believes, but his devotion to duty were more important it seems, and it cost him his life.

Bert Thacker at the time lived at Deane Lodge in Whapload Road, which is now the site of the Lighthouse Diner.

Amid the proposed removal of archives from the Lowestoft Records Office, Mr Collis added: “Some of the documents being moved to Ipswich relate specifically to local people killed in wartime air raids - they belong to local people and they should be retained here in Lowestoft.”


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