Saturday 19 January 2013

Faces of Plymouth Blitz

Over the past four years we have met with many locals who experienced the Plymouth Blitz, & this year we are looking to speak with more to gather stories & photos from the time. Our research will be collated as part of the Faces of Plymouth Blitz project we have running throughout the year & we urge you to get in touch with us if you would like to share your memories for future generations to learn more about their past.

One of our readers, Lucy, recently got in touch with some fantastic memories from her mum, Mary, whom we have since spoken with to gather detailed information of her experiences in WWII & shed more light on the deep air raid shelter at Hexton Tunnel.

Here is a short excerpt of the full account that Lucy kindly mailed us;

Mary Outhwaite (nee Hine) was born in January 1938, and lived on Hooe Road, the main road into Hooe, until she was an adult.  She remembers the Hexton Hill tunnel and the Breakwater fort.
When the air raid alarm started, my mother would pick me up take me to the bottom of the garden, over the fence, through the fields and down the steep path that leads to the tunnel.  At times the tunnel would be full of people, sometimes squeezed in like sardines – my mother said that one night it was so airless in there, a match wouldn’t stay lit - some of the people would have made makeshift beds.  Mother and I would often sit on some type of wooden bench until the all clear sounded, and we would go home.  There was no door at the entrance of the tunnel, and some people would stand and watch the planes and bombing.  My father wasn’t with us as he was in the home guard and stationed at the top of Murder Hill (Hooe Hill), where there is still a sentry box near the top on the left, where the ground starts to level out.  He was stationed on the guns there, I suppose firing at incoming enemy aircraft. 
My father used to rent a piece of land which overlooked the tunnel, and I used to play there.  When I was about nine or ten (after the war), I would visit the tunnel with friends and walk right through, although there was a slight kink in it and you couldn’t see daylight from one end to the other.  One day we could see a suitcase in the entrance to the tunnel, we didn’t approach, but went home briefly, probably ten minutes at the most.  When we came back, our picnic had been ransacked – oddly, the cheese pasties had gone but the rock buns remained; the suitcase had gone.  The tunnel is on the edge of Hooe Lake, local people were convinced that Lord Haw Haw, the famous propagandist, lived close by on a house boat, and was seen sitting in the bar of the Royal Oak which is also on the edge of the lake.  This may have been after the war although he was tried at Nuremburg and subsequently hanged. 
My grandmother, Mary Hine, realised that this steep track to the tunnel was not an easy one to follow in the dark, so she painted marker stones white to aid vision by night. I last went into the tunnel about ten years ago, from the lake side, it seemed so much smaller!  It was about five foot wide, and a couple of feet drop on either side of the main path.  It was being used for storage, and it didn’t go back very far.

A collapse in the tunnel today denies access to the other entrance that Mary's family used

There we have it, just one amazing story that we intend to build on & all thanks to one of our readers getting in touch to share their family history. If you would like to feature your family as part of the series, please get in touch via

Keep following for future updates & amazing memories from the children of Plymouth Blitz. Here is a video from Steve Johnson showing an ITV documentary from 2001.


  1. We are lucky to be documenting such memories Bill & look forward to speaking with more people in the coming weeks, the results of which we will publish here.