Special blessing at Civic Service to mark 75th anniversary of Plymouth Blitz

Poppy seeds will be blessed by the Bishop of Plymouth at a civic church service to honour those who lost their lives in the Plymouth Blitz.

The Right Reverend Nick McKinnel will bless the seeds during the service at the Minster Church of St Andrew on Sunday 24 April at 3pm to commemorate 75 years since the city’s darkest hour.

The seeds will then be planted the following day around Charles Church, the bombed out church at the top of Exeter Street which has been left as a permanent reminder to those lost their lives in the Blitz.

During the service, 1,178 LED lights will shine in memory of each civilian lost.

Plymouth was one of the most heavily bombed British cities during World War Two. The first bombs fell on the city on 6 July 1940, with the heaviest period of bombing occurring in March and April 1941.

Between 6 July 1940 and 30 April 1944:
• There were 59 separate raids
• The air raid sirens sounded 602 times
• Two main shopping centres, two guildhalls, a theatre, six hotels and eight cinemas were destroyed
• 26 schools bombed
• 41 churches struck
• 1,900 public houses destroyed by bombs or fire
• 3,754 homes were destroyed
• 18,389 homes were in need of major repairs
• 4,448 civilians were injured
• 1,178 civilians were killed

Almost all the deaths and destruction occurred over seven nights in March and April – the 20 and 21 March and then 21, 22, 23 and 28 and 29 April.

The date of the service has been chosen as it is close to the anniversary of the Portland Square bombing of 22 April 1941, which saw the biggest loss of life – 76 people – in a single incident when the square’s shelter suffered a direct hit.
The service will be conducted by the Rector of the Minster Church of St Andrew, Reverend Joe Dent and will be accompanied by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, Plymouth.

One Saltash man says his family will forever be linked with the Plymouth Blitz as his grandfather was one of six town firemen who lost their lives answering the call to help Plymouth in its hour of need.

Barry Brooking, who will be part of a small ceremony in Saltash said: “My grandfather trained the part time fire crew and worked as a quarry man. He was not actually on duty the night the call came but decided to go along as an extra to support his crew.”

He said: “Plymouth’s fire service called for help from all over the South West, Newquay, Barnstable and Exeter and while people were fleeing the city, his team crossed the Tamar in a taxi with a trailer pump in tow. There was no big red fire engine – it was an almost Dad’s Army effort.”

But in King Street near Devonport, it was blown to smithereens. They all died and were later buried together.
The names of the voluntary firefighters Francis J Brooking, Stanley R Crabb, Alfred J Crapp, Bernard Jasper, John R.H Stanlake and Leslie G Tibbs are now remembered for ever by firefighters who have a plaque at the fire station.
Their names are also on the wall of St Andrew’s, where the service is taking place.

Plymouth is hosting a number of events to mark the anniversary of a time that changed the city forever.
For more details about how to book and for more information about the programme visit www.plymouth.gov.uk/blitz75 or email plymouthblitz75@gmail.com and on social media look out for the hashtag: #PlymBlitz75