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Maritime Festival sails back to landmark centenaries

Harry Cator VC

Battlefield heroism and an unwelcome piece of air warfare history will be highlighted when Great Yarmouth’s Maritime Festival trawls through impact of the First World War on the town.

Guides in the festival’s Heritage Quarter will highlight some of the amazing bravery shown by local soldiers in the Great War, which ended 100 years ago, including the VC won by Harry Cator.

Visitors will also be signposted to the scene of one of Britain’s first ever air raids, which claimed the lives of two civilians.

The Maritime Festival, at the historic South Quay on September 8 and 9, is a celebration of the town’s links with the sea but also its rich history.

The weekend is organised by the Greater Yarmouth Tourism and Business Improvement Area as part of its drive to bring extra visitors and spending power to the borough.

The Heritage Quarter marquee will also feature another landmark centenary – of the Suffragette movement. People can talk to the guides about the Suffragette movement and use a polling booth for a fun test to see if they would have been eligible to vote in 1918.

The Norfolk Records Office will be on hand to give advice on tracing family history, including ancestors’ wartime roles. It will also host craft sessions to make a wall of poppies.

A wartime nurse from the Time & Tide Museum will show how injured soldiers were treated. There will also be Great War objects to handle, and a chance to make a Suffragette badge.

On Sunday visitors can learn, from historical reenactor Nigel Amies, about life in the Western Front trenches through the eyes of a Norfolk Regiment soldier. They can handle objects, equipment and weapons, hear the soldier’s songs and poems and see cartoons depicting the war.

Wartime footage from the area will be shown by the Vintage Mobile Cinema bus.

Festival chairman Aileen Mobbs said: “The Maritime Festival is a feast of ships, music, crafts, family fun and all things seafaring, but we also like to celebrate Great Yarmouth’s history – and this year’s important centenaries give an added power and poignancy.”

 

AIR RAID TRAGEDY
On January 19, 1915 Great Yarmouth gained the dubious honour of becoming the first British town to suffer civilian deaths in an air raid.

A Zeppelin from Germany, whose original target was Humberside, was forced to divert by bad weather. Great Yarmouth was the unlucky Plan B as it unleashed its deadly cargo of 10 bombs at around 8.30pm.

Samuel Smith, a 53-year-old shoemaker, and Martha Taylor, 72, were killed in the St Peter’s Plain area where a blue local history plaque keeps their memory alive.

The L3 Zeppelin had earlier dropped parachute flares between Happisburgh and Winterton to help navigation. A sister Zeppelin on the same raid also killed two people in King’s Lynn.

The history-making air attack marked the start of a campaign of around 50 air raids on the UK during the war which killed 557 people and injured another 1,358.

BATTLEFIELD HERO
On the front line, the bravery of Yarmouth man Harry Cator earned him the top military medal honour of a Victoria Cross.

At Aras in France in April 1917 he and two men attacked a German machine gun which was inflicting heavy casualties. His colleagues were killed but Harry went on alone, killing the enemy team - enabling the trench to be held, and 100 prisoners to be captured.

When his jaw was shattered in an explosion just days later he was taken to hospital in Bristol – where he was carried shoulder high in hero’s welcome.

Harry was also commandant of a prisoner of war camp in south Norfolk during the Second World War. He died in Norwich in 1966 and is buried at Sprowston.

In 1916 he was also awarded the Military Medal for bringing back 36 wounded men from no-man’s land during the Somme offensive.

A postcard showing the historic Zeppelin air raid damage in Great Yarmouth