Town's worst wartime raid to be recalled on 80th anniversary

Waller's Raid Lowestoft

Known as The Waller’s Raid, several Lowestoft buildings with destroyed with the Odeon cinema's facade severely damaged. - Credit: Courtesy of Ken Jarmin

It was one of the darkest days in the history of a coastal town.

A wartime raid on Lowestoft caused the worst death-toll of any air attack in Suffolk during the Second World War.

The Waller's raid on January 13, 1942

A scene of devastation: the aftermath of the so-called Waller's raid on January 13, 1942. - Credit: Archant archives

And next month, almost 80 years on from the fateful afternoon of Tuesday, January 13, 1942, a special presentation will be held to mark the anniversary.

The Waller's Raid will be remembered at the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft as members of the Jack Rose Old Lowestoft Society recall the infamous raid.

The clear-up effort gets under way in Lowestoft after the Waller's Raid

The clear-up effort gets under way in Lowestoft after the Waller's Raid of January 13, 1942. - Credit: Archant archives

Lowestoft's worst wartime raid achieved notoriety as 'The Waller’s Raid', as it was named after the popular restaurant and cake shop which was destroyed and where the majority of the casualties occurred that day.


Wallers Restaurant - Credit: Archant archives

A single German bomber swooped across the town to drop four 500kg high explosive bombs on the main shopping area in London Road North, demolishing a restaurant and several shops.

The surprise raid was the deadliest Lowestoft suffered in the war.

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Of the 71 people killed, 52 were civilians and 19 were service personnel. More than 150 people were injured, 41 of them seriously.

Using wartime photographs, newspaper articles, personal stories and original research, Lowestoft historians Bob Collis and Chris Brooks will deliver a detailed account of Lowestoft’s blackest day of the war during a special presentation at the Marina Theatre on Saturday, January 8 2022.

The Marina Theatre in Lowestoft.

The Marina Theatre in Lowestoft. - Credit: Mick Howes

With stories of tragedy, and miraculous escapes, this special presentation by the popular historians from the Jack Rose Old Lowestoft Society will mark the 80th anniversary of one of the saddest days in Lowestoft’s long and chequered history.

Mr Collis said: "Notwithstanding Covid and all the changes and cancelled events the heritage community have suffered this year, we are determined keep the history flag flying high.

Chris Brooks and Bob Collis.

Chris Brooks and Bob Collis. - Credit: Bob Collis

"Chris and myself are committed to ensuring that important - if sometimes tragic - historic events like this are marked and remembered.

"The Waller's raid caused the worst death-toll of any air attack in Suffolk in World War Two and deserves to be remembered for that reason alone.

"Lowestoft has already staked its claim to be the heritage capital of Suffolk with the Heritage Open Days Festival and there are plans afoot for a whole raft of history related events in the town in 2022.

"Our town has always been a hotbed of history research and the public attendances at such events have shown they are as fascinated by local heritage as we are."

Mr Brooks added: “At our Society’s first slideshow at the Marina Theatre in 1992, on the 50th anniversary of the ‘Waller’s Raid’, President Jack Rose and I, then vice-chairman, provided the joint commentary and were rewarded for our efforts by an attendance of 750 to afford the expense of the plaque that was ready prepared in situ nearby and dedicated at a public service the next day.

Waller Raid Lowestoft

The plaque on display at the 70th anniversary of the Wallers Raid in Lowestoft. - Credit: James Bass

"It confirmed my belief that it really mattered for Lowestoft to hold such a commemoration.

"The whole operation was arranged by John Holmes, the first chairman of the Jack Rose Old Lowestoft Society, who had persuaded his friend Jack to continue his interest in local history to act as President of our society.

"I produced the first edition of ‘The Worst Raid’ specifically for that occasion.

"John later published his two volume book, ‘The Spirit of Lowestoft  - A Town at War 1939-1945’.

"Since then, I have been involved in several slideshow presentations as society chair with Lowestoft historians on important anniversaries of the Raid and produced a second edition of ‘The Worst Raid’ for the 70th anniversary which remains current today as we commemorate the 80th!

"It is available for sale at Lowestoft Heritage Workshop Centre and at Waterstones being useful for visitors and old or new residents alike.

"I feel honoured once more as chair of the society to collaborate with Bob Collis our vice-chair and experienced Aviation Historian to present further insight into this infamous day in our local history.”

The presentation is at 2.30pm on January 8 at the Marina Theatre, with tickets available online or call the box office on 01502 533200.

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