The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History

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SECOND WORLD WAR (1939-1945)


Updated:  29 January 2011 

Doctor Andrew Scotland was appointed the new Director of Education for Plymouth on Friday January 9th 1942.  [1]

On Monday January 12th 1942 a start was made in the Mutley area with the collection of the City's unnecessary railings for iron and steel scrap.  Railings of a historical or ornamental interest were not moved.  Compensation was claimable.  [2]

One notable flying boat flight landed at RAF Mount Batten in the early hours of Saturday January 17th 1942, with Sir Winston Churchill, Lord Beaverbrook and the Air Chief Marshall, Sir Charles Portal, on board.  Their flight from Norfolk, Virginia, via Bermuda (to fool enemy aircraft out hunting for the aircraft) in a Boeing 314A named "Berwick" operated by the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), had covered 3,287 miles and arrived twelve minutes ahead of schedule.  Mr Churchill had taken over the controls from senior pilot Commander Kelly Rogers for part of the journey.  the flight from Bermuda to Plymouth had taken 17 hours 55 minutes.  They left Plymouth for London by special train shortly after 11am.  [2a]

Under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Acts 1939 and 1940, the requisitioning of unnecessary railings started on Monday January 19th 1942 in Compton, Crownhill, Saint Budeaux, Pennycross and Molesworth Wards.  [3]

Princess Marie Louise, grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, visited the YMCA in Union Street, Plymouth, on Saturday January 31st 1942.  [1]

The rationing of soap for domestic use started on Monday February 9th 1942.  [1]

The Hyde Park Social Centre, Plymouth, was opened on Saturday February 14th 1942 by HRH the Duke of Kent.  He remained in the City until February 16th.  [1]

Tuesday March 3rd 1942 was a very special day for a number of City of Plymouth Police and Fire officers who, on that day, attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace when HM King George VI presented them with the British Empire Medals (BEM) for their bravery and gallant conduct during the heavy bombing raids of March and April 1941.  They were: Inspector Herbert Beswick; Police Constable Robert Eakers; Aircraftman (formerly Police Constable) Alan John Hill; Mr William Edgecombe; Mr Arthur Larson; and Private Leslie Stephens, who had been a Messenger in the Fire Brigade and was the youngest person at that time to have received an award at an investiture.  Among those in the audience were 2-years-old Wendy Hill and 9-years-old Beryl Eakers.  [4]

By March 1942 demolition of those buildings that had been destroyed in the air raids was well under way.  Messrs Charles Griffiths, a London company with experience of the aftermath of the London Blitz, were given the job and their foreman in Plymouth was a young man by the name of Mr George Donachy.  [5]

On Friday March 20th 1942, the first anniversary of the large air raids of 1941, King Peter of Yugoslavia arrived in Plymouth.  He took the salute the following day at the Plymouth Warship Week parade.  It was announced on Monday March 30th that Plymouth had collected £1,396,000, which was £170,000 more than Portsmouth.  [1]

White bread was available for the last time on Easter Sunday April 5th 1942.  [1]

The Duke of Gloucester made a private visit to Plymouth on Easter Monday April 6th 1942.  [1]

Mr Herbert Morrison, the Home Secretary, visited Plymouth on Thursday April 9th 1942.  [1]

On Thursday April 23rd 1942 a silver gilt cup that had been given to Sir Francis Drake by Queen Elizabeth I was bought at Christie's in London by the National Arts Collection for £2,100.  It was announced that the cup was to be presented to the City of Plymouth in recognition of the gallantry of its inhabitants.  [1]

The King and Queen made a six hours' surprise visit to Plymouth on Thursday May 7th 1942, during a three-days tour of Devon and Cornwall.  [1]

Plymouth was held in a state of siege during the weekend of Monday May 11th when an exercise involving the Services, Home Guard and Civil Defence was held.  [1]

HRH the Duke of Kent once again visited Plymouth, on Saturday July 11th 1942.  [1]

On Sunday July 26th 1942 sweets and chocolates went on to the "points" system, with a ration of 2 ounces a week.  [1]

Double Summer Time ended on Saturday August 8th 1942, the same day that it was announced that women between the ages of 20 and 45 were to be called up.  [1]

The loss of aircraft carrier HMS Eagle was announced on Wednesday August 12th 1942 followed by the loss of the Devonport commissioned destroyer HMS Foresight on Wednesday August 19th 1942.  [1]

On Tuesday August 25th 1942 HRH the Duke of Kent, a frequent visitor to Plymouth, was killed on active service while on a flight to Iceland.  [1]

The President of Poland visited Plymouth on Sunday August 30th 1942 and met officers and men of the Polish Navy who had distinguished themselves on convey escort duties.  [1]

Gas decontamination demonstrations were to take place in Hamilton Street, Keyham Barton, on September 23rd and 30th 1942.  [5a]

After Saturday September 26th 1942 it was impossible to enjoy an ice cream during the interval in a Gaumont cinema.  The sale of ice creams in their premises was not restored until March 1945.  Chocolates were still available - but only for six months.  [6]

On Tuesday November 3rd 1942 Plymouth-born merchant seaman Duncan Alexander Scott-Ford, aged 21, was hanged at Wandsworth Gaol for treachery.  [7]

Lord Astor was elected to his fourth term of office as Lord Mayor on Monday November 9th 1942.  [7]

The Freedom of Plymouth was presented by Lord Astor to Field-Marshal Smuts at South Africa House in London on Thursday November 12th 1942.  [7]

Church bells were rung throughout the country on Sunday November 15th 1942 to celebrate the success of the forces of the Empire and Allies in the Battle of Egypt.  [7]

On Sunday November 22nd 1942 the milk ration for non-priority consumers was reduced to two pints a week.  [7]

The Archbishop of Canterbury visited the City on Wednesday November 25th 1942 and opened the St John Centre at Devonport.  [7]

Church bells were rung on Christmas Day (Friday December 25th) 1942 between 9am and 12 Noon.  [7]


[1]  Doidge’s Western Counties Illustrated Annual, 1943, Western Morning News Co Ltd, Plymouth, 1943.

[2]  “ -- ? – “, Western Evening Herald, Plymouth, January 8th 1942.

[2a]  "Premier Piloted Giant Berwick: Air Record Broken", Western Morning News, Plymouth, January 19th 1942.

[3]  “ -- ? –“, Western Evening Herald, Plymouth, January ….., 1942.

[4]  “Kiddies See Hero-Fathers Decorated: City Firemen and police at Palace”, Western Evening Herald, Plymouth, March 5th 1942.

[5]  “He Brings Down the House!”, Western Evening Herald, Plymouth, March 5th 1942.

[5a]  Plymouth City Council minute number 1749 dated September 18th 1942.

[6]  Eyles, Allen, “Gaumont British Cinemas”, Cinema Theatres Association and the British Film Institute Publishing, London, 1996, ISBN 0-85170-519-7.

[7]  Doidge’s Western Counties Illustrated Annual, 1944, Western Morning News Co Ltd, Plymouth, 1944.

©  Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK

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