Deadly wartime bombing raids on churches remembered
- Credit: Courtesy of Bob Collis
The mayors of a town and a city at opposite sides of the country have exchanged poignant letters of commemoration to mark the 80th anniversary of wartime bombing raids that destroyed historic churches.
The messages shared between the mayor of Lowestoft, Alan Green, and the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Chris Mavin, come as aviation historian Bob Collis prepares to give a virtual talk 80 years on from the dramatic events of April 21, 1941.
Mr Collis, of Oulton Broad, will give a presentation virtually on Wednesday, April 21 at 7.30pm, for the Lowestoft Archaeological and Local History Society on their Facebook page.
The talk entitled 'The Night the Church went up' will reflect upon the night of April 21, 1941, when 130 German bombers blitzed Plymouth for the first of three consecutive nights.
Mr Collis said: "A smaller force of bombers - detailed to attack Great Yarmouth - went astray and most of their bombs, 42 High Explosive and over 1,000 incendiaries, landed in Kirkley and Pakefield, killing three people and causing serious damage to property.
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"Two incendiary bombs landed on the thatched roof of All Saints and St Margaret's Church at Pakefield, and despite the efforts of the Rector and another man who climbed onto the roof at the height of the raid to fight the fires, the roof and almost the entire interior of the building was gutted."
The church was rebuilt in 1948 and rededicated in 1950 at a service held by the Bishop of Norwich.
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Ahead of the virtual talk, the current Rector of Pakefield Church, the Rev Sharon Lord, said: "We also remember that we were not the only church that was destroyed in the Second World War.
"We are having a silent evening prayer at 6.30pm."
Commemorating the Second World War raids of both Lowestoft and Plymouth, in a message to the Plymouth Lord Mayor, the Mayor of Lowestoft, Alan Green, wrote: "As the people of Lowestoft remember and reflect on the 80th anniversary of our town being struck by a small force of German aircraft on April 21, 1941, our thoughts also turn to the city of Plymouth and the effects of a much larger raid on your city.
"While these raids had a devastating effect on our town, it is recognised that the city of Plymouth suffered terribly and I write to express our unity in thoughts of these awful times.
"May our mutual losses never be experienced again and the people of both Lowestoft and Plymouth continue to enjoy the freedom our service men and women fought so hard to achieve for us."
Chris Mavin, Lord Mayor of the city of Plymouth, wrote: "The Charles church memorial in the heart of the city -the second most historic parish church at that time - was destroyed by the bombing.
"It was never rebuilt but instead has been preserved in its damaged condition to provide a permanent reminder of the 1,172 civilians who lost their lives in the blitz and the 4,448 who were injured.
"Many other major cities shared similarities with Plymouth during the spring of 1941.
"Much of the history of the Second World War concentrates on the destruction of Britain’s major cities, however, Plymouth as a garrison city is always mindful that every city, every town and every village suffered destruction or tragedy in some way.
"The villages of Kirkley and Pakefield unfortunately were no exception.
"On April 21 these two small villages were hit by high explosive and incendiary bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe causing death and destruction for the small communities involved.
"Like Plymouth, one of the village’s major churches, the church of All Saints and St Margaret’s at Pakefield, was hit by incendiary bombs and almost entirely destroyed.
"To be the first church in the UK to be rebuilt and rededicated after the war speaks very highly of the spirit of your two communities.
"We in Plymouth are aware that every life lost from every community, should always be remembered for the sacrifice they gave."