December 22 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, February 20, 2014
It is an apparently innocuous map of Norwich with hundreds of tags in it.
Specialist conservator Yuki Uchida undertook the painstaking conservation of the map.
Mrs Uchida said the entire project had taken up to eight months, which included planning how best to restore and preserve the map, as well as carrying out the work.
She said the map would have been used in the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) report centre, which was originally located in Norwich’s market place near to City Hall, which was where ARP headquarters were based.
Wardens came into the centre to report the damage, which was then written down and plotted on the map. The weight of the bombs were estimated from the size of the holes they left and the scale of the damage.
Mrs Uchida said the ARP headquarters were moved to Heigham Grove in 1940 and it is believed the report centre was closed. A new report centre was opened at the technical college in Ipswich Road in 1943, but it is unclear where the map would have been housed from 1940 to 1943.
For many years it was stored in the city engineering department at City Hall, until 2007, when it was transferred to the Norfolk Record Office.
She said: “Some of the labels had fallen off and others were only just hanging on, which is why it needed to be restored as a matter of urgency.
“The paper labels were twisted and folded and the metal pins were rusty and leaving a stain on the paper.”
The map was also backed on cheap quality board which was causing the paper to deteriorate.
Historian Frank Meeres said: “Although the map has always existed, in effect we haven’t been able to read it until the marvellous work that Yuki has done.
“All the information was stored on tiny little labels, fitted on to the map by pins, and those were folded and unreadable.
“Yuki has gone through them all and flattened them and made the information available.
“I was looking just now at the very first air raid on Norwich, which was on July 7, 1940. It was in the daytime which was unusual and the first bombs fells on the Salhouse Road area of Norwich which is where Barnards were making military equipment.
“But what people remember about that raid is the end of it. There were seven girls - teenagers - who were killed coming up out of Colman’s, walking up Carrow Hill.”
Perhaps the best-known raids on Norwich were the Baedeker raids, which took place on two nights at the end of April 1942.
They were so-called because the cities targeted by the Germans were reputedly selected from the German Baedeker Tourist Guide to Britain for being historically significant.
During these two raids 230 people were killed in Norwich, with 388 killed overall in the city throughout the whole war.
But each of the 679 tags tells a terrible tale. For they show where in the city the Nazis dropped their devastating bombs between 1940-1943.
Now, members of the public have a chance to see the fascinating section on display for the first time - or view it digitally.
The Second World War map - which has pinholes in addition to the 679 tags, suggesting more bombs may have landed on Norwich - was created by the Civil Defence Air Raid Precautions section.
It came to form part of the national bomb census, a countrywide effort to record information relating to damage sustained during World War Two bombing raids, with tags indicating the location, date and size of the explosive.
Local historian, author and archivist Frank Meeres said the six foot square map was a valuable resource for helping people find out about which buildings were damaged during the war.
He said: “For members of the public it gives an immediate pictorial impression of just how many bombs fell in Norwich in the three and a half years between 1940 and 1943.
“There are nearly 700 pins on this map and each one represents an explosive bomb and many people in Norwich will have memories of the air raids and of bombs falling.”
Now, following conservation, the delicate 74-year-old document is in its best shape for years but still needs to be kept in carefully controlled conditions to preserve it, so unfortunately there are no plans for the map to go on public display.
However Norfolk Record Office, where the map will be stored, has taken a series of high-quality digitial images which can be accessed for free on a computer at the office, at County Hall, and which will also be available to buy on CD.
He added: “The record office has, separately, very detailed files of every air raid in the war.
“Now you can look at the pin in the street next to where you live, see the date and pin there and come to the record office and get the file, which will tell you which houses were hit and what was damaged.
“It’s a finding aid to help you to get into the detailed files.”
Patrick Achilles, from Attleborough, came to the record office to see the map and to hear a talk about its conservation.
The 72 year old former squadron leader was in the Royal Air Force for 37 years and was involved in armaments, including bomb disposal, so he was keen to learn more about how the map would have been used.
He said: “I didn’t appreciate quite what goes on at the record office in terms of looking after our history and conserving it for future generations.”
Copies of the CD are available from the record office and cost £10.
For details of future Norfolk Record Office talks and events visit www.archives.norfolk.gov.uk/events.