on local householders, the evacuees
clutched small suitcases and had
identification labels attached to
But Southwold was not seen as a safe haven for city dwellers for long. The
evacuation of Dunkirk and the prospect
of a German invasion meant that
it became effectively a frontline town. Now it was
the women, children and elderly
who left for other parts of the
country. Soon the population was
reduced to about 800 and the town
was closed to holidaymakers.
wire covered the beach and hundreds
of mines were laid along the shoreline.
Engineers blew a hole in the pier
in case the Germans landed on the
end of it. Road signs were removed.
Sticky-tape criss-crossed the windows
of every building.
defend the town against naval attacks
two six-inch guns were installed
in the front garden of a seafront
villa near Gun Hill.
the most dangerous attacks Southwold
suffered were from low-flying aircraft
that swept in from the North Sea
below radar cover. The first bombs
to hit the town were dropped on
20th August 1940, causing little
damage and no casualties. The German
Focke-Wulfs returned the next afternoon
dropping 1,000lb bombs which demolished
three houses in Lorne Road and damaged
100 houses and shops.
following May during a night raid,
bombs damaged houses on Barnaby
Green, York Road and the High Street,
and later that month more than 500
incendiary bombs were dropped. A
bomb hit St Edmund’s Hall,
which was burnt out.
a first-hand account.
air raids were stepped up in 1943.
In February a lone German bomber
dropped one 1,000lb bomb near houses
in Pier Avenue destroying one of
them, partially demolishing seven
others and damaging a further twelve,
though no one was killed.
May saw the worst raid of the war.
Seven fighter-bombers targeting
Lowestoft spotted barrage balloons
over the port, turned south and
flew at 100 feet above Southwold.
One bomb destroyed a building in
the grounds of St Felix School.
Four more hit the town, one destroying the Marlborough and Dunwich Hotels, another blowing
out the windows of St Edmund’s
Church and destroying nearby houses
in Hollyhock Square, killing seven
people. There is an extraordinaly story about this particular bomb. To read it, download this PDF.
were few other such raids until
February 1944 when more than 1000
incendiary bombs were dropped on
The Common where anti-aircraft guns
were placed., But in October when
German flying bombs known as ‘Doodle
Bugs’ began passing over the
town on their way to London, one
was hit by the guns and exploded,
damaging more than 600 buildings.
a first-hand account
was nearly the end of Southwold’s
war. Troops stationed in the town
to deter an invasion had gone, much
of the barbed wire along the beach,
and all of the mines, were removed.
Those evacuated returned and the
town gradually returned to normal.
Street parties were held to mark
the end of the war.
told the story of Southwold’s
role in the war. 119 bombs and 2,689
incendiaries fell on the town. Thirteen
civilians were killed and 49 injured.
More than 2,000 properties were
damaged and 77 totally destroyed.
And the names of 20 servicemen who
died in action during the war were
added to those on the war memorial
by the church gate on St Bartholomew’s
other war stories below.
Battle of Sole Bay
First World War