The Lynn News is marking the centenary of the Zeppelin air raids on West Norfolk with a series of articles from our archives, containing fascinating eye-witness accounts of what happened on January 19, 1915.
Residents of Bentinck Street in Lynn, where two people were killed in the air raid on the night of January 19, 1915, gave dramatic accounts of their experiences to the Lynn Advertiser.
Among them was Mr John William Goate, whose house was one of those demolished and who later realised that his 14-year-old son Percy had died.
A fitter’s mate at Messrs. Pauls’ Mill, Mr Goate was taken to hospital for treatment to a badly crushed foot, and cuts and bruises on all parts of his body. His wife and four-year-old daughter were also patients there.
He told the reporter: “I have three children, but one of them was staying with friends. When the affair occurred my wife and I were in bed in one room and the two children – Percy and Ethel – were in another.
“My wife called my attention to a buzzing noise and asked me if I thought it was an aeroplane, but I said I thought it was only a motor-car. Soon after this we heard the first bombs explode, so I advised my wife to go and put the children’s light out and she did so.
“I was standing against the foot of the bed feeling for my trousers when a bomb fell on the house. I gripped the bedstead rail and felt myself slipping through the floor, the bed with me. I was in one room and my wife and children in the other, and we all slipped through on to the ground floor and were buried in bricks and mortar and woodwork. I did not lose consciousness at all.
“I was pinned down with the bedstead across my leg and I found that the more I struggled the further I got down, so got down, so I lay still and waited for the people to come and rescue me.
“Some soldiers came and sawed the timber to get us out and they had to use the hacksaw to the bedstead before they could release me. I told them to attend to the wife and children as I was pinned down by the bedstead and they did so.
“I was able all the time to move my head a bit and raise my hand to my face. It was fortunate that it was so because I found that as I breathed I was drawing in dust and mortar which was filling up my mouth, but I managed to stop this by drawing my shirt over my mouth.
“The only thing that really troubled me was that I could hear my wife and baby calling for help and I could do nothing for them.”
Mr. Goate, who had not been informed of the death of his son at the time of the interview, continued: “I can hear nothing about my boy, but I am afraid he is dead because all the time we were under the ruins I could hear the baby screaming and my wife calling for help. But I heard nothing of the boy and I think I should have done if he had been alive.
Mr Goate said he had four brothers serving in the army and one of them was expected to go to the front shortly. “I shall join the army after this,” he added.
Mrs Beatty, of 2 Bentinck Street: “I stood against the door and was attracted by the noise. My husband was out and I was with my daughter and little boy. I saw a bomb drop. I flew in and when I got upstairs the lights were out and the doors and the windows were all blown in.
“Something came through the wall. We could not get to bed after this.
“All the house is in a state of confusion. I really believe that two bombs dropped here. The front door was blown clean in and it had to be lifted so that I could get out.”
Mrs Wykes, of No. 1 Bentinck Street, said: “I was in bed when the first bomb came. My husband is hurt on the head and the back and has been to the doctor.
“There is a hole through the ceiling upstairs and the house is a mess of ruins. When the bomb dropped we all rushed downstairs and the lodger also fetched my little boy downstairs, and we went to the cellar of a friend of mind across the way.”
Mr F Peck, of 1a Bentinck Street, said: “I was in bed and when I heard the noise I went to ask my father what had happened. He did not answer before the whole show came up and I was flung across my bedroom.
“The bedroom windows have gone and there are holes in the bedroom walls. The stables at the back had the roof off, but the horses are all right.”
Mrs Mattin, at No. 6 Bentinck Street, said: “The windows are broken and the ceilings cracked. I was at the door and had just got the baby out of the bedroom. Part of the ceiling fell afterwards, but no-one was hurt.”
Mr F. W. Juby, of No 9 Bentinck Street, said the neighbouring houses of Mr Fayers and Mr Goate collapsed. “Our doors flew out and the house is all smashed up. It was all done so suddenly.
“We were just retiring to bed. We got the girl and boy downstairs and we heard the report. There was a terrific sound when the two houses collapsed.
“We heard Mr Goate shrieking under the ruins. The boy Goate was more smothered to death than anything else.
“Two houses have gone and three are wrecked and my house is very unsafe.
“The curious thing is that we did not get a scratch on ourselves. Our hair was filled with glass but we did not get scratched.
“The most heartrending thing was the people in the street who were shrieking.
Mr Crome’s house at No. 13 Bentinck Street looked as though it had been subjected to a small bombardment. The brickwork had holes right through and was pitted with fragments of metal. The roof was gone, also the windows and doors.
From the bedroom of No. 13 was obtained a birds-eye view of the destroyed houses which were nothing but heaps of bricks and refuse
In Russell Place, which runs at right angles to Bentinck Street, Mrs Futter at No. 5 said: “We were in bed and heard a crash and the windows came in. My husband had come away from the window just about a minute before. We had to go downstairs and get under a cupboard with the baby.”
Miss Browne, of the Rose and Thistle which was at the corner of Melbourne Street and South Clough Lane, said: “We heard a bang and went outside. We heard the buzzing of an engine and all of a sudden there was a flash and the windows flew in. We heard groans and I thought the last had come.”
Mrs Guy, of No. 33 Melbourne Street, said the back of her house adjoins what were the backs of the two houses destroyed in Bentinck Street. With her husband, grown-up son and three children, they were all in bed when the raid started.
She said: “We heard this terrible whizzing noise and then there was a terrific noise. The ceilings fell in and the windows went crash. We heard dreadful screams and calls for help at the back.
“The explosion lifted the bed up and it was a miracle we were not all killed. It sounded as if one bomb exploded at the front of us and one at the back.”
At No. 32 Melbourne Street, where Mr and Mrs Colby and their two children had a miraculous escape, similar destruction was wrought.