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Nancy Astor was Lady Mayoress of Plymouth from 1939 to 1944 throughout the Second World War. If the appeasement scandal leading up to the conflict had harmed her status, the events of it would show her and her husband in their finest hour.

The Astors established themselves at 3 Elliot Terrace throughout this period. Nancy also continued her duties as an MP. She would spend the day in Parliament when the house was sitting and then get the sleeper train back to the Westcountry.

She also spent time at Cliveden where the Canadian Red Cross had established a hospital (as they had also done during the First World War), and an evacuee centre had been set up.

Bombing raids

By the Spring of 1941 Plymouth had already suffered a number of indirect bombing raids. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited on 20 March to inspect the damage.

Just hours after they left the sirens rang out and Plymouth experienced one of the worst air raids on any city during the war as the bombs rained down. More heavy raids followed on 21 March and throughout April.

The impact of the Blitz changed the face of Plymouth forever. More than 1,000 people were killed in the raids of March and April 1941. Over 4,400 were injured.

Raising Plymouth's spirits

Nancy went from shelter to shelter during the bombing attacks providing encouragement. She used her speeches in the House of Commons to raise important issues. She had further shelters put up and held dances on the Hoe - sometimes taking a turn with a sailor herself.

Elliot Terrace was caught up in the bombing while Nancy was there. The glass in the front door was blown out and a fire in the roof had to be put out with buckets of sand and water.

The property suffered further damage while Nancy was out visiting the ruins of a raid with Robert Menzies, the Australian Prime Minister at the time.

The press reported her activities in a positive light:

"Lady Astor escaped injury last night,.....she worked most of it in the shelters. The townspeople call her marvellous in the way she went from shelter to shelter throughout the attack, giving encouragement and help."

Waldorf was also heavily involved in developing the plans for rebuilding the city:

"The people of Plymouth have danced on the Hoe during the darkest days of war. They will dance here again in peace…….on a Hoe which overlooks…….a city which has been planned for them, for a wider, freer, healthier, and more prosperous life."

You can find out more about the rebuilding of post-war Plymouth and the people who were involved on our ‘The Making of a Modern City’ site.

Lady Astor and Queen Elizabeth, March 1941
© Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage)
Nancy Astor dancing with a Royal Navy sailor on Plymouth Hoe, 1942
© Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage)