Plymouth - Part Four

The names of 23,000 naval men and women who lost their lives in both world wars are inscribed around this impressive memorial sited near the spot where Drake was reputed to have been playing bowls when he received news of the Spanish Armada.

From its earliest days Plymouth has been involved in the defence of the country and this is one of the most important places in Britain's maritime history.

In 1588, it's said that Drake was playing bowls here on The Hoe when news of the Spanish Armada heading for the coast of England was received. There's still a bowling club here today.

Since those days Plymouth has been a Navy town through and through - a proud association that has brought with it the inevitable heartache of war. Here on The Hoe you'll find a lasting reminder of the sacrifices made.

The Naval War Memorial contains almost 23,000 names - listing the men and women of the Commonwealth navies who lost their lives at sea in both world wars.

Originally erected in 1920 to honour those killed in World War I, a sunken garden was added later to to record the dead of World War II.

Take some time to look at the inscriptions and reflect on those who fought and died for their country.

A full alphabetical list of the 22,443 names is available from Plymouth Central Library and from the tourist information office.

The memorial's Portland stone column is the tallest monument on the Hoe, and is identical to those at Chatham and Portsmouth. For veterans of those wars, it's a poignant place to come and visit.

Look out for the carved lions at its four corners and the ship's prows at its pinnacle. These represent the four winds that blow - the angry north, the fair south, the cruel east and the kindly west.

From here you can look across to the modern day city centre - a landscape changed beyond recognition by German bombing during World war II.

Plymouth paid a terrible price for its connection with the Royal Navy, earning it the dubious distinction of being one of the most bombed cities in Britain.

Much of the old town was completely obliterated and more than 20,000 homes were destroyed or seriously damaged. During the seven night Blitz which began on 20th March 1941, more than 1,000 civilians were killed.

Within months of the The Blitz an ambitious plan was set in motion for the reconstruction of Plymouth city centre.

The 'Plan for Plymouth' envisaged clearing away almost everything that was left standing and starting afresh with new modern buildings surrounded by wide boulevards.

To a large extent what you see today came about as a result of that grand vision.

Take some time while you're on The Hoe to explore some of the other monuments and to take in the spectacular views across Plymouth Sound.

When you're ready, make you way to towards our next point of interest - Smeaton's Tower lighthouse, with its distinctive red and white stripes.