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How Norwich gas workers kept city’s supply flowing as wartime bombing destroyed 100 mains

PUBLISHED: 08:54 08 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:29 08 May 2020

The Crown Pub on St Benedicts Street, April 1942. Picture: :Archant Library

The Crown Pub on St Benedicts Street, April 1942. Picture: :Archant Library

Archant

Over two nights in April 1942, parts of the fine city were reduced to rubble.

The former gasworks at Stt Martin at Palace Plain in Norwich. Photo: National Grid Gas Archives, WarringtonThe former gasworks at Stt Martin at Palace Plain in Norwich. Photo: National Grid Gas Archives, Warrington

Norwich was subjected to an intensive blitz as Germany focused its Second World War bombing raids on areas of cultural interest, forcing families to take shelter where they could.

During the course of the blitz, 100 gas mains in Norwich were broken by bombs - but tireless gas workers risked their lives to keep households connected.

They, along with other heroic gas workers around the country, including those in Cambridge who helped produced gas-filled barrage balloons which forced the German Luftwaffes to fly higher, preventing dive bombing, are being remembered by the UK’s biggest gas network on the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

Bomb damage at Heigham House, West Parade, off Earlham Road.
 April 30, 1942  Picture: Archant LibraryBomb damage at Heigham House, West Parade, off Earlham Road. April 30, 1942 Picture: Archant Library

MORE: How East Anglia celebrated VE Day

Cadent has reflected on the contribution of gas works during the Second World War, including those who defused a bomb which fell into a giant gasholder and the teams that powered the only steel furnace capable of making key parts for Spitfires.

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An extract from a piece written in 1946 by Henry Woodhall, chairman and managing director of the British Gas Light Company, reflected on the Norwich workers’ efforts in April 1942.

He said: “In raids on two successive nights, we had no fewer than 100 mains fractured. Pressures had to be restricted for a day or two, but there was no complete shutting off of supply.

“Gas-making continued at all times without intermission, which is greatly to the credit of the men who did magnificent work with complete disregard for personal safety.”

Cadent’s work has been supported by Professor Russell Thomas, chairman of the history panel of the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers, and the National Grid Gas Archives.

Howard Forster, chief operating officer at Cadent, said: “It’s a great source of pride to reflect on the important role the gas industry had in supporting the war effort.

“Gas has been part of British life for over two centuries; pioneering, adapting and rising to every challenge. We’ve proven we stop at nothing to keep energy flowing, through the good times and the bad.

“Many of our offices and depots are home to memorials to gas industry workers who gave their lives during the Second World War. We will remember them, as we always have.”

MORE: Families urged to stick to lockdown during VE Day bank holiday weekend


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