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Cromer at War: How a worldwide conflict came to the seaside resort town

PUBLISHED: 09:33 16 November 2018 | UPDATED: 09:41 26 November 2018

Photographer Harry Tansley's wife poses beside the wreckage of a downed Junkers bomber in Vicarage Road, Cromer, in December 1940, during the Second World War. Picture: HARRY TANSLEY/CROMER MUSEUM

Photographer Harry Tansley's wife poses beside the wreckage of a downed Junkers bomber in Vicarage Road, Cromer, in December 1940, during the Second World War. Picture: HARRY TANSLEY/CROMER MUSEUM

Archant

Alan Tutt, from Cromer Museum, looks back at the impact the Second World War had on Cromer, almost 80 years after the start of what is still history’s most devastating conflict.

The wreckage of a downed Junkers bomber in Vicarage Road, Cromer, in December 1940, during the Second World War. Picture: HARRY TANSLEY/CROMER MUSEUM. Picture: HARRY TANSLEY/CROMER MUSEUMThe wreckage of a downed Junkers bomber in Vicarage Road, Cromer, in December 1940, during the Second World War. Picture: HARRY TANSLEY/CROMER MUSEUM. Picture: HARRY TANSLEY/CROMER MUSEUM

Next year it will be 80 years since the beginning of World War Two. This cataclysmic event is slowly slipping into distant memory.

Yet as recently as the 1970s, several Second World War bomb sites still remained in Cromer. A visible reminder of great trauma to be expected in cities such as Coventry or Liverpool, perhaps, but in a small seaside town?

Cromer suffered five major Luftwaffe raids, each dealing death and destruction and it took many years for reconstruction.

Taking wartime pictures was banned, but one local photographer, Harry Tansley, who had a studio in Cromer where Masala Twist trades, was permitted to photograph. It is his photo album, donated to Cromer Museum, that vividly brings the period alive. Harry even took one of his wife posing beside the wreckage of a downed Junkers bomber in Vicarage Road.

The aftermath of a bomb hit in Church Street, Cromer in July 1942. Picture: HARRY TANSLEY/CROMER MUSEUMThe aftermath of a bomb hit in Church Street, Cromer in July 1942. Picture: HARRY TANSLEY/CROMER MUSEUM

Children would play inside the cockpit - no health and safety concerns then!

Why was Cromer targeted? The raids were by single planes returning from bombing the industrial Midlands, or Norwich. Pilots didn’t want to carry munitions back across the North Sea so would drop them on any available target. The ditching of 2,000 lbs of bombs meant a lighter plane and speedier, safer homecoming.

The first raid on Cromer, occurred on July, 11, 1940. A Dornier dropped bombs from Hans Place to the Gangway. One hit Munday’s Newsagents on Church Street, now Huckleberries, killing Edward and Elizabeth Munday. On November 17 another raid hit Central Road, beside Morrisons. Doris King, aged 11, perished at number 18.

On April 11, 1941, Good Friday, a third raid wrecked the Lyndhurst Hotel on the seafront; a billet for soldiers, three troops died in that attack.

A Victory in Europe (VE) Day celebration in Central Road, Cromer, on May 8, 1945, at the end of the Second World War. Picture: CROMER MUSEUMA Victory in Europe (VE) Day celebration in Central Road, Cromer, on May 8, 1945, at the end of the Second World War. Picture: CROMER MUSEUM

On July 22, 1942, the worst raid occurred, 11 dead and double-figure casualties.

In Garden Street alone, six members of the Davies family died. The Thurgarton dairy was destroyed and East House, then in front of Cromer Museum, blown to bits, killing Ethel Clark.

The First World War memorial survived intact but many church windows were blown out.

The fifth, and final, raid was October 19, 1942. Swinton House at 2 Norwich Road, home of Dr Vaughan, was destroyed, along with nearby Patch and Dunrobin guest houses.

The doctor and his children were absent, his wife and housekeeper survived but two workmen died.

On a happier note, the museum has a picture of VE Day celebrations in Central Road. Among the weary faces: the Garwoods, the Dennises and the Chates, is local character, Dick Bone, “with monkey”.

Next summer, Cromer Museum will run some guided History Walks; three will be ‘Cromer in World War Two’ – details to appear on Cromer Museum’s Facebook page.

Cromer Museum is now closed and will reopen on April 1. For more details about the museum, visit www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/cromer-museum.

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