Plymouth bombed again

A Naval bomb disposal unit deals with an unexploded bomb during the Plymouth blitz.

Plymouth was just one of the major port cities that suffered repeat visits from the Luftwaffe during March and April. Despite attempts to lure the bombers to target fires in the open country outside the city, it was hit very badly again:

On the 29th/30th April Plymouth and Devonport were again attacked, and, although the raid was on a larger scale than any of its predecessors, it began with inaccurate, bombing in open country North of the city, where wood-fires at Mount Edgcumbe were heavily bombed. It was comparatively late in the raid before the enemy found his targets, and the attack did not therefore seem so heavy as some of its predecessors.

The raid lasted nearly four hours, and, though its effects cannot yet be fully assessed, it is clear that, after all that the city and its environs have lately been through, this raid struck a heavy blow. The main weight of attack was felt at Keyham and Milehouse, between Plymouth and Devonport.

High explosives seem to have predominated over incendiary attack, and only 20 fires were reported. Fires were started in Milehouse, at a Devonport gasholder and once again at the Tor Point oil cisterns. In addition to areas of military importance, the city’s civilian life seems again to have suffered severely, and a shopping centre at Mutley, rendered more important by the destruction done elsewhere in earlier raids, was damaged in this one. Residential districts suffered severely, the worst damage of this kind being reported from the Beacon Park and Hartley areas. The fires were all brought under control during the morning. Casualties cannot yet be accurately estimated.

Plymouth has rallied with vigour from all attacks. It is natural that after five such raids the people should be somewhat shaken, but the movement of population from the city is regarded as reasonably well in hand, and the problem is being largely solved by the provision of rail tickets for would-be evacuees, and by the evacuation of children from specified areas.

From the Home Security Report for the week.

Joyse Prowse was 14 at the time:

My mother said to me after the worst night, ‘Come on, we’ll walk to town to see what damage they’ve done,’ so we walked to the end of Ebrington Street and stood at ‘Burton’s Corner’ and saw nothing but smouldering rubble, hundreds of fireman and hoses. They said, ‘You can’t go any further.’ We didn’t intend to anyway, we just stood, Mother crying her eyes out. I’d never seen mother cry before. She was heart broken.

Read the whole story at BBC People’s War

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Last ditch stand at Kalamata

Greek and British prisoners of war are marched off by the Germans, Greece, April 1941.

When order to retreat to cover was given Sergeant Hinton shouted, ‘To Hell with this who will come with me’, and ran to within several yards of the nearest guns. The guns fired, missing him, and he hurled two grenades which completely wiped out the crews. He then came on with bayonet …




Himmler visits Mauthausen

Himmler talking to SS Guards in Mauthausen concentration camp, 27th April 1941

The 12 hour days of hard physical labour on a meagre diet were lethal for many of the inmates. But there were other more direct methods of killing. The Stairs of death involved long lines of prisoners carrying 50kg granite blocks up the stairs. Those who stumbled would fall on the prisoners following them, creating a domino effect that killed or injured dozens.




The last defence line in Greece

German parachute troops relax after the assault on the Corinth Canal.

Then the Germans started dropping the parachutists, and it was quite evident that nothing was going to stop them. Eventually there were left only the Sergeant, Alan Ponsford, and myself (bombardier), and deciding the only course of action was to spike the gun, we threw the breech block as far as we could into a corn field.




Kiel targeted by Bomber Command

A Photographic Reconnaissance Unit composite image of Kiel, April 1941. Locating German capital ships, particularly the latest battleship, the Bismarck, was a high priority.

Kiel was heavily attacked on three nights and over 150 tons of H.E. and 20,000 incendiaries were dropped. On two of these occasions the weather was good, but exact observation was difficult, due to ground haze and to intense antiaircraft and searchlight activity, but many fires were seen to break out, some of them in the vicinity of Krupp’s works.




Life in the Warsaw ghetto

Jews mount a truck in the Warsaw ghetto before being taken off for forced labour, May 1941

Which is why your heart pounds whenever you go outside and why it’s considered an amazing success if you manage to get where you’re going without incident. People are so wound up that the sight of a German truck is enough to set off a panic and send everyone scurrying.




Plymouth hit again

The burnt out bus garage in Plymouth during the 1941 blitz.

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.




Plymouth targeted again

The Royal Navy base at Devonport made Plymouth an inevitable target for the Luftwaffe.

The sight of Plymouth burning was one I will never forget. As we sped past Central Park we looked over the whole city which seemed ablaze from end to end. Searchlights moved through the sky lighting up the barrage ballons and occasional aircraft. And still the guns thundered on. In the morning Plymouth was a smoking ruin.




Dawn bombardment of Tripoli

The Commander in Chief Mediterranean Admiral Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham, widely known as 'ABC', responsible for several famous naval actions including Taranto and Matapan.

Air spotting was rendered difficult by smoke and dust from the air attack, but three or four ships were set on fire or sunk in the naval basin and two or more others hit as well as a destroyer; the harbour facilities and shore establishments were also seriously damaged, some 530 tons of shells having been fired. No naval units were encountered and there was no reply from the shore batteries for 20 minutes.




German break through in Greece

German infantry on the march in Greece, April 1941

The most decisive German effort seems to have been made on the 20th April. Those forces which had already on the day before reached the plain of Thessaly advanced on Lamia, whilst German motorised forces struck across the Pindus Mountains from Grevena and reached the Yannina area. At the same time, the roads of withdrawal of the Imperial and Greek forces were attacked by dive-bombers with fighter escort, whilst similar attacks were made on the harbour of Piraeus.