A DRIVE to raise £250,000 is to be launched for a memorial to more than 1,200 people who died in the two World Wars in raids on Hull – including 54 killed in Zeppelin attacks.
The preferred design, a globe of ash leaves inscribed with the names of the dead, is earmarked for the city centre site where the Prudential tower once stood. Pictures of it wreathed in smoke after its firebombing in May 1941 came to symbolise the destruction of Yorkshire’s most heavily-bombed city. The city was also targeted in the Zeppelin attacks during the First World War.
Next week a petition with 400 signatures asking for backing for the memorial plans is being handed to Hull Council. One of the organisers, historian Alan Brigham, said the council had offered a “substantial” sum towards the project, but they had declined as they felt the money should be raised by public subscription.
The sum would also create a fund for its future maintenance. There is a memorial in Northern Cemetery to the 327 victims of the 1941 Blitz, but Queen Victoria Square, where the Prudential stood, was the “place everyone thinks of”.
Mr Brigham said: “People relate to the site and the square is considered by the locals to be the centre of the city – and you can get to it from the Cenotaph without crossing a road.”
Hull was under a D-notice – a voluntary request to news media not to disclose certain information for reasons of national security – until the 1970s, as the Cabinet was concerned the city’s suffering would lower national morale, Mr Brigham said, and is still rarely mentioned in histories about the conflict.
He said: “In the latest book about World War Two, Hull gets a sentence. This is what happens all the time. The official story was that they were calling it a North-East town so the Germans wouldn’t know what they were bombing. The real reason was that if the rest of the country found out about its horrific suffering, it could cause civil unrest.”
Hull continued to be attacked until March 1945 because it was seen by the Germans as a prime target for its dockyards, wharves and industry. More than 1,200 people died and of the 91,660 houses which had stood in the city at the outbreak of hostilities, only 5,945 survived undamaged.
The scars can still be seen in the bomb sites which became “temporary” car parks and the ruins of the National Picture Theatre, in Beverley Road, bombed in 1941 when it was showing the Charlie Chaplin satire on fascism, The Great Dictator.