doc

A MEMORIAL garden has been unveiled to mark the 77th anniversary of the first two civilian deaths of the Second World War on the British mainland.

The £12,000 project in Clacton was first thought of several years ago and now the work has been carried out and a special stone commissioned for the site.

A Heinkel German bomber came down in the town’s Victoria Road “causing severe damage and considerable distress” on April 30, 1940.

Frederick and Dorothy Gill both died when the plane crash landed on their home at number 25.

John Fairhall, from Suffolk, attended to read an eyewitness account of the incident written by his father, Donald, who lived in Clacton at that time.

It read: "I remeber the night of April 30, 1940. I was 16 years old and lived with my parents in Wellesley Road, close to the railway station. I was getting ready for bed when the air raid siren sounded, followed by the sound of anti-aircraft gunfire.

"Then from an upstairs window I saw a fierce fire blazing about half a mile away at the end of Skelmersdale Road. I got dressed and ran towards it. I was halfway there when the night sky went white and a tremendous blast nearly knocked me off my feet.

"By the time I reached the scene of the fire the ground was littered with metal debris from the exploded aircraft.

"I picked up a sheet of aluminium about five feet by three of four, and recognised part of a black cross outlined in white against a blue-green background. I showed it to two policemen, the only other people standing nearby, and told them I thought it was from a Heinkel. They dismissed this and assured me it was “one of ours”. Then I picked up a panel of dials with German lettering on it, but the policemen remained unconvinced.

"The following day workmen were clearing the rubble from around the wrecked house and were resting their tools on what appeared to be a hot water tank from a bathroom.

"A bomb disposal officer recognised it as a magnetic mine which had remarkably survived the explosion of the first one. The site was cleared while it was removed and made safe. A few days later I was passing the gas works which was also the site of the mortuary. Drawn up outside was a gun carriage bearing two coffins draped with coverings displaying swastikas in vivid red black and white heraldic designs. hese made a memorable impression reminding me that the swastika was not the invention of the Nazis; it had far more historic origins.

"This was the first enemy action on the British mainland and triggered an immediate reaction. The schools which had been evacuated to Clacton from London immediately packed up and went home. Later, the local schools, including my own, activated plans that had already been made to evacuate. We all set off from Clacton Railway Station on June 3 for an unknown destination in the Midlands.

"Other people made plans to move further west, and Clacton became almost a ghost town. My family remained however, and my father was an air warden, who later helped out when a house opposite ours was demolished by a bomb.”