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SECOND WORLD WAR (1939-1945)


Updated:  27 January 2011 

In January 1944 the United States' army opened a camp at Vicarage Road, Saint Budeaux, to house forces making preparations for the D-Day landings.  [1]

General Montgomery paid a flying visit to Plymouth on Saturday January 15th 1944, the day that the Plymouth Merchant Navy Week was opened by the Lord Mayor of London.  [2]

Alderman Clifford Tozer was appointed the leader of Plymouth City Council on Monday January 17th 1944.  [2]

On Tuesday January 18th 1944 the Prime Minister arrived in Plymouth aboard HMS King George V on his way back to London.  It was a filthy night, with driving rain, so there were no onlookers.  A special train carried Mr Churchill to London, where he made a dramatic appearance from behind Mr Speaker's chair in the House of Commons.  [2]

The United States' army opened a field hospital at Manadon Vale on Saturday February 12th 1944.  [1]

It was announced on Tuesday March 14th 1944 that Plymouth's rates were to remain at 10s 4d in the £.  [2]

Double Summer Time was introduced on Sunday April 2nd 1944.  [2]

General Montgomery visited the district on Thursday April 13th 1944, and visited the Dockyard and Princetown prison.  [2]

Plymouth City Council held a special meeting on Tuesday April 25th 1944 to discuss the constitution of the new Reconstruction Committee.  [2]

Two days later, on Thursday April 27th 1944, the "Plan for Plymouth" was published.  [2]

After a break of some six months the Hun gave Plymouth a sharp reminder during the early hours of Sunday April 30th 1944 that it was still very much a front line City.  The main target of the attack was the waterfront, with the worst incident being in the vicinity of Oreston, where 18 people were killed and 7 seriously injured.  An Anderson shelter and a public shelter were both hit, causing this high toll.  Also hit was the depot of the Western National Omnibus Company at Prince Rock, where three firewatchers were killed and many of the buses were destroyed by fire.  Browning Road, Fisher Road and Beaumont Street at Milehouse also suffered much damage.  Bombs fell over a wide area, including the Rising Sun Public House at Crabtree and Laira railway sidings.  The more harmless ones fell on the Tothill recreation ground and the Gas Company's recreation ground.  [3]

Plymothians were not to know it yet, but that was the last they were to see of the German bombers.

The Plymouth Emergency Committee was informed on Friday May 12th 1944 that the Admiralty intended purchasing 230 acres of Devonport for an extension to the Royal Dockyard.  [2]

The First Lord of the Admiralty visited Plymouth City Council on Tuesday May 23rd 1944.  [2]

General Montgomery addressed a meeting of American army officers at the Odeon Cinema on Whit Sunday, May 28th 1944.  [2]

American troops gather at the Odeon Cinema to hear General Montgomery.

American troops gather at the Odeon Cinema, Plymouth,
to hear General Montgomery.
©  Western Morning News Co Ltd.

Plymouth's Salute the Soldier Week was opened on Saturday June 3rd 1944 by Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Chatfield.  [2]

Tuesday June 6th 1944 -- D Day.  The sun set at 8.20pm on the evening of Monday June 5th 1944 and it was almost Full Moon that night.  It is estimated that some 36,000 troops left Plymouth the following morning for the beaches of Normandy.  The first to leave were 110 ships carrying the men of the United States VII Corps of the 4th Infantry Division, under the command of Rear-Admiral D P Moon aboard the "USS Bayfield".  After joining up with more vessels and troops from Salcombe, Dartmouth and Brixham, they were among the first to land at Utah Beach.  The second group to depart for Utah Beach was the US 29th Infantry Division under Commander C D Edgar.  [1]

The Government decided on Tuesday July 11th 1944 to lift the ban on access to coastal areas of Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and part of Hampshire.  [2]

From Monday July 24th 1944 the Vicarage Road Camp at St Budeaux was used as a receiving base for troops returning from France.  [1]

Major Glenn Miller and the American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Force (AEF) performed a concert at the Odeon Cinema, Plymouth, on Monday August 28th 1944.  Queues started forming at just after 9pm for the concert at 10.15pm and the police and military police formed cordons to control the crowd.  This was largely because it was announced that Bing Crosby hoped to appear on stage but he was detained elsewhere making recordings.  Only military and naval personnel were admitted to the concert, anyway, and admirals and ratings, generals and privates, sat together to listen to the 52-piece orchestra.  The vocalist was Sergeant Johnny Desmond and the Crew Chiefs were also on stage.  For two of the numbers the drummer, Sergeant Ray McKinley, took over the baton.  Earlier in the day Major Miller was given a hurried tour of the places of interest in the City and was entertained aboard a |British naval vessel prior to the concert.  [4]

Double Summer Time ended on Sunday September 17th 1944, the day that Britain's black-out restrictions were all but banished.  [2]

The publication of the local newspaper the "Western Morning News" had been transferred to Tavistock in April 1941 after the big raids of March that year.  On Sunday October 15th 1944 staff returned to the Plymouth office.  [5]

Extra rations for all were announced by the Minister of Food, Colonel Llewellin, on Wednesday October 18th 1944, as a special "Christmas Box" for the nation.  [5]

On Wednesday October 25th it was announced that the liquid milk ration for non-priority consumers was to be reduced from 2½  to 2 pints per week.  [5]

The Town and Country Planning Act, which was to have an important effect on Plymouth, became law on Friday November 17th 1944.  [5]

'Home Guard Units of the Plymouth Garrison will now "Stand Down"'.  This order, followed by the command "Dismiss", was given on the Hoe by the Garrison Commander, Colonel G Thomson, DSO, MC, on Sunday December 3rd 1944.  [6]

Read more about the Standing Down ceremony of the Home Guard..........

Dim street lighting was introduced on some Plymouth streets on Thursday December 14th 1944.  [5]

Prisoners from a German submarine that went ashore on the Wolf Rock were landed at Plymouth.  [5]

The Order requiring the masking of headlamps on road vehicles was relaxed from Saturday December 23rd 1944.  [5]


[1]  Clamp, Arthur L, “United States Naval Advanced Amphibious Base, Plymouth, 1943-45”, Arthur L Clamp, Elburton, Plymstock, 1994, ISBN 0 901474 26 6.

[2]  Doidge’s Western Counties Illustrated Annual, 1945, Western Morning News Co Ltd, Plymouth, 1945.

[3]  Twyford, H P, "It Came to Our Door", Underhill (Plymouth) Ltd, Plymouth, 1946.

[4]  "Maj. Glen Miller's U. S. Band: Odeon Performance", Western Evening Herald, Plymouth, August 28th 1944; and "Great Welcome for U. S. Band", Western Evening Herald, Plymouth, August 29th 1944.

[5]  Doidge’s Western Counties Illustrated Annual, 1946, Western Morning News Co Ltd, Plymouth, 1946.

[6]  “City Thanks Home Guard: Hoe Parade: Memorable Day”, Western Evening Herald, Plymouth, December 4th 1944.

©  Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK

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