The Wartime Memories of S.J. Pearce

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By Martin Collins

The Wartime Memories of S.J. Pearce

Some years ago now, a builder clearing an old house in the Great Yarmouth area found some papers in the loft. These papers contained extracts from a wartime diary of a Mrs. S.J. Pearce. She owned a shop, a tobacconist, at 9 Southtown Road (now known as Bridge Road), Great Yarmouth.

A copy was passed to my Father, who passed a copy to me and I have reproduced it on my blog and here for anyone interested to read.

On its' own it is quite dry reading, but very interesting when correlating some of her reported events to those reported elsewhere. In this respect I have published a plain copy for now, but I am working on a hyper-linked copy to take the reader to other on-line, more detailed, reports of her diary entries.

Of particularly note to my family is her short entry for the night of 8th April 1941, where she states "Nasty mess on Nelson Road, Gorleston. Several killed." On this night the houses on the North end, East side, took a direct hit and were destroyed. My Father lived a few doors further to the South on the same side and the roof of his house was blown off by the force of the blast. No one in our family was injured, but later on a 3 inch piece of shrapnel was pulled from my Father's pillow where he had been sleeping. He escaped serious injury or death by millimetres! He still possesses the shrapnel piece, his lucky charm perhaps?

Read the The Wartime Memories of S.J. Pearce below and on my blog:




22nd January

Very loud bombs dropped in evening, but believe they were out at Fleggburgh.

23rd January

Tobruk has fallen. 11 bombs dropped on Caister Road in morning. 2 empty houses down. 1 hurt, also machine gun fire.

25th January

12 bombs dropped in afternoon behind police station across river to Jewsons & Crabtrees yard. 8 killed and some hurt(quite near enough to be unpleasant).

30th January

Saw remains of Nazi plane on lorry on quay. Brought down at Horsey. Dernia has fallen.


1st February

Bombs dropped early morning: on marshes, Boundry Road: Way. More later in cemetery & on Grouts causing big fire. Also on Dysons building sheds. 10 casualties, 3 dead.

2nd February

Bomb dropped in afternoon, believe in sea, also machine gunning.

3rd February

7 alarms during day night but nothing else.

4th February

Hear Lowestoft had two raids. Nasty one in morning. Plane brought down off Corton.

5th February

2 raids in evening: including Northgate Street: Fishermens Hospital, Market Road & Regal. Also 2 land mines out at Bradwell, 3 killed and 11 injured in town. About a foot of snow during night, not exactly a pleasant birthday.

9th February

Fleet bombarded Genoa.

10th February

Alarm on from ¼ to 7 at night, till 7 next morning: & planes dashing about all night. Very disturbing.

13th February

5 alarms during day. One lot of bombs. Fell in sea & round harbours' mouth.

14th February

Incendiaries fell along Acle Road & one large bomb fell on Colman's Wharf about 8 at night, heard it whistle down. Sounded very near.

15th February

Several alarms during day. Then from 1-15am to 3 bombs and machine guns 4 or 5 lots of bombs, one lot on Albion Rd, one lot on Suffolk Rd: Gorleston. 3 people killed. A dreadful night.

16th February

3 German planes over in morning: & guns firing at them.

17th February

Machine guns fired early. A dreadful night. Planes over one after the other, each dropping bombs or being fired at by trawlers in river. Lasted from 3am to 6. Places hit include Gas Works (set on fire), Bloomfields (set on fire) “Watchful” & Beccles Rd: 6 people injured.

18th February

About six alarms during day, but apart from gunfire at a plane, all quiet day & night.

27th February

Plane over about 8am Guns firing & 2 bombs on pub behind Beach Station. Another “do” about 11-30. Heard bombs about 12-30 Plane very low. Bombs about 2-15 These dropped from King St to Apsley Rd. Down York Rd: Altogether 2 killed & 19 injured.


1st March

At night flares & incendiaries in distance & 2 bombs on Exmouth Rd & near Fish Wharf. No one hurt.

3rd March

Not a very nice night. 2 lots of bombs, first dreadfully heavy, then 17 further away, but none on town.

6th March

Alarm early morning & a bump. Some activity during day including raid on Lowestoft.

7th March

Gun fire in morning & plane brought down in sea. Alarms on nearly all day. Bombs in sea later. 2 on race course.

8th March

Excitement started early. Bombs in sea & gunfire.

