From 20 March until 26 April (with the exception of a couple of events outside those dates), Plymouth came together to look back at the huge sacrifice made by civilians during the Plymouth Blitz, 80 years ago.
Kicked off by the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Chris Mavin, making a speech and laying a wreath in front of the Resurgam door at the Minster Church of St Andrews and a beautiful service led by Rector Joe Dent the following day, the city was able to look back at the experiences of those who came before us in some really poignant moments.
Throughout the period there were a number of educational events for children and adults. There were both virtual lectures and in-person cemetery tours, organised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the University of Plymouth. There were also some incredible stories and resources shared by the Box, the Marine Biological Association, Plymouth Citybus, Devon and Cornwall Police and the Museum of Policing in Devon and Cornwall. Plymouth’s Laureate of Words, Laura Horton, played a big part in painting a vivid picture of life during the Plymouth Blitz with her short piece of prose, ‘Roll out Plymouth’ which she read out at a number of events. You can also read the story for yourself here.
Approaching the end of the commemorations, there were a number of events which were able to take advantage of some of the reduced restrictions in a covid-safe way. On 22 April there was a fantastic service at St. Stephens Church in Saltash, which honoured the six auxiliary firemen lost on that date in 1941, now buried in Saltash, as well as all the other firemen and women who bravely fought and lost their lives during the Blitz in Plymouth.
Later that day, the University of Plymouth held a ceremony of remembrance for the bombing of the Portland Square Air Raid Shelter, with readings and wreath-laying to pay tribute to all those lost in the disaster.
A further event honouring the fallen firefighters took place at Greenbank Fire Station on 25 April. At this live-streamed event, with the support of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service and the Fire Brigades Union, the Lord Mayor unveiled a new red plaque with the names of all those men and women who fell during Plymouth Blitz.
Devonport Royal Dockyard paid tribute with a remembrance ceremony on site on 26 April, with Senior Naval Officers from Devonport, Heads of Babcock, Industrial and non-industrial Unions, Serco, MOD Police and MGS in attendance.
Finally, Luke hosted a very special livestream, sharing a video of pupils from The Cathedral School of St Mary presenting letters from Ambassadors and High Commissioners from countries who supported Plymouth during the Blitz period to the Lord Mayor of Plymouth. You can watch this heart-warming and moving video here.
It is unfortunate that the Royal Navy searchlights were not visible on the evening of 26 April as we had hoped. With the strong moon and lack of cloud cover, they were difficult to see. However, I know that some smaller boats took part so I would like to thank those that did. It was a beautiful night to watch the sun set and reflect on Blitz 80 even without the searchlights, and thank you for everyone who came out to remember the fallen.
Luke would like to thank everybody who took part in these commemorations – it was really special to see so many come together to put on a wide range of events and offer so many different resources to help us look back.
Back in October 2020 I started pulling together a group of organisations to make sure that even in the midst of the pandemic the sacrifice of Plymouth in the Blitz 80 years on would not be forgotten. I am proud to have chaired this group and want to thank Plymouth for marking this important anniversary that forever changed our city.
We will remember them.