80th anniversary of Portsmouth Blitz air raid

This weekend marks 80 years since the biggest air raid on Portsmouth during the Blitz in the Second World War.

172 people were killed and hundreds more injured or made homeless during the attack, which took place from 5.00pm on 10 January 1941 and into the early hours of 11 January. Thousands of bombs were dropped during the largest air raid on the city during the war. During the Blitz, 930 people were killed in Portsmouth and 2,837 were injured. Over 6,000 properties were destroyed.

Although the city is not able to hold events like it has done for previous anniversaries, Portsmouth City Council has arranged several activities digitally to mark the occasion. These include:

  • An interactive map allowing residents to see exactly where all of the bombs during the Blitz landed in and around the city;
  • Entries from the Air Raid Controller’s log book from the night of 10 -11 January, posted on social media at the exact time that they happened 80 years ago, and eye witness accounts from those who witnessed the air raid
  • A video from the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cllr Rob Wood on Monday 11 January 2021, reciting the message shared by his predecessor in 1941, shortly after the raid.

Cllr Steve Pitt, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Economic Development, said: “This is a very different anniversary to the kind we have had in previous years, but we felt it important to reflect and remember a very significant event in the city’s history; especially with the current restrictions and ongoing impact of COVID-19.

“The eyewitness accounts and log book entries for the evening provide an insight into the timeline of the air raid, but it is the interactive map and the extensive locations of bomb sites between 1941 and 1944 that is so startling.”

Sheila Duce lived in Eastney during the raid. She said: “You heard the screaming of the bombs coming down and the awful explosions, and you were just so thankful you know, that it wasn’t on top of us.”

John Stedman, Records Manager at Portsmouth History Centre and author of ‘Portsmouth Reborn: Destruction and Reconstruction 1939-1974’, said: “The bombing on the night of 10/11 January 1941 was Portsmouth’s grimmest experience in a long and terrible war, changing the face of the city dramatically and suddenly. The survivors found large parts of Portsea, Landport and Southsea were smoking ruins. The Guildhall, six churches, a hospital, three cinemas and most of the Commercial Road, King’s Road and Palmerston Road shopping centres were all damaged by the raid.”

The day after the air raid, on 11 January 1941, the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Sir Denis Daley, delivered a message to the people of the city. The same message will be shared by the current Lord Mayor, Cllr Rob Wood, on Monday 11 January 2021 at 5.00pm.

In his message, Sir Daley said: “We are bruised, but we are not daunted, and we are still as determined as ever to stand side by side with other cities who have felt the blast of the enemy, and we shall, with them, persevere with an unflagging spirit towards a conclusive and decisive victory.”

Activities to mark the 80th anniversary of the air raid will be shared on:

Portsmouth City Museum Facebook and Twitter
Portsmouth Libraries Facebook and Twitter

Residents wanting to explore the sites where the bombs fell are encouraged to do so safely within current COVID-19 restrictions.