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Plymouth Blitz 1941

by Freda Thomson

Contributed by 
Freda Thomson
People in story: 
Gladys, Freda, Jean, Roy and Leslie PALMER.
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Contributed on: 
30 August 2004

1941 was not the best of times to be a child growing up in Plymouth. We soon learnt that forecasts of a clear night ahead meant going to bed with some apprehension. My twin sister and I were ten years old and the younger of my two brothers was just eighteen months older. We would all go to bed partly dressed so we could dress quickly to go to the shelter, as the air raid sirens would not always go off before we were woken by the 'crump' of exploding bombs and the din of anti-aircraft fire. Then it was a mad dash with mother telling us to "hurry up", keeping to the wall of the house until we reached the shelter in the garden.
Living next door to the Plymouth Corporation bus depot at Milehouse, we often seemed to be at the centre of the Luffwaffe's attention, with ceilings down and windows blown in; often no gas or electricity.
After the 'all clear', mother would make a stew on the little primus stove, over the open fire, or pack us off to the W.V.S. canteen set up in the nearby car park to provide hot meals.
The night of the blitz was the worst I can remember with the sky lit up by the fires burning the city centre.
It was a stick of bombs - we heard the first one land a little distance away, then the second one dropped nearer, then we heard the third one coming like the roar of an express train and we knew that one was for us. It landed about ten yards away, just behind the large brick wall which divided our garden from the bus depot, burying our shelter in debris. My elder brother and one of the men detailed to assist the casualties in the depot shelter dug us out; someone commandeered a bus and we jumped on with the survivors of the depot bomb, and ended up in a shelter some half a mile away, until it was safe to walk home. In our shocked state we were so thankful to find our house still there, damaged but intact, and so glad to tumble into bed.
We had a big surprise in the morning, to look out of the bedroom window and see a bus opposite us - it had been blown up onto the depot roof.
That day a photographer called when mother was out and asked if he could photograph it, so we let him into the garden. We got a bit of a rollicking from mother as she said he could have been a spy. However the picture duly ended up in the 'Evening Herald'.
On a lighter note, the crater left by the bomb gave us several hours of pleasure when it filled with water and we sailed our homemade boats in it.
Our bulldog 'Towzer' caused a chuckle when he wandered through the hole in the wall - a mechanic who was nervous of dogs was on his back working beneath a bus when he suddenly found himself face to face with 'Towzer' - his exit from under the bus must have been rather panicky and undignified, judging by the guffaws of his workmates when they related the story afterwards.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Plymouth Blitz 1941

Posted on: 31 August 2004 by Audrey Lewis - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Freda Thomson,
Thank you for your very human story. It brought back memories of my time in Plymouth after the war when I saw streets still full of rubble. You must have had a terrible time, I can only imagine!
Audrey Lewis

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