Although, throughout the centuries, the defence of Great Yarmouth and Gorleston-on-Sea had at times been seen as a priority, by the start of World War I, on 3rd August 1914, the East Coast, from the Wash to the Thames, was largely undefended. Great Yarmouth and Gorleston had, for their protection, a battery of muzzle loading relics at South Denes.
Very early in the War Great Yarmouth paid a price for this neglect. On 3rd November 1914, it became the first town in the U.K. to be attacked by the Germans. This took the form of a bombardment from the sea by a flotilla of seven German Cruisers and attendant warships. Fortunately no-one was hurt as the shells fell harmlessly on the beaches, but I guess it put the fear of God into the local Gull population.
This was the first time that the UK had suffered an attack on its native soil in 250 years. As a result of this attack a train sporting two 12lb Naval Guns supported by machine guns was commissioned to patrol the coast from Great Yarmouth to Mundesley for the duration of the War. These guns, however never fired a shot in anger and did not stop the German Navy revisiting Great Yarmouth.
A further bombardment took place on 25th April 1915 again resulting in no damage to the town. Experience has taught us that the Germans can be persistent and this trait paid off for them on 14th January 1918 when, in a 5 minute period, they fired over 50 shells at the town resulting in 4 deaths. Where was the train with the 12lb guns? Perhaps it was late ...... twice?.