Officers who gave their lives protecting Great Yarmouth during Second World War are remembered
PUBLISHED: 17:26 29 March 2017 | UPDATED: 18:03 29 March 2017
They gave their lives during the darkest hours on the home front during the Second World War - and now their sacrifices have been remembered.
Ceremonies were held in Great Yarmouth and Norwich to honour the 12 police officers, police war reserve officers and special constabulary officers who were killed across Norfolk in raids between 1939 and 1945.
Norfolk Police’s chief constable Simon Bailey paid tribute to the officers who lost their lives in the county during the war
He said: “It is a real honour to unveil this plaque,” and praised the work of PC Steve Smith for his research of the bombing raid, adding: “The special constabulary will be eternally grateful for this work.”
He also asked those gathered to remember PC Keith Palmer who was killed in a terrorist attack in Westminster last week.
PC Stephen Smith gave a talk on the special police constables who lost their lives after an air raid on April 8, 1941.
Five specials died that night. They were George William Brown, 41, Herbert Cecil Davy, 55, William John Harrison, 70, Percy James Smowton, 59 and Frederick George Wallace, 38.
The unveiling of the plaque also brought back memories of a fatal air raid for 87-year-old Frank Moore of Burgh Road, Bradwell who was present at the unveiling of the memorial in Great Yarmouth.
It had extra poignancy for him as he remembers SC Davy who lived and worked nearby
He was 11-years-old on the night the bombs fell near his childhood home in Selby Place.
“That night my mother, brother and sister were about 150 yards in an air raid shelter. When we got out we saw shrapnel everywhere and the silk parachutes from the bombs.
“As a child your life was taken up with the war. I used to collect the discarded bomb cases and even had a diffused hand grenade.”
That deadly raid saw 85 German air craft took off from bases in France on course for Great Yarmouth.
Prior to this night, the town had only been lightly bombed, but after this campaign the face of the town changed for good.
At half past midnight on April 8 the raid began with marker flares and high explosive bombs being dropped.
Initial reports from the fire service recorded that two parachute mines had been dropped on the north end of the borough at Collingwood Road causing considerable damage and killing two, and injuring seven.
Then showers of incendiaries were dropped over the Market Place falling in a southerly direction across the Rows and South Quay.
It was estimated that around 4,000 fire bombs were dropped in the raid. These set alight most of South Quay and the fires were so bad that they could be seen as far away as Acle, just over seven-miles away.
All the Yarmouth-based fire units were involved in the operation, with assistance coming from Lowestoft, Beccles, Norwich and Cromer.
The fires were so large that police officers, air raid wardens and fire watchers were drafted in to help.
Two large calibre high explosive bombs were dropped on Southtown Road which created craters which cut Yarmouth off from Gorleston and caused water mains to break, leading to a drop in water pressure across the borough, hampering the firefighting efforts.
At 5pm two landmines where dropped in the Queens Road area. Initial reports said there were people trapped inside the Seagull Garage and screaming could be heard.
A further update came in which reported special constables were reported to be trapped inside. An hour and a half later it was confirmed there had been five fatalities.
The bombing raid caused 65 large fires across the borough, destroying many buildings.
In total 17 people were killed and 68 were injured.
At the time, the then Great Yarmouth town clerk said: “I shall never forget the appalling sight that Yarmouth presented, an with the additional fires that continually broke out, it seemed that nothing could prevent the destruction of the town and South Quay.”
Three other police officers died in Great Yarmouth during the course of the war.
They were PWRC Harry William Rudd who died on April 18, 1941 aged 47. SC John Cussock O’Brien died on July 7, 1941 aged 58 and SC Cecil Parmenter died on February 18, 1942 aged 30.