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Insight into Lowestoft wartime life

PUBLISHED: 11:05 18 April 2008 | UPDATED: 20:10 05 July 2010

A cutting from February 14, 1938

A cutting from February 14, 1938

DELVING into his father's forbidden bureau after his death 30 years ago, a Lowestoft man stumbled across a fascinating account of life in the town during the second world war.

DELVING into his father's forbidden bureau after his death 30 years ago, a Lowestoft man stumbled across a fascinating account of life in the town during the second world war.

John Cornish discovered the album, which documents his father Richard's experiences in detail from January, 1935, through to December, 1949, with additional details about events up to the 1960s.

It describes more than 60 air raids on the town - from the first call on September 3, 1939, through to the all-clear on May 2, 1945, at 1.30pm - as well as detailing a number of important stories from The Journal concerning the town, a brief diary of his life and a number of humorous stories.

From reading the ledger it is easy to see that Richard, an air raid warden (ARP) during the second world war, was a religious, royalist, family-loving man, with a good sense of humour.

Examples of some of the contrasting emotions documented are newspaper reports of the death of Lowestoft Corporation boatman Ernest Joesph Thompson, next to a story of a man who landed a 23lb cod from Pakefield Beach, and a picture of a 1937 bonny baby competition opposite a picture of a sinking ship.

From 1940 the diary turns into a simple description of air raids during the war, including details of deaths, injuries and property damage, but suddenly this grim tale of destruction is disrupted by an entry on Saturday, June 20, 1942, describing his purchase of a puppy from Mrs Tyrell, of Morton Road.

This leads to a host of more personal entries alongside the raid details, with Mr Cornish taking regular cycle rides to visit family at Bracon Ash.

Managing to keep his humour while describing such difficult times, Mr Cornish goes on to include the following newspaper cut-out on the same page as stories detailing the missing RAF Sgt Pilot Richard Owen Gray, of Grayson Drive, Pakefield, sea erosion at Pakefield, and the obituary of Sydney Robert Charles Harvey, of Wellington Road, Pakefield.

It reads: “Six first-aid workers of Bolton, Lancashire, tired of inactivity, drove out in an ambulance, and finally persuaded a man to pose as an aid raid-victim.

“As they were wrapping him in blankets, the tin hat slipped from the head of one of the workers and broke the 'casualty's' nose. He was lifted into the ambulance, but the first-aid men forgot to fasten the stretcher, and when the ambulance started the casualty fell out. He arrived in hospital with a broken nose, broken arm and concussion.”

The ledger goes on to give further details about the aerial bombardment Lowestoft suffered plus a description from May, 1943, when his team moved from Southwell Road to Kirkley Park as rescue and first-aid teams combined forces.

As the war come to an end, life slowly began to return to normal as Mr Cornish details his days preaching at Christ Church and the mishaps of his accident-prone son John, who pushed a stick into the roof of his mouth, making in a nasty wound, in 1944 and cut his forehead in the school playground, requiring one stitch, in 1949.

John, who knows very little about the motive behind keeping the diary, said: “It's fascinating, he used to keep a record of everything. Some people are just like that. Don't you sometimes wish that you had kept a record of a certain event? We forget very easily.”

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