14th March

Plenty of activity at night. Bombs in distance & guns at sea. 5 bombs on Southtown Rd: 2 unexploded, never heard these drop. 1 soldier hurt.

18th March

Plenty of planes about early morning. One bomb & some machine gun fire. 11 Alarms.

19th March

Ena saw David Niven at the base (light relief).

20th March

Started having crash warnings on Porters whistle during day. Evacuation notices up again.

25th March

Heard machine gun fire about ¼ to 8pm Didn't hear bombs dropped at Gorleston opposite Police Station. No one hurt.

26th March

Lots of gunfire at plane in afternoon. Bombs in sea in evening.

31st March

Plenty of activity at night. Incendiaries & bombs in distance.


1st April

Plane fired at, so dropped its' bombs in sea. Crash alarms on & off all day.

4th April

On my way down to Nina's when 2 heavy bombs dropped, sheltered in doorway in Regeant St: Then came home. Later incendiaries & flares, which lit the whole town like daylight. Very frightening bombs in distance. Didn't go to bed till ¼ to 12.

7th April

The Great Fire Of Yarmouth! Incendiaries dropped all round, making a ring of fires. Terrifying to watch. Places gutted include: Boots, Marks & Spencers, Hills, Maypole Roses, Kerridges, Colledges, Tollhouse, Library, Education Offices, Sailors Rest, Science School, H.M.S. Midge & goodness knows where else. Heaps of others badly damaged. Land mines on Collingwood Road, Middlegate St., Seagull Garage, Pertwee & Backs, Bloomfields. Bombs on Lichfield Rd: A truly dreadful night. Had 1 hours sleep from ¼ to 7 till ¼ to 8. 14 people killed & 64 injured.

8th April

Another nasty night. Bombs in distance, one lot of incendiaries to the south. Every plane that came over was fired at. Eventually went to bed to sleep at 5 o'clock. Nasty mess on Nelson Road, Gorleston. Several killed.

9th April

Another not very nice night. Bombs & incendiaries in Gorleston again. 4 people killed.

10th April

Went to bed about 9-15, awoke at 12-15 with bombs. 3 more lots later. Went upstairs again about 3-30. First lot dropped between Howard St. & Mortuary Row. 11 dead.

15th April

Land mine on Alderson Rd, On Quay & at Gorleston. 2 killed.

16th April

Another raid.

17th April

Nasty mess on Elsie Rd. 13 killed. (Ena & I were staying at Horning Ferry for last week end).

21st April

Went to pictures in evening. Bombs fell while we were in there (in sea). Flares North & South. Then fog came up & a quiet night.

23rd April

Bombs dropped on Gorleston in evening about 9 o'clock, we never heard them.

24th April

A little excitement just as I was getting into bed. Must have dropped on Marshes.

25th April

2 lots of bombs during night on marshes.

27th April

Hear Horning Ferry got a direct hit on the bar last night. 21 people buries & dead including the Suttons & Pat Almond. Mrs. Adlington badly hurt. (we were staying there last weekend).

28th April

Bombs dropped near gas works on Southtown Rd. during breakfast. Guns firing.

29th April

Some bombs about 10 at night & lots of planes about.


3rd May

A disturbing night. Lots of planes about & one lot of bombs on marshes.

4th May

One lot of bombs during the night & gunfire.

8th May

Some bombs during night on Stafford Rd.

9th May

Not a very nice night. Some bombs on isolation hospital & some round Cobholm, one started fire. Sounded horrid whistling down. 7 killed & 13 hurt.

10th May

R.A.F. arrived in force. Believe they are here for a few weeks training.

11th May

A nasty night. Heard lots of bombs. Some at Burnt Lane, Northgate St. & bus sheds. No one killed. 74 bombs dropped.

12th May

Another night of it. Most of the bombs outside town, but some at Gorleston. 3 killed.

13th May

Rudolph Hess, German deputy leader landed in Scotland yesterday. A quiet night.

14th May

3 crash warnings & Jerries over each time. Trawler bombed off harbour, guns firing but a quiet night.

16th May

2 lots of bombs during night, one lot on Baliol Rd ½ an hour before the alarm.

24th May

Lots of crashes with one lot of bombs on top of park. Planes fired at, saw tracer bullets.

26th May

A little excitement about teatime. Plane came over very low. Guns opened up. Heard bits dropping on roof. No bombs.


