Special service of commemoration marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Great Yarmouth Minster
- Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017
It was a devastating Second World War bombing raid, which caused destruction across the Great Yarmouth borough.
On June 25, 1942, the raid saw 1,500 incendiary bombs fall from a great height over a wide area of Great Yarmouth, before a further eight high explosive bombs were dropped, killing three people, injuring 19 and causing widespread damage.
With St Nicholas’ Church – the largest parish church in England – hit by several incendiary bombs, the ensuing fire virtually destroyed the church with only the Norman tower and the walls standing among the bombed-out shell.
Despite the large-scale destruction of St Nicholas’ Church, a restoration fund was immediately launched and the church was restored in the 1950s and re-opened in 1961.
And marking the 75th anniversary of the bombing, a series of events were held today (Sunday) – with the Minster Church of St Nicholas holding a special civic service of commemoration, while a 1940s fair attracted the crowds to the Market Place for a special period event organised as part of Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s town centre initiative.
In welcoming guests to Great Yarmouth Minster for the service of commemoration, team vicar Rev Jemma Sander-Heys said: “Seventy-five years ago the reality of war became even more apparent when this ancient place of worship was bombed.
“During this service we will remember that devastation, pray for those who continue to be affected by the tragedy of warfare and re-commit ourselves to doing all that we can to promote peace and cohesion in our own community.”
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With readings of the event highlighting how the “church windows were bright red” at the time of the blaze as “flames were leaping from the roof,” members of the Boys’ Brigade had been guarding the church when the bombs fell.
“The loss of the parish church was a savage blow to the town,” Neil Storey said during a reading.
The act of commemoration saw a siren sound, before the church fell silent during an impeccably observed minute’s silence.
Speaking after the poignant service, Kerry Robinson-Payne, the mayor of the borough, said: “It was a lovely service and I am very proud to represent the borough at this commemoration.”
Free events to mark the commemoration
In commemorating the 75th anniversary of the incendiary raid on the church, a series of events with a 1940s theme are being organised by the Great Yarmouth Minster Preservation Trust, with the events in the church supported by the Big Lottery Fund.
A 1940s fair took centre stage in the Market Place today (Sunday) with live music, a Churchill impersonator and Dad’s Army characters all on show alongside displays of Second World War material, vintage vehicles and a 1959 Spratt’s coach that offered a tour of Great Yarmouth’s wartime defences. A special brew of Lacon’s ale was on sale as part of the commemorations and there were numerous stalls and attractions. Next Friday, June 30, at 7.30pm in the Minster, the Jive Bunnies will perform. On July 1, at 3pm in the Minster, Miss Kitty Collins will sing favourite songs from the 1940s. Running until July 12, between 10am and 3pm in the Minster, an exhibition of Great Yarmouth in the Second World War is on display.