April 1941 entries (anonymous Plymouth Blitz diary, c/o Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project)
Plymouth Blitz 1941 diary
‘Awful Blitz’ – Last year this anonymous diary of a Plymouth civilian turned up in an online auction and is now part of my collection of wartime civilian diaries.
I feel fairly sure the anonymous author is a woman, a health worker, health visitor or district nurse. Some of the handwriting in ink and pencil is cramped or smudged and difficult to read in the small section allotted to each day in this small personal diary.
Two excellent books by Gerald Wasley Devon at War (Halsgrove) and the Plymouth: A Shattered City (Halsgrove, 2004) describe and illustrate the effects of the Plymouth Blitz very well.
Here is an edited selection covering the March and April Plymouth Blitz weeks of 1941, my small tribute to the people of Plymouth and of Blitzed Britain 75 years on.
Where I cannot make out the smudged or cramped ink handwriting, I have put best guesses in brackets or dots if not sure […] and will add details as they become clear over time.
This section of the diary opens with the royal visit after a quiet unblitzed night.
March 1941 Blitz entries (anonymous Plymouth 1941 diary, c/o Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project)
Thursday 20 March 1941
King and Queen in Plymouth. Peace all night.
Dull morning. Down Beaumont, lovely day later. Dev(onport) dips then town in [?blazing?] Sunshine. To Salisbury Road Schools then Dr. Harrison in Princess Square. Home, tea. Cookery school and Easter Cake. Siren 4.30 and again 8.30pm Awful blitz.
Ended midnight. Lay on bed.
Fri 21 March 1941
Up early and out Swilly. Down town lunch hour. Spooners gone. St Andrews burning via ?ove? street to collect marmalade and cake. House craft. Home, lunch and out Swilly. Then [w..] Hawkes to tea. To CH (City Hospital), had bath – could not see Mac. Packed bag. Put oil away. Awful blitz 8.30 till midnight but felt calmer than on Thursday.
[Editor’s note: CH is the abbreviation for City Hospital. Love Street is in Plymouth. St Andrews Church was lost in the Plymouth Blitz. Beaumont maybe Beaumont Road in the St. Jude’s area of Plymouth.Swilly (now North Prospect) was the original official name (and still known to many as Swilly) given to the first council estate built in Plymouth during the 1920s. There was also a hospital there who dealt with many blitz victims.Spooner’s department store was destroyed in the bombing (‘gone’) – see photos and more information at Derek Tait’s website: http://plymouthlocalhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/spooners.html
Sat 22 March 1941.
Up early and out Beaumont, Dentals. Town Hall staff moving into Beaumont. After Dentals went market and then home and cleaned flat. Sun came out. Icky arrived. Had lunch. Went via Drake’s Circus to market and looked at ruins. Firemen still playing hose on smouldering parts. To Stoke House and then walk via Peverell to Hartley Vale and [???] Kelly. Bus home, tea then saw Icky off in awful crowd. Lovely sunny afternoon. To CH City Hospital – found Mac evacuating and saw ruins of Children’s ward. Home. Supper down with J’s
[Editor’s note: Icky and Mac a nurse of some rank are two friends of the writer who recur throughout the diary entries.
It is possible that Mac is Dr Allison McNairn, who won the George Medal for her bravery at the Children’s Ward of the City Hospital during the Blitz.
The Daily Emergency Bulletin No. 1 March 1941 mentions the “12. Public Health Department has been transferred from the Town Hall Stonehouse to Beaumont House, Beaumont Park, Plymouth Telephone Plymouth 2821, Ext. 249.” Bulletin shown on p. 116, Plymouth – A Shattered City by Gerald Wasley.
This Bulletin also mentions “List of Rest Centres open: Mount Gold Methodist, Mount Gold Road; Salisbury Road Baptist, Plymouth; Clarence House, Clarence Place, East Stonehouse; St. Jude’s Hall, Beaumont Road; St. Gabriel’s, Hyde Park Road; Swarthmore Settlement, Mutley Plain; All Saints, Harwell Street; St Peters Hall, Wyndham Street, Plymouth; Central Hall, Saltash Street; YMCA Hostel, Union Street; St. George’s Road, Ryder Road”. The diary writer mentions several of these locations and Rest Centres which were for “Food and Shelter for those rendered homeless”.
From the 1930s, Stoke House became known as Devonport Guardians’ Children’s Home.