4th June

One large bomb (unexploded 3,850lbs) during night on Admiralty Rd & 2 at Caister (didn't hear them).

11th June

A bit of noise during night, bombs on Gorleston. Tramway Hotel down & 2 unexploded, lots of machine gun fire. 4 killed 1 hurt.

13th June

Some bombs during night, but none on town.

15th June

Crash at lunchtime. Guns & bombs at Gorleston. Several more crash alarms later.

16th June

Bombs whistled over during the night.

18th June

Bombs in distance during night.

19th June

Bombs during night & gunfire.

23rd June

Incendiaries dropped from Caister Water Tower along to Hawkins Avenue. H.E. in sea at Caister.

24th June

Bombs dropped on Quay, Gorleston Pier & Gas Works, also flares & incendiaries round about. No gas again.

28th June

Bombs in distance before alarm, also gunfire.


5th July

A bit of a to do during night, gunfire & bombs, one very loud one, none on town.

7th July

Disturbed night again. Didn't sound too bad to us, but hits on Southtown Rd, Northgate St & Rows. 12 killed.

9th July

A dreadful night last night. A real blitz lasting from 1-15 to 4-15. Damage on Southtown Rd, Sefton Lane, lots at Gorleston, a gasometer hit, fire at Jewson's, Middlegate St, rows off King St, St. George's Rd & Park. 2 killed & about 20 hurt.

11th July

Disturbed night. Bombs on Granville Rd. & several lots at Gorleston.

12th July

Gunfire at night.

13th July

Bombs at night on St. Luke's Church & rest centre. 8 killed, no alarm.

21st July

Some bombs at night.

22nd July

Bombs dropped at night on Keyes Avenue. 12 hurt.

29th July

Guns fire nearly every night. Sometimes bombs, sometimes not.


8th August

Bombs during night on Salisbury Rd. & in river near Town Hall.

9th August

Guns at night & bombs at Caister bursting water main (boil all water again & don't waste any).

12th August

Disturbed, bumps & bangs.

16th August

Bit of a to-do last night about 10. Believe bombs in sea.

17th August

More bombs about 10, Caister, I believe & South Denes.

19th August

German plane followed ours in last night & dropped bombs on Baker St. before the alarm.

20th August

Guns during night, just as alarm came on.

21st August

Alarm & guns started at 10-30.


1st September

Guns. No bombs.

7th September

A disturbed night. Bombs at Mr. Bellamys & in Breydon. Hit Breydon Bridge.

11th September

Guns started about 10 past 9 & went on & off several times.

12th September


20th September

Guns early evening & unexplodeds during night on Lancaster, York & St. Peters Rds.

21st September

Lots of gunfire during evening.

25th September

Crash alarm just after 8. Guns & bombs but believe in sea & Breydon.

26th September

Bombs early evening, out Bradwell-Burgh.


3rd October

Guns & bombs in sea.

4th & 5th October


11th October

Bombs on Southtown Rd early evening. No one hurt.

12th October

Bombs during night in sea near Pleasure Beach.

15th October

Several lots of bombs in the early hours at Gorleston, on Bloomfields & Hobland. No one hurt.

18th October

Some bombs in evening on dog track.

19th October

Bombs in evening on Blake Rd, railway & Raleigh Ave. Some hurt.

25th October

4 crash alarms in evening & guns.

29th October

Beach mines going off all night with rough seas.

30th October

Raid in evening. Hit Mason's Laundry, St. James School, Barracks Canteen & houses.

31st October

Raids in evening. Lots of bangs & bumps. Bombs at Browston.


1st November

1 heavy bang in evening.

2nd November

Bumps & bangs in evening, in sea & at Bradwell.

6th November

Bombs in evening, Acle New Rd. & marshes.

7th November

Plane dive bombed station in evening. Very frightening, too close to be pleasant.

10th November

Crash alarms on & off all day. Bombs in sea.

17th November

Guns firing at plane in evening.

18th November

Guns in evening & bombs Caister way.

7th December

Japan declared war on U.S.A & Britain & started by bombing Hawaii & Manilla.

10th December

Japs sank H.M.S. Prince of Wales & Repulse off Singapore.

18th December

Guns & bombs in evening.



13th January

Several crash warnings. Lowestoft had daylight dive bombing attack. At least 50 killed & 200 injured (not counting sailors & W.R.N.S.) Believe 100 killed.

21st January

Big, low plane dropped bombs on Alpha Rd. just before dark - no alarm - red flash & tremendous explosion. 1 horse killed & 1 person hurt.

22nd January

Guns banged while we were in the Regent.


5th February

During breakfast, guns, bombs in sea. Several crash alarms in morning.

18th February

Raid on Northgate St. 6 killed. 5 hurt. No alarm on.


4th March

A dreadful afternoon. Planes over & guns going for 2 hrs. Bombs at Bradwell & in the sea.

8th March

A bit of activity about 10'ish. One terrific bang. 2 land mines on marshes. One unexploded. Lots of windows gone. No one hurt.


13th April

Having had 10 days holiday in Hertfordshire, came home to bumps & bangs during night.

27th April

A disturbed night. Planes going over & guns firing. No bombs here, but Norwich had a bad raid. Hear there are a lot of casualties.

28th April

Planes went over again. Not too bad.

29th April

Again they went to Norwich. Auntie bombed out, not hurt. No details yet.


1st May

Norwich had another raid. Hippodrome, Woolworths, Buntings, Curls & Caleys all hit. Auntie was rescued from Morrison shelter, bomb just outside house & in danger of collapse, taken to rest centre in night clothes.

8th May

Disturbed night, lots of planes over & lots of bombs in distance.

27th May

Planes over. Guns & bombs round Barnard Bridge & also round Caister Golf Club. Messed up Pro's shop & his Green House.

29th May

A disturbed night. Guns & bombs, several planes. Bombs dropped near Harbour's Mouth, Nelson Gardens & Jellicoe Rd, Albany Rd & on Jewsons. 4 killed, 4 injured.

30th May

We raided Germany with 1,250 planes, sounded as if most of them went & returned over Yarmouth. Rather disturbing.


9th June

A small raid at night.

24th June

A dreadful night. Incendiaries dropped followed by H.E. Places burnt include Palmers, Lacons & Parish Church, Palmers Furniture Stores, Lacons Dispatch Dept on Quay & Maltings on Rampart Rd. & St. Nicholas's gutted. H.Es. in Middlegate St. & Rows. 3 killed & 19 injured. During a lull we went to the Bridge & could see the flames on the Parish Church Steeple above the buildings.

26th June

Disturbed night. Planes going to Norwich. They had very bad fire raid. Places hit - Colmans. part of Thorpe station, Watlings, Bonds & churches, also part of Cathedral.

29th June

Discovered signs of rats all over house, very worried, Reg set traps for us & we caught a small one in cupboard.

30th June

Ethel & I slept together because of rats, can stand up to bombs, but not rats. But disturbed night, 2 alarms, planes about & bombs in distance, followed by thunderstorm.


3rd July

A little bit of bother at night. Flares dropped which lit up the town & some bombs destructor hit.

9th July

Flares dropped at night & guns.

11th July

Bombs dropped on bus station & St. Peters Rd. 2 killed, 4 hurt.

23rd July

Disturbed night. Bomb on Queens Rd. No one hurt. This is the 128th raidin which bombs have been dropped.

28th July

Lots of bumps in distance.

29th July

Another nasty night. Plane came in about 9am & dropped bombs on Hamilton & Salisbury Rds. 2 killed, 12 hurt.

30th July

Another bad night. Guns & planes.

31st July

More planes & guns during night.


1st August

Lots of planes about during night & heavy bumps, but no guns.

5th August

Bombs at Haddiscoe Station. 3 hurt.

7th August

Guns & bombs during night.

10th August

Guns during night.

13th August

Planes & bangs in the night.

15th August

Jerry over by 10.30 Planes & bangs. Heavy Barrage.

22nd August

One plane dropped bomb on Baliol Rd. about 11-15.

23rd August

Planes and bombs about 10 o'clock. No bombs.

25th August

Guns at night.

27th August

Bit of noise at night.


8th September

Guns at night after a fortnight's quiet. Caught up with a bit of sleep.

28th September

A bit of noise about 9-30am. A plane over & guns firing. 4 alarms during day. A bit of a change.

30th September

More guns in morning & bombs at Haddiscoe.


19th October

A bit of a "DO" early morning. Guns & bombs in distance. Some unexploded on marshes near Vauxhall. About 8 crashes during the day.

21st October

Guns & bombs in evening on Southtown Rd. Plane brought down, believe one of ours, one or two hurt.


3rd November

Guns in morning. Nothing near.

15th November

Church bells rang for Victory in Egypt. First time since early in war.


12th December

Had plane over during night & guns.

13th December

Guns during evening. No bombs.

22nd December

3 crash alarms before 9-30am. On the last bombs dropped on Apsley, Albion & St. Nicholas Rd. Nasty mess on latter. 9 killed, 15 hurt.



11th January

A bit of excitement in morning. Plane machine gunned bullets through front room window & shop door. Hit card stand. Must just have missed me. Plane brought down in sea. Bombs in Breydon, 3 hurt. One man hit on rear end when diving into shelter.


18th March

A raid about 6-30 in morning on Queens Rd. Hit W.R.E.N. Hostel, about 10 killed & a lot injured. Another raid at night, while we were coming home from pictures. We came home by hopping from shelter to shelter. The last under Brunnings in Regent St. when the warden refused to let us go any further. Were there about an hour while planes dived & guns fired (glad to get out of there, felt much safer in bed at home!) Got to bed about 12-30. HTT Maltings at half-way, small fire at Gorleston, bombs at Runham. Incendiaries in Herring-Fleetwoods. Bibby & Molly's bungalow burnt out at Ormesby. Norwich also had it.

28th March

Lots of noise from 10 to 10 till after 11. Terrific gun fire, no bombs on town, but lots round about.

29th March

A little noise at night but not for long.


7th April

Terrible gale from N.W. all day & river over at night, up 2 hours from 12-30 to 2-15. Water just trickled into shop under door, kept it out with sand bags. What fun we have!!! Some of the roads up Southtown got it badly.


4th May

A bit of noise at night. 3 alarms.

7th May

Bombs dropped before crash finished at 7.30am. On Olive Rd., Lichfield Rd., Anson Rd. near Vauxhall St., end of Market Place, Northgate School & behind Regent Rd. Unexploded on Southtown Station. 8 killed, 4 dying later & about 30 hurt. 7 planes, 1 down.

11th May

Another hit & run about ¼ to 9am. Clear sky. Bombs before alarm again. All north end of town bad. A.T.S. Hostel on Drive hit. A lot killed (25 & 9 soldiers). Others killed 11 & 35 hurt. 15 planes, 2 down. During this raid my teeth started to chatter & made such a noise Ethel said "What a pity they are not false, then you could take them out!". Another go during night, no bombs plenty of guns.

12th May

More alerts early morning. Only guns.


8th July

Have had some alarms again this last few days. Machine gunning at Potter & Martham.

13th July

2 alarms during night & some bumps.


17th August

2 alarms in night, with guns firing at plane.

24th August

Guns opened up just as we were going to bed. 3 alarms.

31st August

Bombs dropped round Acle New Rd., way before alarm about 9pm.


8th September

Guns at plane in evening. Italy surrended.

23rd September

Plenty of night alarms these days. Guns during night.

27th September

Lots of heavy gunfire during night.


2nd October

Guns on Sat (2nd), Sun & Mon nights. No bombs on town.

7th October

Went to see "Dangerous Moonlight" at the Regal. Place so full had to go upstairs & were just under roof. Guns opened up on the roof of "Regal" & continued for some time. Didn't know whether explosions were in the film or outside. Flares dropped.

23rd October

Guns, flares & bombs from 11pm till 12. Rather nasty. No damage.

24th October

Planes & guns from 7-15 to 8-30.


 OFFICIAL FIGURES - As detailed in diary?During the years 1939 to 1945 there were 2,046 alerts & 1,854 alarms.

No. of attacks:

  • On land: 176
  • In sea: 43
  • Total: 219

Bombs dropped:

  • 997 H.E.
  • 93 unexploded
  • 9,060 incendiaries
  • 10 land mines
  • 10 firepot incendiary
  • 10 phosphorous incendiary


  • Males: 97
  • Females: 120
  • Total: 217


  • Males: 315
  • Females: 273
  • Total: 588


  • Totally destroyed or had to be demolished: 1,639
  • Damaged: 19,812

Other Property:

  • Totally destroyed or had to be demolished: 197
  • Damaged: 1,844
This page was added by Martin Collins on 29/04/2016.

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