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D-Day Darlings and Blitz veteran bear unveil Atkinsons World War Two legacy

Monday 16th December 2019

A five-year project to create a legacy to the Sheffield Blitz reached its culmination in a city-based landmark that was completely flattened in the Luftwaffe attacks.

Atkinsons, the Sheffield department store that was razed to the ground on the evening of December 12th/13th, 1940, was unveiled as the gateway to the Sheffield Blitz Heritage Trail.

The store is one of the 12 sites around the city centre which are having their unique World War Two stories brought to life by a combination of interpretation signboards, mobile phone app  and a book.

An 80-year old teddy bear made its first visit to the store since the day it left - just hours before the German attacks that left nearly a tenth of the city's population homeless and over 2,000 people dead or wounded.

The bear - nicknamed ‘Mr Teddy Dodgson' - was a Christmas present for Brenda Spencer. Her dad rushed into Atkinsons just before it shut for the day. It was the last item to be sold before the store was destroyed.

It was nearly a decade ago that local author Neil Anderson started the campaign to create a legacy to the attacks that changed the face of Sheffield.

The heritage trail - which has been spearheaded by heritage interpreter Bill Bevan - is taking walkers on a guided tour around some  of the most important Blitz sites in and around the city centre area. They include Sheffield's Central Library which was the hub of the relief effort; Sheffield City Hall which still bears shrapnel marks; Devonshire Green which was the site of one of the biggest loses of life and Bramall Lane which was badly damaged by the bombing. The trail combines a mobile phone app and newly commissioned signs in selected locations. The app features the voice of Sheffield's last surviving Blitz firefighter, Doug Lightning, who sadly passed away recently and other eye witnesses to the raids.

Neil Anderson's brand new book - ‘Countdown to the Sheffield Blitz' - is also now on sale.

Entertainment was provided by Britain's Got Talent finalists, the D Day Darlings.

The success of the Sheffield Blitz project hit the headlines in 2017 with the unveiling of the city's first permanent exhibition to the attacks.

The visitor attraction- which has been installed inside the city's National Emergency Services Museum on Shalesmoor - has doubled the number of visitors since it opened. 

In November 2015, the Sheffield Blitz Memorial Trust - successfully secured £81,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help create this lasting legacy.

Neil Anderson said: "It is very fitting that Atkinsons is set to become the gateway to the Sheffield Blitz Heritage Trail. They were one of its earliest supporters and few institutions played a bigger part in the Blitz story. "

This Sunday, December 15th, Devonshire Street's Forum venue will also host a special commemoration event to mark its part in the Sheffield Blitz Heritage Trail. The free events lasts from 2pm-4pm.

The Sheffield Blitz project has received donations from Peter Stringfellow, Horrible Histories' creator Terry Deary, The Moor, Atkinsons and scores of individuals.

It also has the backing of Sheffield City Council, The Star, Sheffield College, The National Emergency Services Museum,  Sheffield United Football Club, Sheffield 50 Plus, Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust and South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum.