Blue plaque unveiled to commemorate 70 victims of Marples Hotel bombing during Sheffield blitz

  • Video report by Martin Fisher

A blue plaque has been unveiled to commemorate the dozens of people who died when a hotel was bombed during the Second World War.

The 70 victims were sheltering in the cellar of the Marples Hotel in Sheffield during a German air raid on 12 December 1940, when a bomb scored a direct hit on the hotel.

"It didn't explode though, what happened is it went through the floor before and exploded on the ground level, which meant it blasted through the whole place," said Martin Naylor, a local historian who started the campaign for the plaque in 2022.

"For 19 years it was almost like a shrine on the corner there and it wasn't until 1959 it was rebuilt," he said.

The wreckage of the hotel in 1940 after the bomb exploded. Credit: Picture Sheffield/Sheffield Archives and Local Studies

The tragedy was the largest loss of life in a single event in Sheffield during the war.

“I remember people of my parents’ generation talking in hushed tones about the Marples,” he said.

“Even in my generation, all Sheffielders were aware of it, but my own children and grandchildren knew nothing about this piece of history, and I was worried that it would gradually fade into obscurity, and I just wanted to help prevent that."

The blue plaque has been attached to the building which is now on the site of the former Marples Hotel in Fitzalan Square.. Credit: ITV News

One spectator at the unveiling, John Haslam, said his father had had a narrow escape from the disaster.

"My Dad said to me, 'I was in there the night before, just think yourself lucky. If I had been in there that night you wouldn't be here'," he said.

The plaque was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, councillor Colin Ross.

"Perhaps everybody did know the story of the tragedy, but as time goes on people forget and so that's why it's so important to put the blue plaque up there," he said.

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