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Our old office played vital naval role

PUBLISHED: 15:42 12 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:19 03 July 2010

FEW people passing the former offices of the Great Yarmouth Mercury in Regent Street would appreciate its significance in Britain's military history.

But more than 90 years ago it was the headquarters of the then newly-formed Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

FEW people passing the former offices of the Great Yarmouth Mercury in Regent Street would appreciate its significance in Britain's military history.

But more than 90 years ago it was the headquarters of the then newly-formed Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

It was in July 1914 that the Admiralty formed the RNAS, which became the naval wing of the Royal Flying Corps, part of the military branch of the Royal Navy.

And, later this year, Yarmouth and District Archaeological Society is hoping to place a Blue Plaque to commemorate the vital role that the service performed during the years 1915-18, when the borough suffered German Zeppelin raids.

The naval air station itself was on South Denes from 1913 to 1920.

Society secretary Margaret Gooch said: “The planning that went on here was a major part of the first world war effort. Therefore, we would like to honour those who did so much.”

The society hopes to invite the last-surviving member of the RNAS, 112-year-old Henry Allingham, to unveil the plaque.

Yarmouth property developer Tony Honey bought the Regent Street building to convert into flats and shops last year when the Mercury team moved to 169 King Street.

He said: “I had no idea about the building's historical significance, but I am very much behind the society's efforts to secure a Blue Plaque. “When I first saw the building I immediately thought of its potential as three maisonettes and possibly two shops in the future.

“When we started work on the main part of the building we found there were two walls: the outer one probably built 150 years ago, and the inner wall, which formed the frontage of the original building, was constructed about 300 years ago and is rock solid.”

Mr Honey has been involved in the development of several old buildings in Yarmouth, and so it came as no surprise that 25 Regent Street was steeped in history.

And the most recent “historical” discovery there?

“We found an old wage packet envelope dated 1970, and whoever this person was he received £18 for his week's pay and £5 holiday pay!” Mr Honey said.

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