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Woman who survived 1941's bomb in Newmarket High Street dies, aged 94

The way we were: Vera with parents Claude and Maud Drake on her 18th birthday.
The way we were: Vera with parents Claude and Maud Drake on her 18th birthday.

A teenage survivor of the bombing which devastated Newmarket High Street in 1941 has died at her home in the town, aged 94.

Apprentice hairdresser Vera Drake, later to become Mrs Curtis, had no idea of the drama to come when she left her home in Park Cottages on Tuesday, February 18, 1941, to go to work at Green’s Salon.

It was a market day, with stalls down both sides of the High Street doing their usual trade and nothing to mark the day out from any other as Vera set to work in the salon which occupied upstairs premises in a building opposite where the Jockey Club stands today.

But at exactly 2.57pm –the time is known because the clock on the High Street Congregational Church was stopped by the blast – a lone Dornier 17z appeared over the Clock Tower and swept down the street dropping bombs and pouring machine gun fire into the market day crowds.

Buildings, among them Green’s, were evacuated and Vera and her customer were among those who hurried out of the building but, when the customer realised she had left her coat behind, Vera ran back up the stairs to find it.

“She told me that as she ran back, there was a dreadful blast from a bomb which slammed the door shut and took out the side of the building,” said Vera’s daughter Mary Spinks, of Rowley Drive, Newmarket.

Miraculously, Vera was unharmed.

“She would tell the story of that day if she was asked, but always in a very matter of fact way,” said Mary. “She didn’t treat it as anything amazing –it was just something that happened to her.”

When she died on February 11, she left 35 direct descendants – some of whom had never even heard of her adventure.

“She had a lovely life – always smiling , always happy – and she died very peacefully” said Mary.

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