Remembering Norwich’s ‘Blitz kids’

King George VI talking to young award-winning Norwich hero John Grix (centre): “I understand you are

King George VI talking to young award-winning Norwich hero John Grix (centre): “I understand you are only 15.” On his right is despatch rider Peter “Flo” Lomax. Photo: Archant Library - Credit: Archant Library

They were the blitz kids of Norwich 75 years ago – when the city was bombed time and time again causing death and destruction on a terrifying scale.

All too often, these boys – not forgetting the girls – in the Civil Defence Messenger Service never got the credit they deserved for their actions. Risking their own lives as the climbed on to their cycles and then motorbikes to race across the city and suburbs, past burning buildings and falling masonry on crater-ridden roads.

These were mostly lads aged, officially, between 16 and 18 and although one of them, brave and modest John Grix hit the headlines meeting King George VI, when he paid a surprise visit to Norwich in October 1942, all these messengers should be remembered and applauded.

'I understand you are only 15,' said the King – and young John admitted he had fibbed about his age as some others had done. What was a year or so when the country was fighting for its life. He was awarded a British Empire Medal for his 'courage and determination.'

His Majesty, accompanied by Town Clark and A.R.P Controller Bernard Storey, also met A J Clover and Peter 'Flo' Lomax, both honoured for their bravery.

While those on the front line, firemen and police officers, fought like fury to put the fires out as the bombs dropped from the skies, they often acted on vital information passed to them by members of the messenger service.

No-one will ever know just how many lives they helped to save during the two savage Baedeker raids of April 1942 in which more than 200 men, women and children died over two nights and thousands lost their homes as buildings exploded.

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They rode their bicycles, often on flat tyres, through streets strewn with glass and debris as bombs rained down, constantly being thrown from their machines.

While others ran for shelter, they climbed on the bikes, later motor cycles, and went to work. One messenger the late John Loveday who went on to became a well known cyclist, city councillor and man of the people serving a host of organisations helping others.

Back in 1977 Frieda Feetham told us: 'These youngsters who had grown up in the depression, and seen fathers and elder brothers called away to war, were frustrated at being too young to help defend their fine city.'

As the movement grew, girls and motor-cycles arrived and headquarters were set up at Chapel Field East. There were around 200 boys and 30 girls who were members of the Civil Defence Messenger Service in Norwich.

We must remember them.