This page gives an account of Plymouth; one of the worst-bombed cities during the blitz in 1941. Page updated 26th April 2015


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Plymouth was one of the worst bombed cities during The Blitz in 1941
 

During the blitz, Plymouth suffered tremendous damage it was described as the worst-bombed city in the country.

For the first 9 months of the war Plymouth went the way it had in previous wars - At distance. Air raid control centres were organised underneath the guildhall and Devonport market, they were to be the centre of activity. In early summer 1940 the blitz began, schools and churches were destroyed. In the dockyard the damage was heavy, some of the old buildings including the ropery and the mould loft were gutted by fire.

The night of April 22nd/23rd 1941 saw the worst disaster of the blitz, an air raid shelter in Portland area had a direct hit, 72 people died. The city centre was completely destroyed. shops and houses, all that was left of the guild hall and the St Andrews church were empty shells.

A Characture of what it was like during the blitz with the planes flying over Plymouth

Children were affected in that their schooling and night time was disrupted. People heard the raid warning and went straight to a shelter until they got the all clear. Mr Roy Lidiard who lived and worked in Plymouth at the time said: "My most vivid recollections of these nightmarish times was one of the six nights between April 21st and 29th 1941 when Luftwaffe unleashed probably the most ferocious, hideous sustained

attacks during the Plymouth bombardments". Plymouth was affected so badly because most of the blitz was at night. The war came and no-one seemed to believe it had really happened and that it would not last long, but in the first few months a substantial amount of shipping was sunk and quite a few people knew someone or lost someone, this brought the reality of the situation to the surface quickly.

The first bomb to drop on Plymouth dropped on the North Prospect area. It was a shock to everyone and no-one could really believe it, crowds of people turned up outside the bombed houses, but it was a forerunner of what was to come. It was really surprising how people can cope in times of trouble.

The Anderson Shelters were earthy and damp but whether they liked it or not people had to leave their beds and stay in the shelter for as long as it lasted. They got quite used to the gunfire and the planes above. The morning after the raid you would see alot of people wandering around, but help was always at hand - community centres were set up with rows of beds and hot drinks and refreshments were offered.

The night that Milehouse Cemetery got bombed there was no warning; just an explosion that put a lot of people into a state of confusion. The worst time for Stoke and Devonport was 1941, this was when Fore Street was bombed, houses were left abandoned, the people who lived in them had had enough, some houses that were standing had been damaged by blast from the high explosives, but in Stoke and

A young boy with a bomb that was recovered from the blitz

Devonport some families left for good. The dockyard had taken on women workers to do mens jobs, a lot of them really enjoyed their work, you would see them with head scarves and turbans. There was something very lively about it all, even today those that are around will tell you about their stint in the dockyard, and they are very proud to have done their part.

It was with great relief when the war came to an end, but nothing was the same again but even so the matter was made much worse because Devonport was sliced up and cut off. The re-building for Devonport was badly planned, the area around Pembroke Street should have been preserved. Much has changed, so much so, that no-one stops to think about the buildings which are left.

But some are still there, and these deserve a mention, so that the future generations will take more than an interest in the past history of Plymouth. To begin with Devonport Column was built in 1842 to commemorate the new name of Devonport which was formally dock, the Guildhall, and St Andrews church stand, and many buildings on the Barbican, which can be noted as the "oldest" part of Plymouth and still the most historic.

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