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Writer seeks your memories of the Norwich Blitz

PUBLISHED: 14:36 14 February 2011

Bomb damage in Dereham Road

Bomb damage in Dereham Road

Acclaimed Norwich historian Steve Snelling is writing a book to mark the 70th anniversary of the Blitz - and he wants your memories.

Derek James reports.

Almost 70 years ago the Nazi war machine was poring over a popular travel guide highlighting the delights that Great Britain had to offer the foreign visitor.

Stung by RAF air raids on German cities, the Luftwaffe was out for revenge.

It reached for the renowned Baedeker guide and singled out a number of historical towns and cities for special attention.

And one of them was Norwich.

Looking at the maps and reading about what the Fine City had to offer visitors, it was an ideal soft target.

Up until April 1942 there had been regular air raids, often during the day, over the city during which people had been killed and houses and factories destroyed.

But now, armed with the guide and with aerial photographs of the city, the Luftwaffe prepared to strike... and life for Norwich people would never be the same again.

The idea was to knock the stuffing out of city folk but it did the opposite.

It strengthened their determination and resolve to win the war and protect their freedom – whatever the cost.

The story of the Norwich Blitz has been told before but now, 70 years on, former Evening News writer and leading military historian and author Steve Snelling is compiling the full story of the notorious Baedeker raids which claimed hundreds of lives and destroyed large parts of the city...and he wants your help.

He is now working on a book, out next year to mark the 70th anniversary, which will play an important part of the Norwich story.

And he would like Evening News readers to be a part of it.

If anyone can paint a picture of what it was like during those terrible days, it is former CNS pupil Steve, who spent his career working for both the Evening News and its sister paper the Eastern Daily Press.

He is already a sought-after military author and historian, also a talented and highly regarded writer with such a sharp eye for detail and a compelling way of telling a story.

“It’s a sobering thought, but how many of us living in and around Norwich today owe our very existence to such wartime strokes of good fortune that ensured bombs fell on one house but not on another and levelled such and such a street while miraculously leaving a neighbouring avenue unscathed?” asked Steve.

When the bombers approached Norwich for the first of the two big raids on the last week in April of 1942 there no defence as the bombs fell from the sky setting the city on fire causing widespread carnage and destruction.

It has been suggested that as many as 40,000 people, roughly a third of the population, may have left the city to sleep in the countryside following the raids.

Norwich was described as a ghost town with whole streets and roads deserted at night.

This was their darkest hour...and now it is time to remember the events and those who lost their lives during the Baedeker blitz.

If you have any stories to tell of the Baedeker blitz on Norwich or contemporary accounts to pass on, please get in touch with Steve Snelling at 81, Beechwood Drive, Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich, NR7 0LN (tel 01603 435624) or email him at sjsnelling@sky.com

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