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2021 Remembering

Poole at War 1939 to 1945

Visit the history boards along Poole High Street for the story of Poole’s part in World War II. The story boards, organised by Society for Poole, will be in place from VE Day until end August 2021.

A commemorative event will be held on Poole Quay on 15 August 2021 on VJ Day.

The Flying Boats of Poole Harbour

Poole played a pivotal role in Britain’s communications throughout the war. Learn about the crucial role of the Poole flying boats and how Poole harbour served as an international airport.

1. An Empire Class flying boat coming in to land in 1941.

The Navy at Poole

Poole was a vital naval base during the war as a major centre for boat building and engineering. The Royal Naval Cordite factory at Holton Heath employed 4,000 people. The town had a crucial role for Dunkirk and D Day, and for the reception of refugees. The harbour was a hive of activity and a front line defence.

Barbed wire training

Civil Defence and Home Guard

From 1940 Poole Home Guard No 1 Company had platoons based in all areas of Poole. Read how the Home Guard were equipped and operated, until disbanded in December 1945.


Operation Pied Piper evacuated many children from cities to safer areas. Poole was designated as a ‘reception’ area. Find out about preparations, schools, and special trains for thousands of evacuees.

Every Little Helps

The National Savings Movement raised funds during World War II to support the war effort. Groups were set up in workplaces, schools, pubs and clubs. Poole raised a total of £3,863,656 (£168 million in today’s money) during special fund raising campaigns.

Air raids on Poole

In preparation for war, public air raid shelters were erected in all areas of Poole, with capacity for over 3,000 people. Anti-aircraft gun emplacements, with additional searchlight posts, and barrage balloons protected some of the vulnerable sites. 31 air raids on Poole resulted in 68 deaths and over 100 people injured. At least 5,000 properties were damaged.


“We stood by the chain ferry and saw a long line of ships snaking its way out of Poole Harbour, rocket ships, tank landing craft, ships of all kinds. They came from their many hiding places around the harbour.”

Poole was a starting place for U.S divisions attacking ‘Omaha’ and ‘Utah’ beaches; on 6June 1944 the assault on the beaches began. See the secret preparations for this outstandingly important venture.

VE (Victory in Europe Day)

On Monday 7 May 1945 the headline of the Echo newspaper was “Hostilities in Europe at an end”. 8 May was a national holiday with street parties, services of thanksgiving, and sporting events. Amongst the celebrations there was also grief that fighting and suffering continued in the Far East. The war was not yet over until August 1945.

street party tatnam

VE Quay

VJ Day

At midnight on 14 August 1945, Clement Attlee announced the end of hostilities with Japan. Residents sang and danced whilst ships sounded their sirens. On 15 August street parties, music, beacons and bonfires were held all over the Borough. On a sombre note, returning prisoners of war were repatriated via the town – arriving at Poole Quay in a Sunderland flying boat on 19 September 1945.