Air raid

It would take  someone of the age of 55-plus to remember this scene along Commercial Road at the junction of Church Street.

NOSTALGIA: A Portsmouth scene unrecognisable today: Commercial Road in its pomp

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On this day in 1941, at 7pm, the 31st air raid on Portsmouth began.

Incendiaries and high explosive bombs fell in waves over the next seven hours, dropped by 300 German raiders.

Three batches of incendiaries fell on the Guildhall and a high explosive bomb hit the roof which collapsed.

The electricity station was hit, cutting off all power to the city, and 63 water mains were shattered.

The main shopping areas in Palmerston Road, King’s Road and Commercial Road, were in ruins and other buildings destroyed included six churches, three cinemas, the eye and ear hospital, part of the Royal Hospital, Clarence Pier, the Hippodrome, the Dockyard School, Connaught Drill Hall, Central Hotel, the Royal Sailors’ Rest and the Salvation Army Citadel in Lake Road.

More than 3,000 homes were left uninhabitable. Altogether there were 2,314 fires.

A direct hit on an underground air raid shelter killed 47 people.

Several ARP wardens’ posts were damaged or destroyed.

A total of 171 people were killed and 430 injured in those seven hours – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.