15 March 2021
The city of Plymouth will come together in March and April to remember the 1,174 civilians who died during the 1941 Blitz in a special series of commemorative events.
Plymouth was one of the most heavily bombed British cities during World War Two. The first bombs fell on the city on 6 July 1940, with the heaviest period of bombing occurring in March and April 1941.
Between 6 July 1940 and 30 April 1944:
- There were 59 separate raids
- The air raid sirens sounded 602 times
- Two main shopping centres, two guildhalls, a theatre, six hotels and eight cinemas were destroyed
- 26 schools bombed
- 41 churches struck
- 1,900 public houses destroyed by bombs or fire
- 3,754 homes were destroyed
- 18,389 homes were in need of major repairs
- 4,448 civilians were injured
- 1,174 civilians were killed
Keith Richards was a seven year old boy living in St Austell at the time of the Blitz. He vividly remembers a night of particularly heavy bombing in Plymouth had an impact on him 40 miles away:
I can remember being up in my room and looking out the window and seeing this strange glow in the sky. I was too scared to get out of bed as I didn’t know what it was because everything else was so black. The next morning I remember my parents talking about the bombings and how badly Plymouth had been hit. Still to this day I can’t believe that the glow I had seen from all those miles away was the city burning.
Almost all the deaths and destruction occurred over seven nights in March and April – 20 and 21 March and then 21, 22, 23 and 28 and 29 April.
Councillor Pete Smith, Deputy Leader of Plymouth City Council and the Cabinet Member responsible for Events said:
As one of the most heavily bombed British cities during World War Two, this March and April mark 80 years since one of Plymouth's darkest hours. The destruction caused by the Blitz changed the city forever - but so did the way it rose from the ashes and rebuilt itself. This is an opportunity for us to remember everyone who was lost and everyone who survived. As we continue to face the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic it's also a really timely reminder of how resilient Plymouth can be in the toughest of times.
Plymouth is hosting a number of COVID secure events to mark the anniversary of a time that changed the city forever including:
- The Lord Mayor, Councillor Chris Mavin, will be giving a speech with the Bishop of Plymouth, to provide a blessing and lay a wreath on behalf of the citizens of Plymouth at the Resurgam door.
- The Box will be sharing pages from the Bomb Book that records the raids that took place on Plymouth as well as other insights from its collections.
- A special remembrance service will be held for the 76 people lost in the bombing of the Portland Square air raid shelter organised by the University of Plymouth.
- The Fire Brigades Union will be unveiling a new memorial to the 41 firefighters who died during the Plymouth Blitz in a special online service.
- CityBus will be publishing photographs of the bomb damage to their Milehouse depot that included buses blown onto the roof of the depot by the force of the blast.
- St Andrew's Church will be holding a special livestreamed service to mark the 80th anniversary of the bombing of the Minster Church and the placing of the "Resurgam" inscription outside the church the day after.
- Museum of Policing in Devon and Cornwall will be hosting an online exhibition, showcasing the firsthand experiences of two police personnel.
- The Commonwealth War Graves Commission will be hosting online talks.
- Marine Biological Association will be sharing stories of the heroic Director at the time, Stanley Kemp.
For more details and the full programme of events go to the Visit Plymouth website and on social media look out for the hashtag #plymouthblitz80.