East Anglia And The Midlands


The rich farmland and watery flats of East Anglia stretch northeast from London, cloaking the counties of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, and Suffolk, as well as parts of Essex. Literally England's newest landscape, the vast plains of the fens were drained as late as the 1820s. Mention of The Midlands inevitably evokes grim urban images, but there is a unique heritage and quiet grandeur to this smoke-stacked pocket. Even Birmingham, the region's much-maligned center, has its saving graces, among them a lively nightlife and the Cadbury chocolate empire.

On the afternoon of 25 March, she was just north of Blyth in Northumberland when suddenly, out of the heavily cloud-laden sky, a squadron of German Heinkel III bombers came in for the attack, strafing the ship and scoring three direct bomb hits.

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At least one exploded in the hay-filled no. 3 hold, causing a raging inferno and leaving the ship very badly damaged. The two naval DEMS gunners put up a good effort with the old deck gun, but the Heinkels slipped back into the cloud cover, presumably untouched. A large sea-going tug, Sea Giant, was called to accompany the Somali on her voyage northwards while the crew fought desperately to get the fire under control, but by 2200 hrs on the following evening, when the vessels were seven miles SE of North Sunderland Point, the fire gained ground. With worsening weather, most of the crew were taken on board the escorting armed trawler HMT Pelican. In the early hours of 27 March, the flame and smoke from the fire had been observed from the shore and lifeboats from Holy Island, North Sunderland and Boulmer were launched and went to her aid, with the North Sunderland lifeboat W.R. A. Being launched at 0155 hrs.

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