See section 4040 http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/archivescatalogue?criteria%3D4040%26operator%3DAND%26toNo%3D40%26accno%3Dyes
The bombing of the City Hospital children’s ward and loss of several nursing staff and young children is remembered in a plaque in Derriford Hospital. It is mentioned in several websites such as the BBC People’s War and also:
Sunday 23 March 1941
Peace all night but difficult to sleep. To CH City Hospital and Swarthmore. Then back Eggbuckland. Walk Stonybridge, Plymbridge, Estover. Jerry siren and guns. Shown over Estover farm 172 cows. Walk George Hotel. Bus CH (City Hospital), did washing and shampoo. Then out Miss Jago. Home with J’s. Cold.
Monday 24 March 1941
Peace all night. Dull drizzle. On [Mutley] Plain and the Salisbury Road. Siren 11 am. To Beaumont and Cobourg with reports. Home, lunch. Walk out Swilly via Peverell. Quiet clinic. Mist and rain. To Stoke House. Mill bridge to see […] Vine via Odeon to Housecraft then home. Siren 6.30. Washed and wrote. Knitted, J’s.
[Editor’s Note: Cobourg Street in Plymouth was also home to Plymouth City High School for Girls, where the writer seems to go for lunch on her rounds. The High School served “Communal Meals will be served at Portland Square, Treville Street School and Plymouth Girls High School between 12 and 2 pm at a cheap rate. open Sunday” according to a Ministry of Information Plymouth Circular 25-4-41 (p. 165, Plymouth – A Shattered City by Gerald Wasley.]
Tuesday 25 March 1941
Quiet night. Rain and drizzle. Mutley Plain, Central Park and Devonport. Home via Hoe and saw Miss Coburn. Back lunch and out Dev[onport] via Cobourg Street, called Stoke House then Beaumont and saw Mrs Robert Walker. Raining. Muddy. CH City Hospital for bath and saw Mac. Dinner etc and eve[ning] with J’s.
Wednesday 26 March 1941
Quiet night. Mist and rain. Up Henders Corner then Salisbury Rd School to Virginia House and Housecraft. Home lunch. Bank and Peverell Dr Johnstone. V. Wet. Saw smashed up Jerry outside CH City Hospital. Out Stoke House [??] Dev(onport). Walk home via Manadon. Lovely evening. Parcel from Jo and letter. Cleaned. Cooked. Wrote letters. Darned, J’s.
[Editor’s Note: the Virginia House Settlement were welfare and community buildings in former church and community buildings on Looe Street and Batters Street developed with the help of Plymouth MP Nancy Astor between the wars.]
Thursday 27 March 1941
Good sleep and nice quiet night. Lovely a.m. To Housecraft and Barbican. Then Beaumont. Saw Thynne re. billeting children. To Devonport Dips then Miss Glover. Lost bag. Hot day out Laira Green School – finished early. Nice walk [??] Marsh Mills, Stonybridge, Estover …Miss ??son, Aerodrome, Stonybridge Eggbuckland and back. Inoc typh: made Easter biscuits. Jenkins gone. Sirens and guns 9pm [??]
[Editor’s note: Inoc typh – See “free inoculations against Typhoid: Persons wishing to avail themselves of this service should go to Prince of Wales Hospital, Greenbank, between 9.30 am – 11 am or 2.30-5pm” according to a Ministry of Information Plymouth Circular 25-4-41 (p. 165, Plymouth – A Shattered City by Gerald Wasley.]
Friday 28 March 1941
Wet. Swilly via Swarthmore and St. Gabriel’s. Home. Lunch via Peverell and to Compton Lodge and saw delicious flat. Walk out Milehouse and did clinic. Rain in through Lukes roof. Home via town. Parnell called. To CH City Hospital, bath. Home and cooked Easter biscuits and saw Jenkins. Knitting and darning.
Saturday 29 March 1941
Cold and dull. Restless night ac/o
To Beaumont no D.S. to town found Dingles and Town Hall Devastation awful. Beaumont billeting Thynne. St Jude’s Rest Centre. after lunch walk over moors Moorland Links. Saw Dr and Mrs Harrison. Bus home from Derriford. CH City Hospital for ironing. Dinner etc Siren 8.45. V.cold talked mrs Montague on steps.
[Editor’s Note: Dingles was a major department store which was damaged like the Town Hall during the Blitz].
Sunday 30 March 1941
Lovely sunny a.m. Up CH City Hospital and saw [???] MacN? Icky arrived. Walk Mount Gold and saw babes then Rest Centre. Then Stonybridge, Plymbridge. Lunch, pine wood in baking sun ….
