Last week Luke helped launch a programme of events to remember the 80th anniversary of the Plymouth Blitz that killed 1,172 people in our city and forever changed our city.
The image on this post is from March 1941 from the “Bomb book” which is an incredible piece of wartime history that records every major air raid and each bomb that fell during those raids. The Bomb Book is at the Box and has been digitised into a zoomable version so you can which parts of our city where hit and on what exact day. It’s incredible and humbling in equal measure.
The programme of special events will pay tribute to those who we lost, in COVID-secure moments of remembrance across the city. Luke has been working with organisations from across our city on this project for the past few months and is really pleased to be able to announce that Plymouth will have a series of commemorative events, most live-streamed, to mark this important anniversary.
The events will include:
- The Box will be sharing pages of the Bomb Book marking every raid on Plymouth during World War Two alongside other exhibits from our city’s wartime past.
- 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 Minister Church and the placing of the “Resurgam” inscription outside the church the day after.
- The Marine Biological Association on Plymouth Hoe that was hit by bombs will also be publishing photos and diary entries from staff at the time recounting the raids.
The Lord Mayor will also be leading the city in a moment of remembrance. Babcock, the Royal Navy and the Royal British Legion will all be participating in events. As will those organisations who remember those civilians who fell including Ford Park Cemetery Trust whose chapel is engraved with the names of every victim of the Plymouth Blitz.
Plymouth was targeted by the Luftwaffe as a major naval port, home to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines and as a base to units of the Army and the Royal Air Force. During the 59 bombing attacks, 1,172 civilians were killed and 4,448 injured.
During this time of national crisis, it is more important than ever to remember the Plymouth Blitz and the spirit that saw our city through that dark time. 80 years on we are faced with an invisible foe in the form of Coronavirus and the same spirit of rising again. Just as Plymouth got through the Blitz and the horrors of war, to rebuild, we will do that with this virus.
As a proud military city, we remember those in uniform who served and gave their lives for our freedom, and during the 80th anniversary of the Plymouth Blitz I hope the stories of our city’s civilian population can be retold and rediscovered. I invite everyone in Plymouth to remember this anniversary, be proud of our city’s past and hopeful about the future true to the essence familiar to Plymothians eighty years ago embodied in the resurgam spirit.
Councillor Pete Smith, Deputy Leader of Plymouth City Council 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.
Nicola Moyle, Head of Heritage, Art and Film at The Box said:
As one of the most heavily bombed British cities during World War Two, this spring marks 80 years since one of Plymouth’s darkest hours. The destruction caused by the Blitz changed the city forever and it’s a subject we return to time and time again – not only to inform people about what took place, but also to remind them of how resilient Plymouth is and how it rose from the ashes.
At the Box we are privileged to hold a wealth of material in our archives and in our galleries. One particularly iconic document is called The Bomb Book – it literally captures night by night all the bombs that fell across the city during the Blitz. We will be sharing highlights from this book as part of the anniversary commemoration.
Local historian, Chris Robinson, said:
This year’s 80th Anniversary of the Plymouth Blitz is significant as it represents one of the last opportunities the City has to engage with Blitz survivors who have anything like a mature and reliable recollection of what was arguably the most devastating episode in the area’s history.
Tam McFarlane, National Officer with the Fire Brigades Union, said:
The bombing raids brought destruction to the city and killed indiscriminately, causing the deaths of men, women and children across every area in Plymouth. It was a time of enormous tragedy, but also of extraordinary heroism. The firefighters who fought the fires of the blitz did so with bombs raining down on them, willingly risking their lives to protect their City and the lives of its citizens. Today’s firefighters are determined that the sacrifice of our predecessors is never forgotten.
The Fire Brigades Union, (FBU), has been undertaking detailed research to identify the names of firefighters killed during the Plymouth blitz, no easy task due to the destruction and chaos of the time. The contacts made during the course of the Blitz 80 initiative have proved invaluable in identifying the names of firefighters killed in the line of duty whilst fighting the Plymouth blitz and we are now very close to being able to bring together, for the first time, a full list of names of the heroes who gave their lives to protect the city.
With the help of the local Fire & Rescue Service we will ensure that these names are placed on a new plaque in the City, giving the people of Plymouth the opportunity to remember the firefighters who Winston Churchill memorably described as ‘the heroes with grimy faces’.
Dr Harry Bennett, Associate Professor of History at the University of Plymouth, said:
The Blitz on Plymouth was a pivotal moment in the history of the city which demonstrated the fortitude and determination to “keep calm and carry on” of ordinary citizens. From the ashes of the old they would work together to rebuild and make a new city. As we commemorate the events of March-April 1941, and remember the city’s losses, the University welcomes the opportunity to work with the City Council, and other partners in the city, to remember, to mourn and to pay testament to the generation that carried on. In particular, our researchers will provide a series of public papers via zoom, to offer insights into why Plymouth was bombed, how it impacted the city, the process of rebuilding, and to think about what we can learn from the past as the city rebuilds after the pandemic.
The events programme will be published by Plymouth City Council shortly. A link will be shared here when it is available.