East Norfolk in World War 2

Talk by Andrew Fakes at Martham Local History Group AGM, 2012

Andrew Fakes presented part of his remarkable slide collection of photographs and documents that brought to life the role of our area during the Second World War.  With far less time than he really needed he vividly portrayed the impact of a war that turned our peaceful countryside into a front-line battle zone, as part of the first line of defence against attack upon London and the industrial Midlands.  This explains why Norfolk Home Guard were amongst the first to be issued with rifles but, perhaps amusingly, only five rounds and one grenade each.

We were shocked at the extent of bomb damage in Yarmouth and surrounding villages, which reminded many of us of London during the Blitz.  We heard of the experiences, some tragic, of local people.  62 were killed in one week of bombing in May 1942, 17 were killed by one bomb in April 1941.  Cottages and pony and traps were attacked by cannon fire.  A ten-year old girl, who went hunting for rabbits in the dunes, was killed by a land mine.  Towards the end, it was impossible to sleep as wave after wave of American and British bombers flew overhead by day and by night.

Some excitement was brought to local lives by the arrival of American and Canadian servicemen in our midst, whilst people were kept healthy by stringent rationing and hard work. We saw some of the cautionary posters that have become part of our folk-lore, including a new one to me: “Waste the Food - Feed the Hun”.

But war never seems to go away - our Memorial reminds us of that - and the last local person to die as a direct result of the war was killed as late as 1952.  Walter George went digging for bullets in the sand dunes and he too found a mine.

Noel Mitchell


Ruins of the WRNS quarters in Queens Road, Great
              Yarmouth, 18 March 1943

(Above: Ruins of the WRNS quarters in Queens Road, Great Yarmouth, 18 March 1943)
(Below: St Nicholas Church ruins, June 25, 1942; Gas Works, 1942)

St Nicholas Church ruins, June 25, 1942
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