[Editor’s note: Mount Gold was a hospital in wartime Plymouth. Rest Centres were part of the WRVS, civic and Civil Defence responses to displaced or bombed out people – see previous note.]
Monday 7 April 1941
Brilliant sun but very cold. Town v. Late then punctured so reached Plymouth at noon. Letters and lunch then stopping in lovely sun up Swilly. Back Plain bus and cleaned up flat. Raid 9.30 – 12.30 then again 1.30 – 4.30 am. Dressed in cupboard. Fire watched at Rand and Co.
Tuesday 8 April 1941
Up early for good bath CH City Hospital incendiaries ++ Hartley and HE at Swilly. Devonport via Hartley bus v. Tired all day. Had tea Stoke House then in lovely sun to flat, did ironing and had dinner CH then sewing at Sellecks. Peace all night.
[Editor’s note: ++ is probably the diarist’s symbol for many. HE is High Explosive bombs].
Wednesday 9 April 1941
Cold raw morning. Out school St. Budeaux, shopping and to Communal Dinner [at] High School. Back Devonport and called Stoke House with Rawlin. Back flat and did good clean up. Siren 11 pm just as in bed. Quiet at first then planes and guns. In Sellecks and out firewatching till late.
Thursday 10 April 1941
To CH bath early. Lovely sunny morning. Down Beaumont, fetched luggage from flat > Devonport Dips to [???] Lunch, lovely sun. Throng in shattered Plymouth to Sussex Street Re. patient. Home, flat, cleaned up then caught 3.45 bus Exeter. Coffee Dellars [???] See Whole City. Home. Supper. Planes + Siren in [???] Incendiaries. House burned out Copplestone.
[Editor’s Note: according to website http://www.exetermemories.org.uk, “Deller’s became a favourite venue after the outbreak of war for the many who were displaced, or had been evacuated to Exeter. Members of the Women’s Land Army were guests at the café, along with evacuated children, and of course, service men meeting their sweethearts.” It was damaged by bombing and fire damage in 1942 in the Exeter Blitz.]
Friday 11 April 1941 Good Friday
Did not hear all clear. Nice morning. Walk […] Copplestone and St. [???] road. Incendiaries + Then [???] Home and to 3 hours [church] service. After walk [Radford or Redditch] lake, St. Johns and Ex??? Then home same way. Tea guesthouse St. Johns. Apples, tour round Ralditch. Dinner in drawing room. Sirens. Played piano + + all clear 5 am.
Saturday 12 April 1941
Lovely sunny morning V. Hot walk Exmouth and met DB there and home by bus Littleham. Cycled Marley, Lympstone, Woodbury village, Hogsbrook Rise [in] afternoon. Tea bungalow and home. Dull and cold. Nice ride home. Knitting eve. Siren, noisy, planes + Bombs at Exmouth. Got to bed 12.30.
Sunday 13 April 1941 Easter Sunday
Lovely morning . Up 5.30 and to 6 am service then home and breakfast etc. then walk Littleham church. Packed. Sat on font. Home over cliffs and fields. In afternoon to Exmouth on cycle, see bomb on beach. V. Cold windy Home rain […] Rd. tea and took run out up Knowle. Washed hair. Potato cakes.
Monday 14 April 1941 Bank Holiday
Siren on and off all night. Common on fire and bombs? […] Up breakfast and out before on bike collecting news. Then bus Exeter RB and on Plymouth. Sun came out Ivybridge. To flat. Looked dilapidated after Budleigh. Tea Mrs. Hynes. Home and cleaned then took luggage Mrs H. and slept there night v. Comfy. Siren about 5am.
Tuesday 15 April 1941
Lovely morning. Up dressed and down flat then out Devonport. Down Town and OU Comm Church, did shopping Town and out Dev(onport) – slack ish. Home eve[ning] via Peverell and Mutley. Note Rands re sleeping there. Up Hynes – lovely eve. […] knitting […] Long raid 9.30 to 5.20 am.
Wednesday 16 April 1941
Lovely morning v. Tired. Down flat and baked cake, Sellicks then town and Stoke House and lunch High School. Glorious day. Devonport Park afternoon (crossed out section – up to see Mrs O’Sullivan who was v. Depressing) Think no air raids. Put advert in paper for flat.
Thursday 17 April 1941
Lovely morning. Out to St. Budeaux for A.N. [AnteNatal?] clinic. Lovely day. Home and cleaned flat and to CH City Hospital for tea. Then Dr Hynes. Shoals of adverts from flat, spent week inspecting them.
