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At last, a funeral our mum never had

PUBLISHED: 14:12 01 May 2008 | UPDATED: 12:16 07 May 2010

Time to remember: Barbara Miller giving the reading at the service.

Time to remember: Barbara Miller giving the reading at the service.

Norwich manufacturers Boulton and Paul were in the sights of the Luftwaffe during a series of wartime bombing raids. SARAH HALL reports from an emotional and proud memorial service to the victims at St Peter Mancroft Church.

Sarah Hall

Norwich manufacturers Boulton and Paul were in the sights of the Luftwaffe during a series of wartime bombing raids. SARAH HALL reports from an emotional and proud memorial service to the victims at St Peter Mancroft Church.

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Sidney Brown was at school when he heard one of the bombs being dropped on the Riverside Works of Boulton and Paul in 1940.

Mr Brown, now 81, knew his mother, a canteen worker, was inside the building and ran frantically down to Carrow Bridge to see what had happened, but he was not allowed near.

The body of Hilda May Brown was never found, and it was only yesterday, when a public memorial plaque was unveiled at St Peter Mancroft Church, that Mr Brown said he could “finally have his mum's funeral”.

His mother was one of 19 men and women killed in two Luftwaffe daylight raids on the factory during the second world war.

A long campaign for a memorial paying tribute to those who lost their lives, led by the Evening News and Norwich historian Norman Bacon, has finally succeeded.

Since the factory closed, the memorial, which also honours workers who lost their lives in the armed services, has been in storage at the Bridewell Museum because there was no room for a public display.

On a poignant day of remembrance, Mr Brown recalled: “I heard the plane and saw the bomb drop. I was at St Mark's School in Hall Road and ran down there because my mum and brother worked at Boulton and Paul. I was met by my brother Ronnie, who worked in the paint shop there, but we were not allowed to go any nearer to find my mum. Her body was never found, so we never got to have her funeral.

“Today is like the funeral she never had, and it means such a lot to so many people that those names are finally on public display. We have no photo of my mum but we have a lot of memories. I am very proud today that her name is up there with all the others.”

His brother Maurice, 74, who was six at the time of the bombing, said: “Today is like closure for us after all these years. It is so important that the public gets to see this. It is important that the plaque is here because it is very central and a lot of people from Norwich pop in here so they can see what happened all those years ago.”

The Brown brothers were just two of many family members who gathered at the church yesterday, and many, many moving stories were told about the two separate bomb attacks which destroyed the factory: on July 9, 1940 and then on August 1, 1940.

In the July raid 10 workers were killed and at least 68 injured; in the second attack nine workers perished and more than 20 were badly injured.

Gloria Piper, 62, lives in Catton Grove Road, Norwich. Her grandmother, Elsie Raby, died while working at the canteen. Mrs Piper said: “My grandmother wasn't even meant to be working that day; she was filling in for some one else. This is very, very significant for my family that the memorial is here and I feel very moved today. It was a lovely service and a very fitting dedication to these workers.”

Kenneth Sewter, 87, from Little Melton, was working at the factory when the

bombs fell on July 9 alongside his father Carlos. He was 19 at the time and had worked as an electrical welder for three years at B&P.

He heard an explosion and afterwards went to find his dad, who had crawled to the shelter in the workshop.

Mr Sewter said: “I remember thinking: 'I hope my father is OK,' and I crawled to find him. He had been badly injured by shrapnel. I carried him by stretcher across the yard and then he was taken for treatment. I remember him speaking to me. He asked if I was OK and then he was taken off. That was the last I saw of him.”

Carlos died of his injuries three days later in hospital and his son was given two weeks compassionate leave before having to return to the factory just before the second bombing.

His daughter, Angela Turner, said at the ceremony: “My father is very pleased today has happened. We wanted the names on something official and for members of the public to see. It is a very important and moving occasion for many families, and we are grateful for the hard work that has gone into this.”

Mr Bacon, 78, who has spent more than 25 years making yesterday's event possible, said he felt emotional and happy. He had been at Horn's Lane School, about 200 yards from the factory, when one of the bombs went off. He thought that when the factory closed B&P's managers should have ensured the memories of the victims were kept alive.

“I am very happy and proud today,” he said. “I have spent 25 years waiting for this day to happen. Relatives have been calling for this for so long, and I am pleased I have been able to help make it happen.

“The people who died should be remembered, and it is fitting that this plaque is in central Norwich for the public to see. The factory has gone but now the people's memories live on. This has closed a massive chapter for me.”

After the service people went to the processional way, where the memorial was dedicated. The service was arranged by Barbara Miller, a former churchwarden, who dedicated the plaque to the dead.

She said: “It is here we felt the memorial should be sited. This is the perfect location - between the church and the coffee shop.

“This is to remember all the Boulton and Paul departed, including the canteen workers, who died on August 1, 1940.”

AN ENGINEERING GIANT

t Boulton and Paul was a manufacturing giant which made its mark all over the world.

t More than 2,000 people worked the pioneering company at its 16 acre Riverside Works in the 1930s when Norwich was still a manufacturing city famous for a host of trades and industries.

t The name Boulton and Paul is still to be found all over the city and when the factory was open it churned out everything from aeroplanes to electricity pylons and even kangaroo cages.

t Their legacy however is dotted all over Norfolk and Norwich in the street furniture they produced and under a dozen layers of paint on posts and railings, park shelters and drinking fountains the name Boulton and Paul is still proudly stamped.

CITY TARGETED

t The first devastating raid on the Riverside Works of Boulton and Paul in Norwich took place on July 9 1940.

t It was 5pm on a warm summer afternoon when the dull throb of aircraft engines could be heard over the city - there was no air raid siren and two aircraft caused carnage within minutes.

t Hundreds of workers at the Carrow Works of Colmans were walking home up Carrow Hill when one aircraft banked and dived and five women were killed with many more receiving appalling injuries as blood ran down the hill.

t Over the river four bombs scored direct hits on the huge Riverside Works of Boulton & Paul causing explosions and sending columns of smokes billowing in the air.

t Ten men in the CE Works were killed, many more were injured and more bombs were dropped on Barnard's factory.

t The railway sheds and lines were also damaged in the brutal attack and it marked the start of the war for people in the city.

t Less than a month later the bombers returned and on August 1 men and women at Boulton and Paul were getting on with their work when the factory exploded.

LEST WE FORGET

t Anyone who knew the 19 men and women killed at the two raids on Boulton and Paul were invited to yesterday's service along with those who lost loved ones during other attacks during the Second World War.

t The service was held exactly 66 years after the first night of the Norwich Blitz of 1942 when more than 160 were killed and more than 600 badly wounded.

t More than 340 civilians and nine members of the armed services lost their lives in Norwich between 1939 and 1945.

t The memorial was in memory of the employees killed in action or died of wounds and sickness while serving with HM Forces 1939 to 1945, those killed by enemy action at Riverside Works on July 9 1940 and those killed in the second attack on August 1 1940.

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