Our interviewee Jack Berryman (born 1927) very kindly allowed us to look at his diary for 1941, and he has also permitted us to show it here. On the night of the first major blitz on 20th March 1941, Jack was a schoolboy living with his family at 2 Osborne Place, close to the Hoe. The day before, on Wednesday, he records a normal day, playing for the First XI against Plympton Grammar and losing 5-1. The next day, Thursday, he records that the King and Queen visited Plymouth. Then in a very poignant addition, in capital letters, he adds “OUR BIG BLITZ.” he goes on to mention “big craters and fires everywhere” and the following day, “No school”. Then he notes, the same day, “unexploded bomb found opposite the house.” The diary is a fascinating and remarkable insight into the mind of a young boy at such a terrible moment, and we thank Jack very much for allowing us to share it.
Today we are delighted to be able to announce the award of Heritage Lottery Fund grant for our oral history of Plymouth during the war and the ten years of social housing which followed it.
Plymouth was damaged very badly during the Blitz, with 4,000 homes being lost in the bombing. But during the ten years of reconstruction between 1945 and 1955, 17,000 new homes were built in the City, creating new neighbourhoods such as Efford and Southway. This oral history project, lasting 18 months, will gather as many interviews as possible with Plymouth residents who remember the period, and will culminate with a series of exhibitions, a permanent online archive of all of the interviews and a book summarising the findings.
Simon Petherick, head of The Word Machine CIC, says: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. We are keen now to hear from families and individuals in Plymouth who would like to take part in the project. We want this to be a comprehensive account of Plymouth residents’ experience of war and its aftermath, and how that experience shaped our city.”
The project will be guided by Plymouth University’s Professor of Contemporary History Kevin Jefferys and his second-year History students.
Plymouth residents who recall the war years and the ten years of social rehousing are encouraged to contact The Word Machine CIC to have their name added to the list of interviewees. Any Plymouth residents who would like to be trained in order to carry out some of the interviews over the next 18 months should contact The Word Machine CIC too.
If you would like to join the project either by being interviewed about your memories of Plymouth at the time, or by becoming one of our citizen interviewers, then please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. Or join our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheWarInPlymouth or find us on Twitter @wordmachinecic.
1. The Word Machine Community Interest Company is a new social enterprise based in Plymouth which aims to work with local people to enable them to realise and release their stories.
2. The project will work closely with Plymouth University, Plymouth and West Devon Record Office and Plymouth Museum.
3. The project will work with Plymouth social enterprise FotoNow (www.fotonow.org) to create a simultaneous photographic record of the participants.
4. About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than £5.3bn across the UK. www.hlf.org.uk.