Friday 18 April 1941
Swilly as usual. To High School, lunch and met [? at ? ?] City Hospital. Caught 3.45 bus Exeter, v. long and crowded journey. Home night perfect peace. Good sleep.
Saturday 19 April 1941
Lovely morning. On bicycle to Exmouth for some margarine. Lovely ride home. In afternoon cycled with DB to Tidwell, Bicton and Yettington. Then to find bomb craters near Blackberry ??farm?? Lost DB. Started to rain. Went home. DB arrived later and lively debate ensued re leaving her. In evening did much cooking ac/o Mick’s injured hand. Peace night. Mick from Skinners [???]
Sunday 20 April 1941
Lovely morning but cold. To Littleham. Church DB home over cliffs. After lunch walk ?? To cliffs in sun. Caught 3.35 bus Exeter and Plymouth. Back to flat prepared supper. To Hynes and peace all night.
Monday 21 April 1941
Down flat early then to School Clinic. Lovely sun. Met Thomson. To town and flat there flat lunch and out [to] Hynes [in] evening. Air raid 9.30 pm Fires planes ++ ended 4.30 am. Devonport attacked and rest of Plymouth.
Tuesday 22 April 1941
Up early and down flat. Still intact. Then out Devonport. Time bomb near Stoke House, much damage Albert Road. Lunch High School and back Devonport. Visited Welcome Rest Centre. Back there afternoon then Yelverton to see Black. Lovely.
Air Raid all night 9.30 to 3a.m. Devonport badly attacked and Police Station and terrace by Hospital. All Town roped off.
Wednesday 23 April 1941
To St. Budeaux school dull and wintry walk Eggbuckland vicarage and Wideycourt. Could not get [to] High School for lunch. Out Devonport – time bomb near [???] Back Stoke House burned out. Then to Gratton [… Fayre …] And to see […] Bus home. To flat and out [to] Hynes.
Thursday 24 April 1941
Air raid 9.30 to 1 a.m. Devonport again and oil tanks Torpoint. To Beaumont Dips and then Town Hall. High School lunch. Lovely sunny day. To Stoke House children in a school and then school inspect[ion] St. Budeaux. Home and cleaned flat. Then [to] Hynes. Shampoo. Lay down and slept 2am.
Friday 25 April 1941
Good rest. Lovely evening. To Swilly via Peverell, Beacon Park. Seized with renal colic before lunch at High School. Could not do clinic. Home. Saw Mrs. Collier. Bed. Down for news and then long good night. Lovely day. Siren 10pm and 1.30am.
Saturday 26 April 1941
Up early and down to get breakfast. To Town Hall, Stoke House, Rest Centres etc. Home lunch. Finished Rest Centres and Ben lovely sunny walk [???] Tralee and back to flat. Then to another Rest Centre then home, washed stockings. Icky rang up. Pleasant evening. Siren 6pm.
Sunday 27 April 1941
Dull and v. cold wind. Down flat and did rest centres. Visited Smellie. Home lunch and up [to] Hynes and down out Holbeton. Walk along Hill Drive into Holbeton […] home to flat and started packing. Walk [… ] Eggbuckland and home.
Monday 28 April 1941
Lovely morning out St Budeaux and Swilly then home flat. Called Marshall’s in Cornwall. Up Mrs. Hynes. Siren 10 to 10 and v. intensive raid. Finished about 1.30 am. Dreadful damage St. Budeaux and Saltash.
Tuesday 29 April 1941
Lovely sunny morning. Out to Devonport – still time bombs. Then to Stoke House children – Matron going Clovelly. Walk out [Linkelly?]
then to High School lunch. Out Swilly afternoon. Tea Mrs. Kennedy. Packed up and went Hynes. No go at [Coll …] Dreadful raid 10 to 10 – 2 a.m.
[Editor’s note: Our local NFS Newquay Fire Crew were lost attending the 27/28 Plymouth April fires.
The diary continues for the rest of the year. Another notable entry is on “May 1 1941 evacuation school children” and “Friday 9 May Evacuation Exam” along with “Saturday 3rd May Churchill Visit” but that is another story for another post.
Children from Stoke House Children’s Home and the related Scattered Homes were evacuated to Clovelly in Devon – see Plymouth Archive catalogue 4040 http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/archivescatalogue?criteria%3D4040%26operator%3DAND%26toNo%3D40%26accno%3Dyes
Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Collection, Newquay Zoo.
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