Operation Blitz on Plymouth

The 'Blitz on Plymouth' was a German series of bombing raids on the British city of Plymouth on the southern coast of England (6 July 1940/30 April 1944).

The royal dockyards at Devonport were the German campaign’s main target in order to facilitate German efforts during the 'Battle of the Atlantic'. Portsmouth, some 170 miles (275 km) to the east in Hampshire, was also targeted by the Germans as it too had a royal dockyard. The civilian casualties round the dock area were very high, but the dockyards nonetheless continued in operation.

The first bombs fell on the city on Saturday 6 July 1940 at North Prospect, killing three people. Early in 1941, five raids reduced much of the city to rubble. Attacks continued to a period as late as May 1944, with two minor air raids in that month. During the 59 bombing attacks, 1,172 civilians were killed and 4,448 injured.

The number of residents fell from 220,000 at the outbreak of war to, at one point, a mere 127,000. In 1941 most of the children were evacuated and on any night that a raid was expected thousands of people were taken by lorry into the countryside, usually to the fringes of Dartmoor.

In March 1941, St Andrew’s parish church was bombed and badly damaged. Amidst the smoking ruins a headmistress nailed over the door a wooden sign saying simply Resurgam ('I shall rise again' in Latin), and that entrance to St Andrew’s Church is still known as the 'Resurgam' door. Charles Church, which was destroyed by incendiaries on the night of 20/21 March 1941, has been preserved in its ruined state as a memorial to civilian victims of the 'Blitz on Plymouth'.

The laboratory of the Marine Biological Association on Plymouth Hoe was also severely damaged on the evening of 20 March 1941. On the evening of 22 April 1941, in the course of an air attack on the central area, the communal air raid shelter at Portland Square received a direct hit which killed 76 people; only three of the people in the shelter survived.

During the 'Blitz on Plymouth', the two main shopping centres and nearly every civic building were destroyed, along with 26 schools, eight cinemas and 41 churches. In total, 3,754 houses were destroyed with a further 18,398 seriously damaged.