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Memories of the Norwich Blitz

by Norfolk Adult Education Service

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Archive List > United Kingdom > Norfolk

Contributed by 
Norfolk Adult Education Service
People in story: 
Paul Arterton
Location of story: 
Norwich, Norfolk
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A3837792
Contributed on: 
28 March 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Sarah Housden of Norfolk Adult Education’s reminiscence team on behalf of Paul Arterton and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was born on 25th January 1937 and lived in Bethel Street in the heart of Norwich. My father had been mobilised in the army so, as my parents had a shop, my mother’s youngest brother came to live with us to help. As the first sirens sounded and bombs fell on Norwich we would hasten downstairs, and like so many others get under the dining table for what little protection that would give us. As the bombing increased and during the ‘Norwich Blitz’ (April 1942 Baedeker Raids), each evening, having closed the shop and put the shutters up the shop windows we would cycle (with me on the child seat) to my grandparents’ in Salhouse, where we would spend the night. Each morning, on returning to Bethel Street, we did not know what we would find and my mother was greatly relieved to see the shop and Theatre Tavern on one side, and a private house on the other, still standing. We were extremely lucky as on our journey home we would see so much devastation with severe damage to the city centre.

At school (Willow Lane — now a solicitor’s office) the sound of the siren would call for immediate attention, with each class filing out in orderly fashion to be ushered down the shelters which had been made in the playground. Once there we would sit on seating around the edge and sing songs.

Between Orford Place and Brigg Street, where Debenhams stands now, the shop known as Curls was completely destroyed in the 1942 bombing. The resultant bomb site was used for a large water storage tank for fighting fires. As young boys we would always be looking for any souvenir pieces of bombs, their fins, pieces of aircraft or anything which caught the imagination.

We had a cross sheep dog called Jack who, like many animals, got to distinguish between German and Allied planes. As soon as he heard a German plane (frequently before the siren) he would start howling. It was time for us to start preparing for an air raid.

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