World War Two air raids in Ipswich

WE all have memories of our childhood, but few as dramatic of those whose formative years were spent watching World War Two air raids on Ipswich. How frightening to have the innocent boyhood fun of sliding down a hill on a local park interrupted as bombs started to fall all around you.

WE all have memories of our childhood, but few as dramatic of those whose formative years were spent watching World War Two air raids on Ipswich.

How frightening to have the innocent boyhood fun of sliding down a hill on a local park interrupted as bombs started to fall all around you. Thoughts of those wartime childhood days have been prompted by the memories of the day a land mine fell in Cemetery Road, Ipswich, sent to Kindred Spirits by Irene Rook (nee Cobbold) who now lives in Spain.

Bob Whitby was particularly lucky not to be injured as he was so close to so many incidents during the Second World War. Bob was nine years old when the mine landed in Cemetery Road.

He said: “I was living at 47 Lacey Street, which was just a few hundred yards from where the mine landed. I recall the guns were firing and hearing the crash as it landed, I think there was a flash of light too. It was not until about midnight the following day that we knew what had happened. After we left our homes the next morning we were not allowed to return. Luckily we had friends who lived in the large house opposite Lacey Street and we went to their basement room the night they exploded the mine. At that age it all seemed a bit of fun for us.

“On another occasion I was ill in bed at my Lacey Street home when I looked out of the window on a misty morning to see a German aircraft just above the roof tops over Woodbridge Road. It was machine gunning as it flew by. That was a bit scary!

“I also watched from Lacey Street as a RAF fighter shot down a German Dornier bomber which crashed at Gippeswyk Park. We watched the German crew as they came down by parachute. They bailed out as the crippled plane flew over the town. Unknown to me at the time the little girl who became my wife, then living in Gyppeswyk Avenue, was one of the children who went to the site of the crash to pick up parts of the aircraft as souvenirs.

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“We moved to Newton Road, where I would stand in the passageway between the houses during the air raids watching the search lights and anti-aircraft guns firing, not a sensible thing to do as I could hear the shrapnel falling on the roof.

“In one attack the raiders were over the town before the air raid siren had sounded. A bomb landed in Myrtle Road. One of the aircraft struck a crane at the dock killing the crew.

“One day I was playing on Alexandra Park, sliding down the hill near Rope Walk on a tin tray, as we did not have expensive toys in those days, suddenly we heard a plane then bombs falling. One dropped on St Margaret's Green and another just behind us in Back Hamlet. We ran like hell to the shelters, which were next to the shops in St Helen's Street.

“Later in the war I would hear the flying bombs, “doodlebugs” going over Ipswich. Most times I did not get out of bed, with the logic that if you could hear them you would be OK! I also watched the British and American aircraft returning home with so many holes in the wings and tail from anti-aircraft fire, it was difficult to imagine how they stayed airborne.”

Mr G Smy of Allenby Road, Ipswich was born in Suffolk Road. He had just moved to Cemetery Road when the mine landed and can recall having to go to an air raid shelter in front of the mansion in Christchurch Park. In the evening they were moved to Northgate School.

Mr Smy said: “After they exploded the mine we had to live at Chantry Mansion until our home was repaired. I was a pupil at St Helen's School and later the Central School For Boys, where Tower Ramparts Shopping Centre is now.”

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There are copies of the book, “Ipswich the War Years”, available from the Evening Star office in Lower Brook Street, Ipswich. The hardback publication has been produced by First Edition Limited in association with the Evening Star, with extracts from “Kindred Spirits”. The £14.99 book looks at life in and around Ipswich in the period running up to the Second World War, the war years, and the decade that followed.

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