Bouncing bombs brought tragedy to town

THE harsh facts of life in Ipswich during the Second World War are well recorded. There were 1,165 alerts - the first in September 1939 and the last on March 29, 1945.

David Kindred

THE harsh facts of life in Ipswich during the Second World War are well recorded.

There were 1,165 alerts - the first in September 1939 and the last on March 29, 1945. There were 55 raids with enemy aircraft bombing and machine gunning the town.

Fifty three lost their lives and 164 were seriously injured, 206 houses were totally destroyed, 766 seriously damaged and 10,400 slightly damaged.

None of these numbers tell us the human stories of how life had to go on with schools building underground shelters, where teachers and pupils could carry on lessons lit by hurricane lamps, as they sat in cold damp conditions.

Most young men, other than those on essential jobs, were away serving with the armed forces. Mothers took on the work in factories and farms as well as running their homes. Over recent years readers of Kindred Spirits have told us how life was in the town bringing history alive for younger generations.

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Don Pryke, of Stone Street, Crowfield, tells us his childhood memories of living in the Felixstowe Road area of Ipswich during the war.

He said: “For my family the most dramatic day started at 5am on June 2, 1943. During air raids, usually a siren gave an early warning and if immediate danger threatened, the crash warning was sounded. On that day there was no advance siren, but the planes were overhead, with cannons firing. Three bombs were dropped and Hamilton Road and Myrtle Road were hit. Only the 'crash warning' was sounded. My parents, with me and my young brother Tony, were sleeping downstairs in a back room. An aunt, who was in an upstairs front room, ran down the stairs, saw the front door blown in and quickly joined us at the back of the house. She had a lucky escape as her bed was covered in glass.

“This low level raid was a new German tactic. The low bombing caused the bombs to bounce. Three fighter-bombers with 500 kg bombs were the attackers. The first bomb passed through a house roof in Pretyman Road and exploded in Hamilton Road killing four people. The second landed in Felixstowe Road, near Alan Road, bounced over the tops of Holywells Park trees and exploded in Myrtle Road, killing six.

“The third plane crashed near the lock gates on the dock killing the crew and its bomb bounced to Ransomes and Rapier' engineering works in Rapier Street.

“A year before this raid on June 2, 1942, incendiary bombs fell on Nacton Road Junior Mixed School, next to Murray Road Recreation Ground. The junior school closed for just one day and the pupils used space at the next door Senior Girls School for a while. I was there for only a short time before moving to Northgate Grammar School. The other junior pupils were moved to Derby Road, Holywells and Priory Heath Junior Schools.

“Another war time event in that part of town was the building of a large public air-raid shelter on Murray Road Recreation Ground. A base for a barrage balloon was then established on the recreation ground with a small crew of airmen to raise and lower it in air raids. For a 12-year-old boy there was plenty of action!

- Do you have a local story to tell from the Second World War? Write to Kindred Spirits or e-mail